Monday, May 5, 2014


He turned around in his bar stool, assuming that the target of the woman’s gesture was some guy behind him, but saw no one there.  He looked at her again.  She smiled and pointed again.  This time he realized that she was pointing at him.  Him!  Elated, he moved a few stools closer to her at the bar.  She did the same.

“What are you drinking, water?”, the woman asked.  He slid his short tumbler in front of her.  She tasted the straight Ketel One.  “Oh, I’ve had plenty of that tonight,” she said.  “Would you like another?” he asked.  “Sure, why not”.  He ordered her a Ketel One with a splash of cranberry juice.

She was profoundly alluring, possessing the kind of exotic beauty only possible as the result of a diverse background.   No wonder he couldn’t believe her initial gesture was directed at him.  That sort of thing only happened in his imagination.  She told him she tended bar there, but was done working for the night.

They spoke of everything and nothing, her background (indeed, diverse), her plans to spend a year exploring Australia, SCUBA diving, work.  She was as charming as she was beautiful.  Her name, Giordana Alonso, suggested Italian and Cuban heritages,  just two of the many represented in her exquisite features.

An unintentionally cruel co-worker broke the spell, as he came by and announced that he was leaving.  He was her ride.  

They spoke for a few more minutes.  Although they said they would see each other again since she worked at the bar and he lived nearby, deep inside he knew that the magic would never be repeated; that this evening was nothing more than a stolen, single, isolated moment.  As she stood up to leave, she kissed him on the cheek.  After taking three steps, she turned around.  Perhaps compelled by his doleful expression, she came back, put her arm around his neck and kissed him on the cheek once again, before walking out of the bar and into the warm South Florida night.

As he finished his dinner, he realized that whatever else happened (or, more likely, didn’t happen) with Giordana, no one could ever take the memory of that magical evening away from him.  However, lacking  Curly's wisdom, he was already looking forward to seeing her again.

A few nights later he walked over to the bar for a late-night drink, hoping she would be there.  Indeed she was, busy making drinks, serving food, processing payments.  He sat down at the bar and enjoyed watching her work, eagerly anticipating her reaction upon seeing him.  

Damn it.  He should have known.   The other night it was the vodka in her system, not anything about him in particular, that compelled her to talk to him.  She just felt like talking, and he happened to be there.  The magic of their conversation took place only in his mind.  She probably barely remembered the conversation itself, never mind the content.  That second kiss goodnight, the one he had so eagerly (and naively) taken to mean, “I really enjoyed talking to you and would like to get to know you better”, was really an empty gesture, sort of like a beauty queen making eye contact with bystanders while waving from her parade float .  He should not have expected anything more than the indifference with which she (barely) acknowledged him.

Still, he was crushed.  And he had had a few drinks.  So when he paid his bill (leaving an overly generous tip), he drew a sad face on the receipt.  With tears coming out of its eyes.  How pathetic.  How lame.  He walked out of the bar, knowing neither if she even saw his artwork, nor if she would understand its meaning.

Weeks later, he is walking around the mall where the bar is located.  He sees Giordana, walking in the opposite direction, toward him.  When she sees him, she rushes forward, grabs his face with both hands, and kisses him fully on the lips.  He responds in kind, oblivious to the rubbernecking crowd all around them.  “I’m so sorry about the other night”, she says, “I so much wanted to talk to you, but my boss was breathing down my neck, and I couldn’t afford to risk my job by lingering with a customer.  Your sketch broke my heart.  I’m so happy I ran into you!”

As he starts to respond, the spell is broken, this time not by an unintentionally cruel co-worker, but by the insistent tones of “Oxygen”, the alarm sound on his Nexus 5.