She sits at the bar in the pub drinking a White Russian and scribbling in the little notebook she carries with her everywhere. The pen she uses is a brand new Bic Cristal ballpoint, and she likes the way the ink soaks quickly into the paper so that the side of her hand - she is a leftie - does not turn blue as it slides across the words she’s left behind. Who is she tonight? Dorothy Parker? Gertrude Stein? Jane Bowles? She adopts not only the writing style but also the persona. Usually by now, sipping her third drink, she has decided. This evening is still amorphous. Dorothy? She doubts it, for she is not feeling the required bitter sarcasm. Gertrude? Probably too esoteric for this dull evening. Jane? Jane had that odd mix of timid and daring. But, like Jane, she will have to have another drink or two before daring anything.
She looks around and sees that she is the only girl here this evening, though it is still early for a Friday. Her boyfriend is playing pool off in the corner, beyond the few empty tables and the dance floor. He and three friends. They are young. In their twenties. She is younger. Nineteen. Her boyfriend has long dark hair pulled back with a rubber band, and he is hitching up his baggie blue jeans.
She turns toward the group of older men at the end of the bar. They are loud, one of them shouting about “that fucking pussy president Jimmy Carter.” They smoke their Camels and Lucky Strikes while she sits quietly, pulling on her Marlboro. Two of them wear paint-splattered t-shirts and carpenter jeans, and three wear navy blue shirts with the words “Crest Electric” in red on the back. She shifts her gaze back to her notebook, not wanting them to notice her staring.
Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” has just ended, and she recognizes the next tune, “Where Do I Put Her Memory?” by Charley Pride. Her mother would like these choices. She herself would prefer some Led Zeppelin, but there is no way she’s walking past those men and over to the jukebox. She starts writing again, takes another drag, and picks up her drink. She sees her glass is empty.
She looks to the mirror hanging above the shelves of liquor bottles. Her long blonde hair is parted in the middle, the thick waves tucked behind her ears. Silver hoop earrings. My eyes are so boring, she thinks, just two muddy brown puddles. But behind that thought hides the knowledge that she is what many consider pretty.
She writes more words that she will try to decipher when she wakes up tomorrow. As she scribbles across the page, she begins to wonder where this story is headed. The alcohol has dulled her focus, so she decides to just play with the words, instead of trying to direct them.
The air conditioning chills her, and she rubs her hands up and down her sleeveless arms. To her right, she notices one of the men eyeing her. His hair, shaggy and on the long side, is dark with splinters of gray. His eyes are green, as green as spring grass, the green of her cat’s eyes, green like the meat of a ripe lime. He smiles at her. She looks away, to the mirror again, to find her boyfriend’s reflection as he bends over the pool table, adjusting the cue in his hands.
“Hey, honey. Can I get you another?” The man who had smiled at her is next to her, leaning on the bar, his calloused fingers tapping her empty glass. He is wearing a plain gold band on his left ring finger. She meets his eyes as his right hand rests on her forearm. His touch warms her. His eyes hold hers, and she cannot look away.
I am Jane, she realizes.
And with that, her boyfriend is there behind her, one hand on her shoulder, pool cue in the other.
“She’s fine. Get lost,” he says, and the man says, “Sorry, buddy,” as he backs away.
Jane, who was afraid, who was taken care of; who did not let that fear or protection tie her down. Jane, who did the shocking things just to prove that she could. Jane, who wrote stories that spat in your face even as they seduced you.
Now she hears Johnny Cash’s voice. He is singing about someone he calls “the troubadour.” A heart is breaking in two; someone has left the troubadour for someone new. She listens as Johnny croons, her boyfriend kissing her neck. Then he orders her another White Russian so he can get back to his friends and their game of pool.
Maybe, on another evening, when she comes here with her friends, or if she dares to come alone, the green-eyed man will be here. She wants to look up and over at him, but she can’t yet. She stubs out her cigarette and picks up her drink. Johnny is still singing, but now it is someone else’s heart that aches. Her heart, he sings.
She jots the word “troubadour” in her notebook, then closes it, slipping it and her new pen into the old messenger bag she uses as a purse. The sound of that word — the bouncing syllables, the connection to how she is feeling in this moment — is something she wants to save. She hopes that tomorrow she will be able to remember why she wrote it. It has nothing to do with the story she has been working on, but that no longer matters. That story will never be finished; it will have to change, become something new. She finishes her drink quickly.
That’s enough, she thinks. Time for some Led Zeppelin. She stands, catches her balance, reaches into her back pocket for quarters, and walks over to the jukebox.
About the Author: Vicki Addesso is married, has two sons, and works as a personal assistant for a toy inventor. In between family life and her bill-paying job, she works at writing. Co-author of the collaborative memoir Still Here Thinking of You~A Second Chance With Our Mothers (Big Table Publishing, 2013), she has had work published in The Writer, Damselfly Press, The Feminine Collective, Tweetspeak Poetry, and Stories From the Kids. A personal essay appears in the anthology My Body My Words, edited by Loren Kleinman and Amye Archer. You can follow Vicki on Twitter @VickiAddesso and tumblr http://vmaddesso.tumblr.com