Waiting

I was waiting for Henry to come out of the bathroom. He’d been in there too long. The bar was nearly empty and I was impatient to get going. They were an hour late, it was obvious the girls stood us up. The night was falling apart like a cheap burrito.

Henry wanted to keep going. I wanted to get home to see if she called. Perhaps she left a message on my answering machine. Maybe there was a family emergency or something? Maybe her car broke down on the way to pick up her friend? Maybe her friend broke her leg racing down the steps to the car?

Why would she not show? She was the one who approached me in the laundromat. She was the one who suggested she bring her friend. I thought she was better than the rest. There was something special about her, her sarcastic grin, the way she laughed at all my jokes — even the bad ones.

I thought she’d be somebody who stuck around. Now, it doesn’t even look like she’ll show up.

There was a smattering of decrepit regulars attached to the bar. One of them, an older man with a five-day stubble and an ill-fitting suit stumbled over to me. His eyes were sparrow-like and fire hydrant red. He smelled like the inside of a doctor’s examining room.

Without any disclaimer he launched into a rickety sermon. “When I was younger I couldn’t get enough of fucking, know what I mean? But now? Now I think I’d rather go to sleep in freshly washed sheets than with a hot, young piece of ass,” he lectured crudely.

I knew if I said anything back, it’d only encourage the drunk to continue talking. It was just like me, though, to not be able to control myself. “I don’t see what’s wrong with having both,” I joked.

He laughed, a cloud of gin tumbled over me. “Yeah, well, there’s still time for you, I suppose.” He held his glass in the air and with the same hand pointed at me, almost spilling its contents. “Why is it…” he slurred, “that women keep us waiting so long to get ready?” he asked.

“I haven’t the foggiest…”

“I’ll give you a hint. It’s the same reason that you make a dog wait for a treat?”

I thought I saw where he was going with this. “To show us who’s boss?”

He took a sip of his drink and grinned. “No. That’s not it at all. A woman makes you wait, because you will.” He patted me on my shoulder, and gave me an odd look like he didn’t know where I’d come from or why we were talking. He blinked confusedly three times and then drifted back to the bar.

Henry came out of the bathroom, pinching his nose and squinting at the old man. I could hear his heart thumping. “What did the geezer want?”

I felt the odd sensation that I’ve met the man before. Or that he could read my thoughts and saw through me. All the things I wanted and suffered for. I wanted to tell Henry all this but I knew he would just laugh.

“His wife just passed away,” I lied.

Henry swiped his hand through his hair, changed his tune. “Oh, man. That’s terrible.”

“Yeah! Life, right?”

We both stood there for some time, looking at the old man and looking at ourselves in the mirror behind the bar, our cells deteriorating, our fingernails creeping longer, our future sneaking up on us, before Henry finally broke and shouted into my ear, “Come on, let’s get the fuck out of here. I wanna meet some chicks.”

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