Outside in the snow, a lone man digging in the trash. Inside the darkness of a club playing vinyl and the darkness of a little black dress.
She suggests a Vespyr for my companion and a Martinez for me.
On an orange pleather couch, my eyes watch the bum. My ears hear inside, the quick clicking of heels fading to the bar.
The drinks suit us perfectly. She’s good at her job. We make small talk. She studied magazines, then focused on newspaper. Ah, a writer? I ask.
Anyone who writes, hates writing. Writing is like cutting the cancer from your own flesh.
When she brings the next round of drinks, we asker her about the eclectic music playing a minute before. It had stopped abruptly. Been replaced by your typical unoriginal indie-rock musician.
Matt asks her to play The Postal Service again. I explain Ben Gibbard is Matt’s Joni Mitchell.
By that I mean the woman who consoles me after a rough day. The fire in my fireplace, so to speak.
She smiles. I ask if she knows what I mean. “Yes,” she says, “but that’s not something I share with strangers.”
Nothing is more attractive than mystery. It appeals to our strongest propensity: curiosity.
We close out the bar. On my way out I stop where she’s sitting. I jokingly ask about an afterparty. Joking, because she’s clearly tired.
She used to do that, she tells me, but now she needs to maintain this, and she puts her hands on either side of her face.
“When I was young, I did that,” she says. “But now I’m 28.”
She’ll go home and sleep beside the boyfriend.
I shuffle away.
We return on a Wednesday. She takes our order at a standing table. Though the lights are dim, I see her eyes are strained. She is a frayed bridge, despairing another night of tramping feet.
While Matt orders, I forget my manners and scrutinize her eyes. She avoids my gaze from the beginning, not even looking at me when I order.
She finally acknowledges me as she steps away, briefly making eye contact, like she expects I’ll read all I need to know in that moment.
I nod. She smirks. “A good night for Joni Mitchell.”
Behind me I hear the clicking of her heels. Outside, I see the lone man again, in the snow, hands buried in a garbage can.