There’s this little machine in the ladies room of my local watering hole that seems to be a one-stop shopping center for drunken nights of passion. I guess you had to be there…

It was getting late. The regulars had already made their way home to their assorted spouses, kids and girlfriends. What remained in the bar consisted of a table of drunks singing along to Billy Joel’s Piano Man (naturally they were botching the chorus), a few guys staring at the television getting their latest dose of Sportscenter and few people staring blindly into their drinks. You’ve probably seen the type, they have this sort of glazed look on their face, like somehow they were either still trying to figure out their lives or maybe trying to get one. Either way, it was getting depressing.

I motioned over to the bartender to give me one more and to pay up my tab. We’d known each other for a long, long time and traded stories of conquests both great and small. It seemed as if I’d been drinking in this place forever and she was always there to pour me an extra one when I needed it. I wasn’t really in a hurry to go anywhere. An empty house and a belly full of booze usually don’t make for the greatest company.

I was getting ready to settle up, even had the money out of my wallet when she asked me if I’d like to stick around and help her close up. The drunks looked like they were just about done and were staggering around either looking for another bar to invade and a juke box to butcher or to make their way home too. The guys at the bar watching television were folding their tents and those glassy eyed people didn’t need to much encouragement to do the same.

After everybody left, the bartender came around and sat down next to me, a rum and coke cradled in her hands. I offered her up a cigarette and gave her a light. She took a deep pull from it and sighed. I asked her how her night went and said ok, the tips were good but she was getting tired of tending bar for a living. Then she said…

”I like the quiet times.”

I muttered my agreement and she wandered over to the jukebox. Her selection caught me off guard and soon we we’re being serenaded by a couple of old Sinatra tunes. She wiped down the bar and I put the stools in their upside down position. They looked like soldiers, standing in line, waiting for tomorrow to once again do their assigned duty. With nothing left to do but nurse another a drink or two we had ourselves a little dance. Just two people, alone in a bar after closing time, slow dancing to Sinatra. The songs ended and we looked at each other, a little confused as to what would come next.

She disappeared in to the ladies room and came out a few seconds later.

“C’mon,” she said. “Lets go back to my place.”

I don’t know how late it was, maybe three or four in the morning but at the time, those were the sweetest words I’d ever heard.

It was a short drive, the traffic at that time being almost nonexistent. The radio played some soft jazz and we both sort of smiled and grinned at each other. We arrived her place and let her dog out in the backyard. I was feeling kinda awkward, wondering to myself if this was such a good idea. She told me not to worry, that everything would be alright. We looked at each other and drew closer together. We started kissing and fumbling with our clothes and still the awkward feeling wouldn’t leave. We’d known each other going on ten years and while there was always some innocent flirting going on I’d never imagined it would ever come to this.

We made her way to the bedroom and she started to empty the contents of her purse. In the glare of a candle. I saw the reflection of the aluminum packet that held the condom.

The next morning we awoke as only drunken lovers do. With a hangover the size of Manhattan, the thirst of a person stranded in the desert, and the kind of guilt that comes with something like betrayal. If I had felt awkward the night before, I felt even more awkward now. I noticed the sheets had blood on them. Apparently she did too and said that she was just starting her period.

”Do me a favor, hand me my purse.”

She fumbled around for a bit and out came a small package of Tampax. She went to the bathroom for some privacy. I went downstairs in the hopes of finding some coffee and some privacy of my own.

I went through the motions of making a much needed pot of coffee. I heard the shower come on from upstairs and pretended to read a magazine. The words and the world seemed all jumbled and I had trouble holding my concentration. She came down a few minutes later and asked how I was feeling. Apparently the look on my face said it all and she said…

”Hold on, I think I’ve got some aspirin in my purse.”

She went upstairs and came down and dumped out some of the contents. Amongst the tubes of lipstick and eyeliner there lied one of those little packets of Bayer aspirin that held only two capsules. I asked her if she wanted to split them but she just kinda laughed and said that it looked like I needed them more than she did. I gulped ‘em down with a swallow of coffee.

Since I had no way home, she drove me back to the bar to pick up my car. Along the way, she mentioned that she’d like to keep this little tryst private and it would be one time deal as far as she was concerned. Even though I was a little disappointed I could see her logic. I guess you don’t want to be known as a bartender who takes home their regulars.

I got out of her car and made my way towards mine. I turned and gave her a wave and smile and got the same in return. I made my way home to the empty house that I had so dreaded the night before. I had this strange feeling when I went inside. I think maybe it was…


Note: The machine in question does in fact exist, the rest is just a figment of my imagination...

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