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Valentine's Day Edition - Pinwheel Empire
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Valentine’s Day Edition

submitted 5 years ago by in Daily Empire

Here's a story:

The last of my beer sat waiting in the bottom of the glass.  I swished it around, watching the swirl angrily churn then subside.  I pondered downing the remaining alcohol as a man sat down beside me.  He ordered scotch on the rocks and I cringed.  "Rocks are for throwing at glass houses," I muttered to myself.  I don't know if the man heard me mutter but he turned slightly and out of the corner of my eye I saw him consider me.  In a moment of spontaneity I turned and looked him in the eye.  Surprise and a smile skittered across his face.  He had a softly mannered wryness about him .  I was annoyed immediately.  "How are you?" The question annoyed me as much as his face.  "Fine."  I tried to sound terse and regretted not drinking the last of my beer and leaving more quickly.  The man continued to look at me.  "Good!  Being fine sometimes seems like an accomplishment now days."  He sipped his scotch, the ice clinking against the glass.  "I think I'm doing fine myself."  The air was suddenly pregnant with conversation.  He began pushing: "So what are you doing here? Today of all days I'd assume you'd have someone to meet."  My way out.  "Actually, I do have someone to meet.  I'm meeting them at a restaurant nearby but I'm early so I stopped in for a drink first."  A lie.  His response had a strong undercurrent of amusement.  "Too bad the restaurant doesn't have a bar.  Lucky for me though."  He made me smile; damn.  "Yeah, too bad." I finished the last of my beer but johnny-on-the-spot bartender immediately asked if I'd like another.  My hesitation cost me dearly.  The man next to me exclaimed "Set it up, barkeep! On my tab." Before I knew it another pint of my favorite beer sat in front of me.  For free.  "Thanks." I'm nothing if not begrudgingly polite.  I gave in.  "So what about you," I asked, "What are you doing here? On today of all days."  I looked up from my drink and he was already looking at me.  His eyes were bright.  "Uh-oh," I thought to myself.  "No excuses for me.  I have nothing to do and no one to meet.  I've got a crappy book in my back pocket and I'm looking for a dark corner to read and drink in.  Which is a completely pleasant alternative to the day's preferred practices."  His tone of voice was forcefully cheery.  He was practiced in the art of seeming ok with his lot.  "What's the book?" I was genuinely curious.  He said crappy so I assumed one of those grocery store thrillers about a lawyer.  His face grew nervous and his color rose.  He was embarrassed.  "Um...well."  He was trying to come up with a lie and he was terrible at it. The poor sap. He finally gave up and quietly admitted, "It's a romance novel."  I laughed and covered my mouth to stifle my outburst.  "That is so sad," I smiled.  "It really is isn't it?" He was smiling shyly now.  "Uh oh," I thought again.  "But cut me some slack.  Today of all days when I'm alone in a bar,  I can be forgiven a romance novel while I drink can't I?"  The possibility of having a new friend was beginning to churn inside me.  This man's demeanor was winning me over and I wanted to slap him in the face for his apparent non-effort in this endeavor.  "What's the book about?"  I had to ask.  If only to hear him describe something that could only be terrible.  Judging by the way the tension drained out of the air, I could tell he was now comfortable; another bad sign.  "Run of the mill romance stuff.  A swarthy gentleman meets a plain young lady and unleashes her passionate side.  And there is kidnapping and fighting and possibly some pirates.  Possibly."  "Sounds exciting."  "I must admit it is quite entertaining.  For what it is of course.  Normally I read much more respectable things, like, you know, Shakespeare and stuff."  This was the most charming lie I'd ever been told.  "Oh of course.  What is your favorite sonnet."  This was kind of mean and I knew it.  "Um." He was trying to lie again. Then he smiled and I knew he'd tricked me.  He looked right in my eyes.  "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?  Thou art as lovely and as temperate.  Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, and summer's lease hath all too short a date."  I was now, without a doubt, extremely nervous.  I stammered, "Sonnet 18 huh?" "That's right.  In high school I was going to recite that to a girl I had a huge crush on.  I never did."   I hadn't taken a drink of my beer in  a while but now I raised it and hid in the glass until my mouth couldn't hold anymore.  "That was a pity," he said. The wistfullness in his tone made me want to run from the bar as fast as I could.  He asked, "Do you like, Shakespeare's sonnets?" "Yes," I replied.  "Some of them just melt your heart don't they?"  "I suppose."  If I was going to keep my head above water I had to keep my answers short.  I drank more beer.   The man continued.  "He's got such a way with the language doesn't he?  Very romantic without being too corny or mushy.  Would you agree?"  "Yes, I suppose."  An awkward silence filled the air.  Maybe we were both feeling the same nervous sick feeling.  We both took a drink.  He spoke.  "You ever wonder how people get together?  I have a cousin who met his wife at a summer camp when they were kids and then five years later they ran in to each other at a baseball game in a city neither of them lived in, remembered one another, and two years later got married.  How does that happen?  Chance? Fate? Luck?  You ever wonder if that sort of thing will happen to you?"  I carefully and slowly put my beer down.  I felt like I had a gun pointed at me.  I looked over at him.  His face was earnest, calm; his eyes transparent.  He wasn't smiling or grinning.  His mouth was still.  I imagined this is what people must look like when they are at a pivotal moment and have the wherewithal to realize it.  I wondered what my face looked like.  "Not anymore.  That sort of thing doesn't happen to me."  I stood up.  "Thanks for the beer."  I left.

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