Old Friend

She reaches out for me and gives me a hug and a cheek-kiss, her short blackish hair smelling of Pantene I think it is. She says something about an empty glass and a drink she is owed by the cute bartender, the one with the purple T-shirt with the vertical stripe down the right side (our right, not his). I ask if there's a place to put my coat, and learn that there's a pile over on the piano, the one that hasn't been played in years. I recognize her friend from pictures I've seen.

So I'll see you guys in a minute.

She forgot to introduce me to her friend. There are ten or so coats in the pile. I place mine in the middle. It's a nice coat, too nice for this rubbish of a bar.

They're sitting on barstools now. There isn't another so I stand and lean against the bar and the cute bartender with the vertical stripe gives me a smile and I say I'll have a Stoli-O. Her friend looks better in pictures, I notice with satisfaction. Here, she is too short and too plump and too made-up. So made up that the first reaction to her is to wonder what she must be covering up. She might be resentful.

So it's nice to finally meet you.

And it is remembered that introductions were never made. She laughs, suggesting that it was a genial mistake. The Stoli-O is cold and perfect, and perhaps an intentionally generous pour. Anyway it's easy to concentrate on it for the moment. The light is greenish and it's hard to tell why. There are no unusual bulbs, but the effect is greenish and even the Stoli-O is a little tinted.

There was a party, and a necklace was stolen. It might have been a big deal if the hosts were rich. But still, the sentimental value. When was this party, I wonder. I don't think I know the hosts. One of them is dating her new friend's friend. Ah, no wonder, then. It may have been the night of the movie screening and I wouldn't have been able to go anyway. But it was a crazy party. Maybe I could have popped in for a bit after. I assume it was assumed that I was busy, and thus no last-minute invites on voicemail. I ask if it was the night of the screening and it is confirmed that it was.

Her friend goes to the ladies' room but I don't take her barstool. Regrets are expressed both ways over the drifting apart of late, the always meaning to call, the forgetting to call, the being too busy. She seems sincere. But is she? Am I?

Her friend is not easy to like, from an objective point of view. Subjectively she is impossible to like. She is too wide for the stool. Another Stoli-O arrives without being ordered, not to be worried about, I am told. But she got a free drink earlier, too, remember. Although this last one of hers had to be paid for. She notices as I only leave the tip, two ones instead of one, since it was free.

It doesn't take much of the undiluted liquor to induce the decision to try and like everyone, but to still be indifferent. Her friend giggles a lot. More when she's nervous than when there is anything funny. Like after she mentioned a writer she hates and no one answered. A really great writer, that one is. Funny but not a slave to the humor. But this doesn't get said.

Her posture is turned toward her friend more than it is toward me, just barely. It could just be the way her legs are crossed, though. She is talking about the job she might get to do, and eye contact is scarce in this direction. After a minute it becomes tedious to wait for glances, and it is the tedium that the story follows. It's all about her, this story, and there's only so much of that one can take. Her friend thinks she will get the job and that it will be great, and so it is decided.

The bartender has joined the conversation, now that it's late and most customers have gone. Eye contact from him is the opposite of scarce. Which is redemptive, somehow. The friend talks more as he drifts away from her. He is cute, isn't he? Cuter and cuter the closer he gets. Eventually, a phone number changes hands, before yet another Stoli-O requires no payment.

Her friend is going to stay with her because the train to Queens will take forever at this time of night. So goodbyes are said outside the bar, before they walk together in the opposite direction and I think again how little I like that girl now that I've finally met her.

There is satisfaction to be had in this.

But still, I am pretending not to care.

About the author:

Sarah Stodola is a writer and the managing editor of Me Three. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.