A Ballad In Plain D

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A helpless man falls in love with a bartender.

Submitted: October 07, 2011

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 07, 2011




Everyone is at the bar or in the bathrooms and he is alone, sitting at a table outside, watching the passersby. He is drunk and fails to notice a lot of the good women streaming past, but he doesn't miss her.

She is cleaning tables, collecting glasses, and she moves slowly in his direction, her feet making little circles in the dusty marble.

She is two tables away and the tension is building, he will speak to her, say 'hi', ask her of her night.

She is one table away and his senses kick in, now in the form of his bladder and he is running to the bathroom, the long way, so he doesn't have to pass her. He doesn't look up, purposely tries not to see her
and holds his head in hands in the furthest cubical.

He is brushing his teeth and washing, cleaning, moisturizing, and his mind is on her. He presses his face into 1000 thread Sheridan pillows and his mind in on her. He should have said something. Something. He
vows to go back tomorrow night, wait till she is cleaning tables, and say 'hi', at least 'hi', what could be the harm in 'hi'?

He goes back. Tonight everyone is broke and staying in, getting high, but he has to see her. He sits at the same table, buys a single beer and draws. He draws what he sees, and he always sees her. The sketch
book that once held landscapes and postmodern garbage is now a homage to her, the same face in every portrait, every half finished flash.

Finally the bar is emptying out and she is there, on the first table, taking the glasses onto a tray and wiping their marks away. His drawings make her look like a person, but in life, she is more like an
angel. He can see cigarette butts and change on the floor around her, a product the halo of light she generates. He is blinded, doesn't even have the excuse of being drunk and his stomach turns.

She is two tables away and the butterfly of bubbles reaches his throat.

She is one table away and he audibly gurgles, foam against his tonsils, and runs to the furthest cubical, throwing up as he arrives.

He goes every night. Sometimes she's not working and he stays briefly, quickly finishing his beer and leaving, but more often than not, she is there and he sits, nursing his beer, waiting for her, running
inside when she is a table away. He is amazed at himself. Sure, the woman may be out of his league, but her presence affecting him in such a physical way was a blow to his ego, and he couldn't take many more.

He decides to draw her, for her, but anything he completes and brings to the bar pales in comparison to her physical presence, never quite captures the aura around her and he crumples them to trash before
she's finished the first table.

He turns to other media, stumbling out poems pronouncing his love, inviting her to dine or take a walk with him. He signs them all with 'second last table beer guy' and his mobile phone number. As she
begins clearing the first table, he reads the poems to himself, imagining her features crease at his written word, but whenever she arrives at the next table, he inevitably flees, throwing the torn papers into the furthest cubical, often accompanied by hurls of vomit.

It is a Sunday night, some kind of public holiday the next day and the bar is still busy at two. Usually it tapers out about this time and she does the tables between two-thirty and three, but the doormen show
no signs of slowing down and he orders another beer. And another. Not being much of a drinker, the obsession of his latest sketch consumes him, causes him to loose time, and looking up, he finds she is already at the next table, done wiping and-

He runs to the bathrooms.
Hurls into the toilet and pauses.
Looks into the bowl.
No paper pieces.
His hands go cold, clammy, and he stumbles into the bar and sees her, wiping down the last table.

She calls that night.
"Hi... Um, you left a poem on the table that I-" He hangs up.

The next night he doesn't sit outside, instead, in a corner by the bar where he can watch her work. Whenever there is a break in the flow she pulls a piece of paper from her pocket and studies it, an array of emotion pouring across her face. She likes it, he thinks, she really understands.

He waits till she is outside, following their usual dance, and instead readies himself in the bathroom, cleaning his face and fixing his hair, intermittently rushing, gagging, to the nearest cubical.

The bar is empty, only two staff on, and she's walking towards him. Not towards him, but the staff change room just past the bathrooms, and it's perfect. He finally looks up into her eyes, flutters, stops just outside the door and she sees him, five paces away and smiles, slows down.

"Hey," he says, "I'm leaving too, want a lift home?"

Her eyes light up, show the texture of the wall next to us, and she says, 

"Calie, nice to finally meet you!"

Her voice is different than on the phone, suits her more, she offers her hand and beams at him. He takes it and surges, almost gags in her face, the only thing holding him there the knowledge that she knew, that she called.

"James, I'm so... I... Can I drop you home?"

"James!" she says, "So fitting! Thank you so much! Can you hold a moment though? I've just got to grab my things."

"No! Not at all!" He says, "I'll wait by the exit," the playful smile on his face growing into a grin, "by the way, I saw you reading my poem tonight, I'm so glad you called."

"Hahaha, what are you talking about hon? I'm just going to get my stuff, only be a sec!"

She passes him in the narrow hallway, overpowering his senses, he stands dumb.

"I've been practicing all shift," she says, disappearing into the staff room, "auditions are tomorrow and I keep forgetting my lines."

He stands dumb, caught in her voice and lingering scent and smiles to himself. It takes him seconds to catch on. He rushes past the bathrooms and bar, out the building door, stumbling toward the nearest furthest cubical.


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