Z was there.
I saw her standing at the doorway blocking the entrance, the creases of a wild grin taking shape across her lips as she spotted me across the room. With a confident stride and sway she sauntered over, the dim lights of the bar shining miserably across the hills of her bright, familiar, memory-gilded face.
“I knew I’d find you here,” she said, and her eyes flashed proudly. Drab, umber, tinted mahogany like chestnuts; two lovely pools of Fall promising to remember me forever.
I hated her then, but I remembered a time I didn’t. I remembered when she was a Tuesday off from work – something fresh, strange, and new; with the wits of a woman half as social and a smile you could lie for. She was reserved but had a tendency of talking often and incessantly, a common habit of the beautiful who realize their attraction earns them the endless honor of being heard, or at least the decency of men pretending to.
And though her stunning was new, void of naïve paranoia and the self-conscious need for reassurances so often present in late bloomers, the power of a wan face will corrupt. Somewhere down the line she began rehearsing conversation, I imagine when her beauty blossomed and suddenly attention came natural at glance or simple smile. She must have made a promise to save her thoughts, those precious whims, for some prince or therapist more deserving than the corner admirer and weekend sweven. But the exception never came and strategy turned to personality, until she only knew how to be herself at intervals. Or perhaps she was hurt like none before her, just like everyone else, and what’s left of her adolescent innocence takes a misguided refuge behind a blushed mask of mascara and open-eyed kisses.
Ultimately she was just a bitch, a fact I was more than well aware of but never held against her. I was unconcerned but sorry, then dismissed the thought to focus on her thin lips and smooth cheeks.
I’d never seen a train wreck that looked so good.
“Why would I be hung over and at a bar?” I questioned, and Z responded with an incredulous smirk. I couldn’t help how well she knew me and smiled in return. The bartender made his round, asking what she would be having, and she nudged my side roughly with French tipped finger tips.
“Be a gentleman.”
“You don’t drink.”
“You could offer me a glass of water.”
“You might melt.”
With an incensed sigh she ordered a gin and tonic, On-The-Jerks-Tab (with a nod in my direction,) and placed her cell phone on the damp bar counter between us. It was standard procedure. We both agreed how rude and annoying being on your mobile was in public, so I did the same with a feigned apathy.
Our relationship was a carefully constructed facade of disregard and disinterest since neither of us ever felt safe or comfortable showing something so pathetic as a feeling. An emotion was a surrender, and the first to show it would be deemed the conquered and unfit of the others affections. As a result our meetings were like a game of chess with charm; a challenge to see who could woo the other to the point of making the first move into tenderness.
She usually won.
We discussed the bleak unimportance of our new jobs, new homes, same families and stale minds. The scenic route. I made some snark compliment regarding her excessive makeup, and she laughed while running a hand through my hair and comparing it to a Brillo pad. Lingering just long enough to make it sensuous yet abrupt enough to defend against the accusation. I hadn’t seen her face in five months or felt her touch in over a year.
I gave a yielding purr in the form of silence and a lack of insults, not in the mood for games and already well aware how I always lose the long game. Resting my own hand in hers I surveyed the smoothness of her palms and quality of her manicure. She gave me that look. That-
I Just Got Them Done Because You’re So Weird Always Playing With My Nails look.
“Go on. I know you want to.” She said, faking annoyance with a smile that held me like a lullaby.
Initially I refused, but knowing all too well how I enjoy her soft whines over wine, Z hummed a sweet coo and my resolve melted before her brown bubbling eyes brimming with comeliness. Inching closer I examined the lure of her face, her blouse, her hair and hands while she waited patiently with a bemused scoff. The way she licks her lips, bats her eyes, and sways her hips bored me. I’ve always hated a woman who knows she’s beautiful. There lies an overconfidence in their stares, some misguided sense of entitlement that grows from the nurturing and concave trickle of admiration; a lifetime of awe as they blossom from girl to woman to sex-prize leaves a subtle imprint, a prerogative of expected notice and love wherever their wan lips glow their petal-rose smile.
But she was hot, and I was horny.
“You’re going out tonight.” I said.
“I’m going out tonight.” She parroted with a nod.
“…dinner. With a man.” A subtle surprise began to grow behind her arrogant air. I took this as a affirmation and continued. “Second…no, third date.”
“And what makes you think that?”
“Your eyeliner. It’s a bit more than usual so wherever you're going you must be expecting a lot of face time. I’m guessing dinner. Either that or you forgot how to use a makeup brush.” She laughed, mockingly, as if she were the one to have said something funny, and casually began adjusting her bangs while staring into a small mirror she removed from her empty purse.
“What if I were going to a club? That would explain all the makeup.”
She had a point. I considered the notion.
“You’ve had four drinks,” I said. “You’re loosening up too much too early for a club. You never drink when you’re driving, and I know you’d rather shoot yourself in the foot before taking the subway, so obviously someone is picking you up. And if someone is picking you up it’s likely a date. You don’t trust most men enough to let them pick you up on a first date.”
“I let you pick me on our first date.”
“I’m not most men. Also…” My hand reached for the crest of her button blouse, pressing down on the fabric slightly until the edges sifted to show the fringes of a dark ruby red bra.
“Like I thought, sexy lingerie. Third date, and he might get lucky.”
“Don’t tell the others you saw me yet,” She said ignoring me, standing victorious and sure as hell. “And stop watching CSI.”
With a soft kiss to my cheek she left and I sat there unrequited and unable to tell her only idiots watch CSI. That I was this overzealous because of reading too much Sherlock Holmes, and that she forgot to button her blouse after my hand reached down so she was inadvertently flashing anyone she walked past.
But the words wouldn't come to me, or rather, a distraction held them down as I watched her sensuous swaying hips walk out the door. Then I ordered another scotch and wondered if she still had that small scar in her inner thigh where my tongue used to be. Probably, I decided.