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     “One Stool Away”
 
He sat at the
bar
killing time
along with his
liver
when she pulled
out
the barstool
next to him
he had been
staring forward
at the shelves
of the various
liquor bottles
when she called
out
for a dirty
martini
the bartender
asking
if she wanted
vodka or gin
to which she
quipped
“gin,
is there any
other way?”
her voice alone
captured his
complete attention
the faint smell
of her perfume
held on to
him
not a heavy
scent
her body
lightly dusted
with it
just strong
enough
to cut through
the normal
bar room smells
leaving you with
the soft aroma
of a woman
being present,
he wants to
turn towards
her
and say hi
or some other
common greeting
but the command
in her voice
when she ordered
her drink
has intimidated
him
his eyes go
from the wall
of bottles
in front of
him
down to his
glass
stealing
a long look
at the bottom
half
of her body
which he can
see
looking down
at his glass
her well defined
legs
coming out of
a pair of white
shorts
making him think
she plays tennis
or something,
then she touched
him
on the wrist
as his eyes
were still
traveling
the lines of
her legs
causing his
head
to snap upwards
unsure of what
was happening
till he followed
the hand on
his wrist
up to a
face
that was pointed
at him
“you don’t have
a pen
I could borrow
do you?”
she asked him
she keeps looking
at him
pretending not
to notice
the long pause
he is taking
to respond to
her question
which she was
on the verge of
repeating
again
when he started
pushing his stool
away from the
counter
it wasn’t till
he started walking
away from her
that he spoke
“No, but”
stopping his body
at the waitress
station
along with his
sentence
that was at
the end
of the bar
grabbing a pen
out of a beer
mug
filled with them
then holding the
pen out in
front of him
as he walked
back towards
her
enjoying the
space
between them
allowing him to
take in her
whole look
and study her
face
as he got
closer
to her,
unfortunately
he was so
transfixed
at trying to
take her all
in
and interpret
his findings
on the fly
that he almost
walked that pen
straight into her
chest
but she was
able to snatch it
from his grasp
one step before
impalement
“thanks”
was all she
said
no mention of
his awkward
delivery,
she opened up
a little notebook
and started to
write
he went back
to staring at
all the liquor
bottles
on the wall
contemplating
what he could
have done
differently
to keep the
interaction
with her
alive
and moving
forward
he kept his
head still
his eyes
trying to look
as far to his
right
as he could
without turning
towards her
able to see
only her left
hand
as she wrote
with her right
her long slim
fingers
had a clear
polish
on them
they were
void of a
wedding ring
and her hand
had a certain
allure to it
he was embarrassed
to find her
hand
so attractive
or was it
just having a
woman
in such a close
proximity
to him
that was the
cause
of these feelings,
he wasn’t sure
why
but he knew
he wanted to
touch her
hand
hold it
feel it’s warmth
against his cheek
he was fully
aware
of how weird
that sounded
the poor girl
asked him for
a pen
and now he’s
falling in love
with her left
hand
but only because
it’s the only
part of her
he can see
without turning
his head
he says to
himself
in his own
defense
he knows most
people
would have just
turned their heads
and looked at
whatever part of
her
they wanted too,
he was constantly
freaking himself
out
with the way
his thoughts are
processed
bouncing off of
the inside walls
of his mind
never just taking
a straight line
through,
he could have
just said
hi
or
what are you
writing about,
could I buy
you
a drink?
have you ever
committed a
felony
in this state?
any of these
comments
would have
slowed
her pen
and elicited
some sort of
a response
from her,
no
instead he’ll
stare at her
hand
convincing himself
she’s the kind
of woman
that will find
his respectful
approach
irresistible
or is this just
a lack of an
approach
trying to turn
his cowardliness
into a type of
play
for her attention,
he can hear
the sound of
the ball point
of the pen
rolling against
the paper
her writing
either inspired
or angry
comes to a
quick stop,
he finishes his
drink
and as luck
would
have it
the bartender
is on her
side
of the counter
at the far
end
he steadies
himself
then turns
towards her
but looks past
her
only at the
bartender
holding up a
couple of fingers
to get his
attention
who then notices
him and nods
his eyes walk
from the bartender
down the counter
of people
till they get to
her
planning on
just taking a
glancing look
as his eyes
travel back
home
but they get
stuck on
“the deep in
thought”
look
on her face
he could see
she was under
some distress
struggling to
find
the right
words
oblivious to
his open stare
her pen
now making
unconnected
designs
on the back
of the opposite
page
of what she
is writing on
she was still
waiting
on her
train of thought
to get back
on track
as the bartender
comes over
and sets a
double Crown
whisky
in front of
him
then asked
“you wanted
two drinks
right,
you held up
two fingers?”
