- Come with Me to Taco Tuesday
Listen: I know you work tomorrow. I work tomorrow, too. But come anyway. I’ll drive, we’ll have a couple of drinks, and we’ll both be in bed by eleven.
Listen: I know the taco meat at Harley’s is soaking in grease, is gray and mealy and will make you sick, but that isn’t the point, it isn’t. We’ll make salads of the condiments, we’ll split a tub of popcorn, and we’ll be fine.
Keri will be working the bar tonight, friend. Keri, who will lower her head when she listens to us order, her blond hair falling across her face like party streamers. Keri, who will look up when we’re finished speaking, reposition her glasses with an extended index finger, and size us up with eyes sharp as flint; Keri, whose close-lipped smile and clinical gaze will leave us feeling exposed beneath fluorescent lighting, make us shove our hands in our pockets, lower our eyes, rock backward on our heels. But we get along, Keri and I, because I come in here so often, because she is an art major and we once talked about it, because she knows that I am not just some townie-schlub who comes in on Tuesdays to stare at her across the bar with moony eyes. And because of this, because Keri has trained on me her superior powers of perception and found me friendly enough and vaguely conversant on the subject of photography, she will make my gin and tonics strong, and give me three for the price of two.
So sit next to me, friend, slide your stool up by mine, bask in the light cast by my charisma, and you, too, could end up with a free gin and tonic.
And I know that it’s superficial, that the friendliness of a working bartender is fleeting, and I know that the smallness of this town requires that we be nice to one another, but I don’t care, and I will take my fellowship where I find it. [End Page 53]
Listen: I don’t know how it is for you, but I feel as though I should know more by now. The people around me still seem so unreachable, as if I’m viewing them from behind a sheet of glass. That girl, say, I used to see every morning, sitting across the aisle from me on my bus to work. I would sit down and she would already be there, resting her head against the seat, a tuft of straw-like hair spraying from the rim of her knit cap and tucked neatly behind her ear. She would sigh sometimes, fidget in her seat as the bus lurched forward, and shut her eyes against some hardship. And I would sigh, too, smiling at her as I sat down, looking down at my shoes, raising my head to glance over at her again, wishing that I could capture the way the tepid winter light would leak through the window and settle on her face, wishing that I were Manet or someone, and I would sit there and wonder, Who is this girl? What does she think about? How does she spend her weekday evenings? What sort of music does she like? Does she hold strong political convictions, and do they align with mine? These are the things I would wonder. And I wanted to lean across the aisle and ask her; I wanted to bridge the gulf—this impossible, aisle-wide gulf—that separated us, but I never learned how. I never found the words.
And if she looked over and caught me wondering, I would widen my eyes, always, raise my head and smile at her in a knowing way, a way that said, hey, you and me: we are riding a bus together! and quickly lower my head to consider my shoes.
But I am so, so tired of looking at my shoes.
Listen: I don’t know you well, and if you come with me tonight, we will probably begin uncomfortably. I know this. After we order...