Her hair is stringy and tangled and wild about her shoulders. His pallor is ashen and unshaven. Their faces are blurred: eyes have morphed into slits, mouths are drooping just slightly. Or are they smiling?
“Baby, I love you. You have no idea.”
“I love you, too. You know that.”
“But you don’t understand. I LOVE you. I will do anything for you. I will cook for you. I will clean for you. I will pay the rent for you. I will do anything if you just know how much I love you.”
“I know. I hear you. I love you, too.”
“I don’t think you do know. I don’t think you have any idea.”
She sips her rum and cran through a tiny stirrer. He slurps his vodka and OJ in continuous thirsty gulps. She pushes his shoulder, then leans into him and shakes her head.
“You have no idea.”
“Baby, don’t start this. Don’t. I love you.”
“No, I don’t know. I don’t know. You don’t know. Because if you really did know, I’d know.”
She pauses, brushing imaginary stray wisps of hair out of her eyes.
“I love you more than you know. You don’t know. You may never know.”
She raises her head and pouts.
“You have no idea.”
He sighs and pushes his empty plastic cup toward the edge of the bar. He is ready for his fourth. She slowly sips her third.
“What do you want you do later?” he asks her.
“I want you to know how much I love you. I want you to really, really get it.”
“Baby, I don’t know how else to tell you. I love you.”
“But do you? Really? I don’t know.”
She starts to cry. He hugs her again.
“I love you, baby. I do.”
Her tears evolve into giggles. He hugs her tighter. Their awkward embrace causes them to sway on their bar stools. He brushes a sloppy kiss across her mouth. She smiles and takes another sip of her drink.
I glance down at my uneaten plate of food for which I was starving a few minutes ago. At this moment it is as appetizing as sand.
I glance at the couple I have been trying to ignore, trying not to hear, trying not to watch. But how can you ignore a train wreck that is playing out before you?
Even on this side of the bar, even when I finally have a day off, even when these are not my customers and I, in fact, am just another customer, I surprise myself with this sudden and remarkably low tolerance for dumb drunk talk–the talk I hear all the time but never listen to.
I slide my plate to the edge of the bar and nod to the bartender. She hands me my check. I shove a $20 toward her.
“Thanks,” I say.
“Thanks,” she answers.
It’s 7:45 a.m. Time enough to go home and cook my own breakfast.