before he could
answer
he set down a
dirty martini
in front of
her
saying
“and a dirty
gin martini
for the lady”
the word
gin martini
took her eyes
from her page
of scribbles
up to a
full martini
sitting next to
her half full
one
which she quickly
picks up
and finishes
in one gulp
before pushing
the empty glass
towards
the bartender
who takes it
as he leaves,
he was still
thinking
he didn’t answer
the two drink
question
when she again
lightly touches
his wrist
and looks up
into his eyes
“thanks”
she softly
said
to him
followed up
with
“could you tell
I really needed
another drink?”
he was amazed
as he watched
the expression
on her face
change from one
of contemplation
to shared compassion
as she thanked
him
for the drink
as if he
had somehow
done
something
much deeper
for her
then provide
her
with just another
drink,
one that looked
like
three harpooned
olives
floating in
dirty dish water
she ended her
thank you
with a sad
smile
before going
back
to her quest
of transferring
her feelings
on to paper
she takes her
pen
and makes a
Big X
across the page
tears it from
her little notebook
crumbles it up
and drops it to
the floor,
it wasn’t hard
for him
to get a
sense
she has a lot
going on in
her life
right now
he was still
angled
towards her
able to see
the new page
of paper
she is working
on
filled only with
boldly
traced outlines
of circles
and squares
the ranting
scribbles
of a troubled
mind
he was never
very good
with spoken
words
but felt the
need
to say something
to her
“you know
I find staring
at all the
different liquor
bottles
very calming”
he said
as he turned
away from
her
going back to
facing the wall
of bottles
while taking
a drink,
her right hand
broke from the
circles and squares
dropped the
pen
and picked up
her drink
letting the liquid
in the glass
come up to
her lips
giving herself
a chance to
taste
the salty brine
of the olive
juice
mixed with the
gin
and triple sec
before taking
a swallow
as her eyes
went from one
label
to another
across the wall
of bottles,
they both sat
like that
staring straight
ahead
neither one
saying a word
to the other
the only movement
from either body
came when he
held up two
fingers
to the bartender
to signal another
round
and when she
gave him
that smile of
thanks
for the drink,
he felt a
closeness
with her
that he never
knew in a bar
before
as they quietly
sat together
saying more to
each other
without speaking
than words
ever could
an unspoken
conversation
where his sentences
were coming out
right
for a change,
she took in
a deep breath
and let it
out
in such a
way
that it said
I feel better
now
while both of
them were
still looking
forward
she took the
last swallow
in her glass
put her left
hand
on top of
his
as she said
“thanks,
you just being
here tonight
quietly sitting
with me
meant a lot
to me”
he just nodded
as she
picked up her
little notebook
and slipped
away
in to the night
he reaches over
and picks up
his glass
and gives the
contents
a swirl 
before finishing
it
then looks under
his stool
her clean
crumpled up
piece of paper
standing out
against
the dirty bar
room floor
he bends down
and picks it
up
thinking twice
before
he starts to
un-wad it
the crisp letters
showing him
that it was
written
in one fluid
motion
the name
at the top
was darkened in
making it
unable to be
read
“I’ve never
in my life
came close
to loving anyone,
as much
or in as many
ways
as I  have
loved you,
Trish”
he rereads
the paper
one more time
before wadding it
back up
and dropping it
back down
to the floor
then holds up
just his index
finger
for the bartender
who sees it
and nods
his acknowledgement
and then starts
to pour him
a double Crown
whisky
as he goes
back
to staring at
all the liquor
bottles
lining the
wall
in front of
him…
 
     Tom Allen…07-14-2018…