As I sit staring into this liquid amber, ripples move out to the edge of the glass
Is that really your reflection in there?
I just want to jump into the warm depths and be there with you, one more time!
Oh, alright...hit it boys...
Debbie Harry, the lead singer from Blondie, starts crooning a torch song on the jukebox. Apropos. Booze and flames, a dangerous combination.
It's two hours before the New Year starts in Brooklyn. I don't know the name of the bar I'm in. I'm not a regular. The pretty young woman tending bar, arms sleeved in colorful Japanese imagery, smiles often but doesn't hover nearby waiting to refill my 21 year old Glenfiddich, allowing me the time to sip and savor. She also pours a reasonable amount for the price, a rarity.
I push a couple of stray beer nuts around with my left index finger. The thick oak bar has an epoxy resin that looks like a sheet of glass. The nuts slide easily until I realize I'm recreating the car accident from ten years ago. The one that has me drinking again, alone. I send the nuts over the edge into the stack of well bottles and listen as they make little "tink" noises as they fall to whatever abyss awaits them.
The lowball comes away from my lips empty and Tattoo apparates across from me. "Another one?"
I nod. She turns and retrieves the dusty bottle from the backboard. The view is exceptional. Unfortunately, she's one of those people that turn around leading with her head like she's an Olympic figure skater doing a spin and catches and calculates my sightline before I look down at the tumbler. I admit, I blushed a bit.
She looks at my face with a smirky smile as she pours a little more than last time. As she replaces the cap on the bottle she said, "Most of the time I don't mind people looking at my ass, but I do appreciate someone who does so discretely." She looks down at the other end of the bar and points with her chin. "The two surfer dudes were having a lively conversation about who would get me to orgasm first. I explained they'd need to get some surgery to even get me hot."
I took a sip. "I bet that shut them up."
"Not really. They're discussing how to 'cure' me, which is why I was so Jenny-on-the-Spot when you finished your drink."
"I apologize on behalf of my neanderthal gender." I held up my lowball glass. "You ever try this stuff, assuming you partake?"
She shook her head and put her arms on the top of the bar. Leaning in, she said, "I do enjoy a stiff drink now and then but that stuff is well outside my pay grade. Speaking of which," and here she pulled two twenties from my tab.
I held up my hand. "Ring me up for two."
She nodded, slid another pair of twenties off and I watched as she walked slowly back to the other end of the bar and rang me up. She said something snarky to the surfers, pulled two Cervezas for them, then returned with a ten and put it on my stack.
"You want your other drink now?" she asked, arms once again on the shiny bartop.
"Depends on if you'd like to drink it now or later."
The smirky smile came back. "Awww, you didn't need to do that. I drink whatever is cheapest most days."
"You needed to try some of the good stuff once. Remember, it's a sipping drink,. Might as well be a good start to a new decade."
"Well, assuming you got a decent view as I rang you up, we'll call it even." She reached over behind the bar and pulled up a clean glass. Her steady hand poured the usual amount in her glass and topped off mine. She raised it in a toast and said "Happy Impending New Year."
I followed suit. "It's midnight somewhere in the world, Happy New Year to you too."
Her eyes widened as she sipped. "Jesus, this is, just, wow." She took another sip. "Smooth. Never knew what I was missing. Thank you." Her arms back on the bar, I finally got a good view of her intricate tattoos.
"I appreciate the company." I pointed to her left wrist at the start of her sleeve, a large fish looking like it was about to start swimming up to her shoulder. "Do you know the story of the Japanese koi?"
"I got that one because it looked pretty. I like the color orange." She turned her right arm around and pointed at another spot between colorful green seaweed. "You can see her brother here, he's the blue one. And I have a dragon tattoo with flowers and cherry blossoms on my back. But do tell me about my fish."
"As I recall, the koi is indigenous to Japan. The fish represents the struggle of life, and here," I pointed halfway to her elbow, "the waves represent danger or the randomness of how life presents itself to you. According to legend, a koi once swam the full length of the river to a mountain top and there it turned into a dragon."
She looked at my face, this time examining it. "You're pretty knowledgable about tattoos and random stuff."
I pulled the sleeve to my shirt and blazer back so she could see the tail of my own koi. "Got this one in Japan to memorialize when my wife died in an accident in Kyoto in 2010. My koi hasn't finished working its way upstream, so I don't have my dragon tattoo yet."
She took another sip. "I get off at two, so you can tell me about her after that."
"I can tell you now. She was wonderful, and she's long gone." I picked up my glass and clinked it against hers. "Why don't you tell me about you instead?"
"I'm Annie," she said, toasting back at me. "Here's looking at you."
Why? | What?