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Feb. 21st, 2007 08:21 am
jesshartley: (Default)
    The wind sliced through my coat like an scalpel, but wasn't quite cold enough to freeze my tears. I ducked my head down, hunched my shoulders and stormed down the sidewalk without thought to destination. Still wet from my interupted shower, my hair stiffened behind me before I'd made it a block, and by two I'd lost the feeling in my ears and my nose ached like someone had punched me.
    Maybe it was the weather, maybe my mood, but all along the sidewalk, the crowd parted in front of me, a phenomenon I'd never personally experienced before. Before I knew it, I was shoving open the heavy wooden door of the Dirty Truth and parting the veil to step inside.
    The room seemed cavernous, the music echoed off the dark wood walls, unmarred by the echoes of conversation. I didn't slow immediately inside, passing the table where I normally ate my "turkey wrap and diet coke" lunches without pausing. I'd gotten into the habit of claiming a table for an hour or two each afternoon and cranking out a couple of pages of what I'd hoped would be my big break as I ate my lunch. For five bucks, I got semi-solitude, free refills and a tasty meal - a bargain at twice the price, but not what I needed today.
    The  bartender looked up as I approached, quirking an pierced eyebrow at lack of laptop and obvious ire. "The usual?" she asked, almost hopefully.
    I shook my head once, the gesture making my frozen hair crackle in my ears. "Rum and diet."
    She glanced up at the clock on the far wall. I followed her gaze. The minute hand pointed straight up, with the hour making a nearly perfect backwards-L. 9am. She looked back at me, and her eyebrow arched again.
I nodded, and she frowned a little but went about making my drink.
In the year I'd been coming to the Dirty Truth, this was a first. The first time I'd sat at the bar. The first time I'd ordered a drink. I guess this morning was just a time for firsts. I remembered what had sent me out into the bitter cold and felt my jaw clench and my lips tighten like a drawstring bag. I turned my attention back to the bartender, letting her deft movements serve as a visual white noise to drown out the memories.
    She looked up, bottle of golden liquid in one hand, filled glass in the other, as if to say "You sure?" I frowned and nodded, and she added a double-glug of rum that topped off the drink. She added a wedge of lime out of the line of fruit-filled bins on the bartop and then stabbed the drink with a pair of mini-straws before setting it heavily in front of me.
    "Ten bucks."
    I frowned. "What?"
    "Ten bucks," she repeated, frowning at me from beneath her ball cap.
    "One drink is ten bucks?"
    "It is when you come in at 9 in the morning and obviously think you need it. Five bucks for the drink, and five bucks for the situation."
    My eyebrows knit together, and I started patting through my pockets for my wallet. I hadn't expected that. I hadn't expected price gouging, not from her, not from this place. We weren't friends per se, and I don't know that I'd ever considered myself a regular anywhere, but she'd always been nice when I'd had my working lunches here, and I hadn't expected a mean or opportunistic streak from her. It was like getting kicked when you were down, adding insult to injury. Somehow, I felt like I shouldn't have been surprised.
    "Or..." she paused.
    I looked up, expecting another proverbial blow.
    "Or, you could let me dump that and we could chat about what's got you upset. I don't know what's up, but one thing I've learned working here. Most solutions aren't found while looking through booze goggles." She smiled, an impish grin that lit up her face. I found myself smiling back. I still hurt inside, and my smile felt wrong and awkward, like a crackled glaze over shoddy pottery.
    "You don't want to hear it... Trust me."
    She smiled, and reclaimed the drink she'd put in front of me. The ice cubes crashed into the metal bar sink as she emptied it and refilled two more without the booze.
    She lined them up on the bar between us and then locked my gaze with hers.
    "Try me."

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jesshartley

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