here’s lookin’ at you, babe

of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, i had to walk into hawk’s.

so i’m sitting at my computer last night, going over a bunch of old documents in my quest to compile items for my site, fingers flying over the keys as i revise the hell out of shit i once thought was gold. peter calls, inviting me to hawk’s, the bar he tends downtown. he’s picked up an extra shift, and is calling for company to see him through the long night. loath to leave my writing, but thinking a jack and coke sounds pretty good right about now, i finish revising a stanza, print it out to show peter, and head on down.

hawk’s is a sports bar, which offers alcohol (necessary), food (super bonus) and smoking (after 4pm). before i get too far into the night, let it be known that i highly recommend the tuna melt. yum.

so now the scene is set. i walk in, plunk myself down at the big-big bar, light up a stick and look longingly at their electronic dartboard, of which i’m still too scared to play, but like to watch other people throw at. pretty flashing lights and all, you know. since peter’s buying, and since they are offering new “foo foo” drinks of which he needs to practice making, i get something called the doubling dizzy and refrain from stating that the term is actually “frou frou.”  i get into trouble when i do that.

some absolut, o.j. and a blender later, i get my dizzy in a tall curvy glass with a slice of orange and a honkin’ huge straw. i feel like i should be wearing a lei. dubious but willing, i take a sip and oh, smoooooth. nice. could use a little more cranberry, but its swell just the way it is. i can hardly taste the alcohol, which means there must be a lot, since peter is a primo tender. nonetheless, it’s hard to reconcile the sight of me in head-to-toe black, at a sports bar, sipping on a girlie drink. bizarre?  yes. apparently attractive, too.

this is the point in the story where i get some company. whenever i’m at a bar and someone sits next to me, it’s never a good thing. and lemme tell ya, last night went into the red.

(meanwhile, peter has ascertained that my drink needs more cranberry juice. i think he was a bit miffed that i didn’t ask for it earlier myself. but i was right, the added juice turned yum into yummy.)

i don’t know his name; he never introduced himself to me, although i could gather that he had introduced himself to several drinks before sliding in beside me. conversation started innocuously enough, but by this point in my life i can tell when there is a bomb, and when it will be dropped. in this case, imminently.

i shall call him the “nice gentleman,” or n.g., for want of a real name.

n.g. informed me, with the caveat that he didn’t want to be too “abrupt or forward” (he used these words as if they were synonymous. they’re not.) that i had beautiful eyes and, no kidding, delicate hands. said hands were in the process of making a plane out of a tootsie roll wrapper, as i needed an activity to avoid eye contact. a bit in his cups, not too awkward yet, but the night is young, and i always seem to get the good ones.

i give the plane to peter. he decides it looks more like a spaceship from the old videogame galaga. he is correct.

needing further avoidance activity, i begin twisting a tootsie pop wrapper into a flower.

sliding further down the spiral, n.g. informs me that i’m taking too long. i shoot back that i’m not too slow, i’m a perfectionist. i don’t think he understood the fine complexities of such a distinction. he grabbed a stack of bar napkins and proceeded to make me (no lie) seven very large paper flowers. but he was not to be stopped there. no, he was an artiste. several of these flowers sported cherry centers, and were liberally dashed, pollock-esque, with his cranberry vodka. all these he ceremoniously stuffed in the open top of my purse, which sat on the bar between us. note to self: keep purse closed in bars.

peter stands at the other end of the bar, smiling at this debacle. i compliment him on his music choices and take a big gulp of my drink, feeling girlie. the dizzy lives up to its name. 20 seconds after the gulp i’m just tipsy enough not to mind feeling girlie.

noticing my lack of alcohol, n.g. offers to buy me another. i respectfully decline.

peter comes over and asks if i want another. i try to say “jack and coke” and dig into my purse for money at the same time, but the damned flowers are in the way and n.g. throws down a fiver and says it’s on him before i can say “boo.”  stuck. instead i say “gee. thanks.”

at this point i start escaping to the bathroom for several minutes at a time, hoping to find the seat next to mine empty upon my return. no such luck. but as it happens, when i come back the third time, a girl is standing next to him. aha! my mind shouts triumphantly. i’m out. no longer needed. thanks, and goodbye.

again, because i’m me, just when i think it’s getting better, it gets worse. n.g. and his girl order up and begin to argue. i mean, argue. apparently they are a couple, and a couple with problems. it is a train wreck, and i am a hapless motorist caught in the gridlock of rubberneckers, unable to move and forced to watch the disaster unfold before my eyes.

i can’t even begin, and don’t even want to try to describe the intensely personal comments being hurled back and forth between these two. i turned my body away, glued my eyes to the tv at the other end of the bar, but my ears couldn’t stop listening. all i could think, as i became privy to intimate parts of these two strangers’ lives, was…

you’re in a bar, people. holy moly, a little discretion please.

i want to see what time it is, but my cell phone is in my purse, buried in drunken flowers. i decide to wait them out, fascinated in spite of myself at this turn of events.

they order up again.

i sit patiently, sipping my jack.

they order shots, announcing to peter that these are their last shots as a couple. this, i think, is it. the end of the evening for this embattered duo. it can’t possibly go on.

they order up again.

all this time, they’re at each other’s throats.

i order water, as i am almost out of jack. ah well, i think. all good things…

retiring to the restroom again, i come back to see them leaving. separately. sitting at the bar, i look at peter and shake my head bemusedly. he asks if they were arguing.

“it was a train wreck,” i state. “a train wreck.”  i am unable to elaborate.

ouzo sounds pretty good to me right then. but after the rod serling episode i was just witness to, i make up my mind to head home. besides, tomorrow’s a workday, and i need my bruce sleep.

i walk out the door of hawk’s, still shaking my head and muttering “train wreck” under my breath.

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