It was a late night. I was at a bar. It was crowded. It was full of familiar faces; yes it was the sort of place where everyone knew your name. I didn’t care though. I was drunk. A drunkard. A lush is what we might have called me that night in that bar, back in the day.
There was a time I knew her by sight, now I knew her by name. The girl who’d been going round town saying things about me to people, telling them things she had no place to be telling them. Things about me and a boy of no particular consequence, but hey, like I said I was too drunk to care right?
I know that some people would say looking back on the night, that Lou she sure was a crazy broad, where did she get the matches from? But could anyone have stopped me? I doubt it. I was a stubborn filly with money to spend and a reputation to burn.
Earlier that night…
They’d run out of paper towels in the bathroom again. I’d not told Larry the barkeep 2 days earlier that if he wanted to keep the ladies happy all he need do is keep them in a fresh supply of paper towels, but I knew he had other things on his mind. His wife was fiddling Con who owned the local Wash’n’Wear. Everyone knew, Christ his wife knew he knew, but he got a discount on linen, so if he forgot the occasional paper towel, I could forgive him.
The last cubicle door swung open, and out she stepped, that bit of sass I told you bout earlier. Normally I wouldn’t have noticed a gal like her, all plain, dressed up and no one to share it with, but tonight was different, but not right then it wasn’t, because at this point in the story we were just two ladies looking for somewhere to dry our hands.
I settled on my skirt as the right kinda dry place and quickly touched up my lipstick. I could tell she was watching me, watching my lips, wanting to know what it was like to kiss him, feel him. She hadn’t done that yet, but I knew it was her intent, for she was a lady brimming with intention and not of the good variety, no sir, not at all.
‘Why hello there’ she said smirking her flat mouth. ‘Hey’ I responded. We were not friends; I cared not for how she was, if her parents were in good health, if she were to be married in the spring. Her welfare was of no concern to me, but she persisted in making idle chit chat. I had to oblige, I was an accommodating kinda girl. Yeah, some people around town called me too accommodating, but the nights were often cold and long and sometimes I wanted it just like them. It was never about the candy and the chance to ride in a proper motor car, like the ones I’d seen in movie star magazines, it was always bout the being with, accommodating that need.
‘We saw you come in, you here alone again Lou?’ I popped the lipstick back in my purse and savoured the taste of the whiskey sour I’d left at the bar. ‘We?’ I grimaced at the thought. ‘Well, yes me and Tobias’. Ah yes, Tobias, the boy of no particular consequence, the town roundabout. We’d had a short lived tryst, sure it was fun while it lasted, but things went bad fast like a girl in a flammable nightie standing too close to an electric heater on Christmas Eve. It was times like this I missed my sister. I thought about her every night in juvie. Mum and dad thought she was too young to be taken from this earth, but that girl had been a ticking time bomb and she’d seen me on that rainy night, by the freeway with the shovel. She was a wrong time, wrong place girl but she was gone now and I was still standing in the bathroom with another wrong time, wrong place girl – the only difference was she didn’t know it yet.
‘Tobias asked me to grab him a beer on the way back, but I have no idea what he drinks – you’d know, wouldn’t you’. Sure I could’ve told her he’d drink a bum’s urine for the kick, but I wasn’t that kinda girl. ‘He’ll drink whatever you get him, he ain’t that particular’. The last word hung in the air like a kid who’d got in over his head and was now hanging by a noose from a tree in a downtown park where someone was yet to discover his body. His name was Patrick and we’d dated once, but that was long time ago and there was nothing more to be said about that.
‘Thanks’ she replied curtly and held open the door for me as we departed the bathroom. The bar was still buzzing and a quick look around the room confirmed that Tobias was probably out back smoking a smoke. I knew him, she didn’t, but let her find out was my motto. At least it wasn’t me being seduced with the promise of cheap wine and polite conversation anymore. It was her bed now and she could lie in it like my mother use to say, before she’d sit me down in front of the Lord and decide my punishment was another 14 days in my urine soaked bed clothes, cos Jesus was a tough man, a tough teacher and he didn’t appreciate urinator’s and so I’d learn, have to learn the lesson that Jesus was trying to teach me. She’d have to learn a lesson too, Jesus wanted it that way.
She asked me for a light. I obliged her. My whiskey sour still sat there. Lonely, but enjoying the ambience of the evening. My baby was too warm to drink now, its harsh amber liquid wouldn’t burn me like I liked, and the way I needed it, like finger nails deep in my back the moment before the skin tears.
I watched as she lit her cigarette and asked Larry for a couple of pots of draught, the cheap stuff. He wouldn’t know the difference. He was probably already onto the stash of moonshine he kept in a small flask hidden in his boot. She’d never know though. He never took his boots off. Never ever.
I picked up my whiskey one last time and smiled as Tobias walked back in and glanced my way, still looking at me like I was poisoned chalace interrupting his rather predictable evening, again. The whiskey poured itself over her, that girl, the one who had said those things about me. The one who had told them all about the time she seen me at the bus stop with that transient, sure it was all rumour but one day they’d find this body and then they’d come after me and that wasn’t going to happen to this dame, not again.
The match lit first strike. Mama woulda been proud.