The Living Room Part I
The door closed behind me with a satisfying thunk, the security bolt slipping into place behind me. I stood there for a second, surveying the street and fumbling in my pockets for my lighter. “At least I got out of there in one piece,” I thought to myself. I found my lighter and lit a cigarette, watching a handful of people come out of the pub that, until recently, had been my “living room”. The place in question was up near the Art Museum (you know, the steps that Rocky ran up ? That’s the Art Museum…) about three blocks off the main drag. I’d been dating a girl that lived above the pub for a few weeks. She had a coke problem I’d been ignoring most of the time we’d been seeing each other and once she had a few lines in her, she got crazy moody. Combine that with her love for the booze and she was a real handful. Tonight, she’d come after me with a baseball bat that she’d kept under her bed. Two swings, two misses and I wasn’t giving her the chance to strike out or knock one out of the park. So I took the bat away from her as she screamed at me to give it back and told her I’d see her around. I left the bat in the stairwell and headed out.
We started seeing each other right before Christmas. I’d been in my usual Friday night haunt, covering the bar for the bartender while he went downstairs to get some change and a pack of smokes from the vending machine. Since it was early, I had my feet up on the stool next to me and I was reading something. One of the thicker Murakami books. Usually when he had to “go get change”, it meant that the bartender had a dime bag or so in his pocket and he wanted to sneak a few lines in before the crowd hit. He and I had known each other for years and it wasn’t the first time I’d covered for him. Hell, I could work the register and mix a couple of drinks at this point, so I was better off than the first time he’d asked me.
“Just for tonight ?” she said to me and smiled. And, because I’m a sucker, I was up off my stool and behind the bar. We flirted back and forth as I grabbed a handful of beers for her and I helped her carry them back to her table. I bid her and her friends farewell after I dropped off the beer and went back to my seat. Right about then, the bartender came back up, sniffing and rubbing his nose. I told him I’d just bought a round for a group of girls in the back and asked him to put it on my tab. She came back a couple more time during the course of the night, each time stopping to chat me up a bit more. Finally, around midnight, I decided that I was just drunk enough to make an ass of myself and went looking for her.
I found her in the back, rocking the Kiss pinball machine and racking up quite the score. She stood there, transfixed on the table, hip checking the machine without tilting it and never knocking over the pint glass on top of it. I stood behind her for a full minute or so before she finally noticed I was there. She turned around and gave me that smile again. We hung out and played pinball until closing, goofing around and flirting with each other. When the bouncer finally came round to give us the boot, I walked her out and asked her for her number. She gave it to me and kissed me on the cheek. Then she sauntered off down the sidewalk and into the night.
I called her a couple of days later and she told me to meet her at a pub not far from where she lived. I got there early, grabbed a spot at the bar where I could see the door and ordered a pint. After about ten minutes she came up behind me and tried to tickle me. “Sorry kid,” I said, “I’m not ticklish. But where’d you come from ?” I had been watching the door most of the time I’d been there and hadn’t seen her come in. “There’s a back door,” she said and she promised to show it to me later. I laughed and pulled out her chair. We sat and talked and drank for a few hours before she grabbed my hand and told me to come up to her place. She told the bartender to keep the tab open and he just nodded, like it was something she’d said a hundred times before.
The back door was through the kitchen and it led to a couple of flights of stairs. She had the apartment on the top floor. We headed in and she showed me around a little bit. The she stuck her tongue down my throat and we’ll stop there…
We started seeing each other more often and we always ended the beginning of the night downstairs at the pub. We called it “The Living Room”. Usually, we’d have a drink or two and then we’d head upstairs. Tonight, however, she’d come out swinging. And now here I was, standing in the cold on a February night and desperately in need of a new “living room”. I smoked my cigarette as I walked the couple blocks to a nearby hotel, reflecting on the night, beginning with where it had all gone wrong. I grabbed a cab and headed to Old City.
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