“A woman who pretends to laugh at love is like a child who sings at night when he is afraid.”
I was sitting at the bar with my beer and some boredom, feeling guilty about wasting time but not willing to do anything about it. If I had one more drink, I would be officially broke and that was alright with me. Everyone around me was talking and laughing and living. They looked stupid. I was envious. Their smiles were cheap but they were easy; I can’t remember the last time I flowed.
I saw her because something inside me told me to turn around. It must have been something in the drinks because it seemed everyone had the same idea. She was standing at the doorway with her great moon eyes and a little red, heart-shaped mouth. She knew everyone was looking at her. She seemed used to it. She looked at no one and yet she looked at everyone, eyes like gentle knives, with her little chin high in the air like a challenge. As if she knew that people stared but couldn’t quite understand why.
She sat few feet away from me. She smelt like contradictions -vanilla and cigarettes and flowers- but it was a a whisper of a smell: tender and elusive. I was close enough to hear her speak and she surprised me with her child-like voice and particularly polite manner. Etiquette is redundant in a bar like this but she said please and thank you and sprinkled a gracious smile on every word.
She didn’t do much perched up on that stool. She ordered a scotch, neat. I’ll never forget that: a whiskey-drinking pixie. Every now and then she looked around the bar; lazy gazes that seemed to tease. She knew everyone was looking at her out of the corners of their eyes; maybe she felt she owed them something: a taste, a trailer of a movie they hoped to watch but never would.
I don’t know what it was about her. She was cute, sure, but nothing special. Maybe it was the proud pout, simultaneously sweet and mean. Maybe it was the determined, delicate way she walked. Maybe, just maybe, it was the eyes: dark sparks darting around like electricity while being little planets of sadness at the same time. Everything about her promised to be pure and wild and real.
She sat next to me for two hours and three whiskeys with a target on the back of her head and men’s attention attached to arrows. She sat next to me for two hours, alone. No one approached her. She seemed to be accustomed to it. I thought that maybe this happened all the time.
Yet, she looked like someone who knew all about love. You could tell from the way she held her glass and stared into space, like someone so full of love, and thoughts and little jokes and secrets. But that sadness, that sadness.
There are all different kinds of lonely. You could tell that she was loved and admired and desired. Everyone could. And perhaps this was also her curse. Her sadness was a darkness that prevented her from loving back. Maybe this was why she seemed to untouchable. I got drunk on pity. She would hate that, I’m sure: some loser at a bar feeling sorry for this lost little star. She just seemed so damn lonely.
When I saw her making motions to go, I stood up. I wanted to talk to her but I didn’t know what to say. What do you say to an untouchable that might just want to be touched?
Nothing. Anything I said would seem ridiculous, so I said nothing.
And then she was gone, leaving a big tip for the barman and a small smile for me and the whisper of her scent lingering like a promise she never made. I sat at the bar for a long time with my empty beer. Feeling sorry for her, and hoping that one day she found someone to fill up the hole in her soul.