Another rough draft from the vault. The ending most likely to change due to the fact i didn't really finish it proper. I'm lazy like that. It's old if you can't tell by the fact the style is completely different from what i write today.
Her black hair was shiny and straight and smelled like apple shampoo. I lit a cigarette and looked towards the television. The bar was crowded and smoky and loud. Her eyes glistened and she sipped her drink and as she did she leaned into me a little bit. The lean felt tired and anxious as if she wanted to be held but untouched at the same time.
I smoked and sipped my beer wondering if leans like this were a cruel joke played on a silly man. And I was a silly man. Prone to bouts of nostalgia, believing that all this mattered, this lean, her eyes, her hand on my shoulder. My asking if she needed another drink and her reply a muted yes and slight smile. The strum of the banjo and scream of guitar from the bar's battered sound system. Silly men believed things could work, believed there was reason to try when they already knew the outcome of their daydreams and it wasn't what they had in mind.
There was the clinking of glass and bottles and my hand that fumbled for another cigarette for lack of anything better to do. I could list her the myriad of reasons this was like driving your car into a telephone pole but there was always that chance that if you hit it the right way we'd survive and then what? Sometimes it was that half-hour of escape that we wish for. So I bought the drinks and she leaned into me again.
She wanted to know how I controlled myself so well.
What did she mean, I said.
How I didn't end up dead or in rehab or jail or the looney bin.
Honestly, I said, I have no idea. Discipline, I mumbled. Or something like that.
She talked about her husband. Apparently he was a good artist. I wondered how big he was? He had habits she talked about in a round about way. We all had habits. He had a little control problem when it came to his habits. She didn't even smoke cigarettes anymore. No one ever said needle to her but it was always in the back of our minds. Our being the guys at the bar who spoke to her.
The door opened and an icy wind cut down the bar. Someday I'd move from this Rustbelt town to a place on the gulf where I'd mow lawn or wait tables or if I got real lucky tend bar. I'd get a place near the water so I could here the cranes and herons and the slow lapping of the gulf on the sand. Maybe someday get to see the sea turtles come up and lay their eggs. I'd watch those bloody sunsets, the same ones I'd watch over the hills of the city, except instead of car exhaust I'd smell the salt on the breeze. Maybe she'd be with me. It's pleasant to dream.
Her breathe had the sweet smell of alcohol on it as she leaned in and talked about the farm she had grown up on. Her eyes softened as she spoke, as she drifted from the smoke and noise of the bar to the fields of her girlhood. Green places lined with the tall, straight trees of the Pennsylvania forests. It didn't sound bad. I wondered if there was a lake.
We grabbed an empty booth near the window. We sat next to each other and watched as people pulled up and parked or left. She looked me in the eyes and smiled. I grinned back and looked toward the marked up red table. Knife marks and names written in marker or ink pens. I smoked the cigarette and noticed our reflection in the window. We could have been in love. Or maybe just friends talking closely over the noise of a Saturday night, over the noise of our lives, over the noise of lapping waves and quiet fields. We put meaning into these fleeting glances even though we have no idea of what we're trying to convey.
Try as I might to hang onto my dignity it ended up being blown down the dirty hill and caught with the rest of the garbage under the bus stop. The one the 87P stops at. Trapped with candy wrappers and broken beer bottles. It laid in the filth and waited for another kicking. Sometimes I prayed for the street cleaner as if it was somehow going to make this life of mine holier.
She stopped talking one day. Not to everyone mind you just to me. The muted laughs at the bar as I searched for an empty stool at the other end. Maybe they knew her husband or had seen her do this before. This being nothing more than an overactive imagination and a stray kiss here and there in a moment of weakness or need. I couldn't tell you who needed it more at the time but I get the feeling it may have been the face I see in the mirror each morning.
I asked her if she wanted to go to West Virginia sometime. Get out of the city. Rent a cabin or something in the woods. She just smiled and turned towards the bar to order another drink. I lit a cigarette to cover my nervousness and distract me from my shaking hands. She walked down the other end of the bar and sat down with her friends. The short one, who reminded me of Yosemite Sam, leaned back on his chair and made smooching faces. I didn't know if she saw it or not. I don't know what she said when they all went back to his apartment for the late night reefer sessions when the bar closed. I was never invited. Apparently I didn't hate black people enough. I'd would've like to walk slowly down the bar and knock his teeth out. He just had too many friends and unfortunately I didn't have enough.
So I'd sit at the other end of the bar and look up at the television. It'd be basketball or baseball and then the local news and then John the bartender would usually put on some old movie. The sound was always down because the jukebox was always on. It didn't matter though, it was something to look at. I damn sure didn't want to turn my head to the left and see that shiny, black hair. Now and then I'd hear her laugh and I'd light a cigarette and try not to daydream.
At the other end of the bar it was always a party. I tried not to think she took a shine to me for the occasional pills or powders I had in my pocket. Now and then I thought I'd heard my name followed by the guys laughing heartily. I tried to glance in the long mirror behind the bar to catch a glimpse of her, hoping she wasn't laughing right along with them. Hoping she just smiled or took a drink but I could never see. Maybe it was for the better.
I had a horse when I was a kid, she said. I used to ride her everywhere on that farm. From dusk till dark.
Her eyes would sparkle every time she mentioned that horse. She never said her name but I could practically see it in her eyes.
I miss that horse. I haven't been on a horse in so long, she said.
I never rode one, I told her.
I shook my head.
Someday I'm gonna take you out for a ride. I think they have horses at some park in the south hills. We'll go and I'll show you how to ride. Turn you into a regular cowboy.
It sounded nice, I said. I wondered if she'd wear that cowboy hat she wore every now and then. It looked as if it was made out of straw or something. I didn't own a cowboy hat. Don't think you need one just to ride a horse in the park though, maybe a baseball hat would be alright. Glad I didn't buy one.