So you decide to stay out longer. You ignore the tugging of your weary body and the seductive whispers of sleep. That way madness lies. The prospect of lying with your eyes firmly shut, trying to convince yourself its nighttime, are not appealing. The prospect of waking up halfway through the night with a terrifying number of hours to wait out until sunlight. No. Better still to drink and spin until something claims you, lose your keys, toss them over your shoulder with a tinkling laugh and an eye for the gutter. Do not wait for the plop, do not think of coathangers. Run from the waiting room and find a new place to wait this black dog out.
Look: the man in the corner. His eyes are soft; his knuckles look like they have seldom been clenched. If you close your eyes, things happen faster (so the man in the fairground whispered). You are damaged goods these days. They can smell the milk curdling on your collarbones. That is why the shop assistants shirk. The best you can hope for is one that won't hurt.
Hi, you say, hey there.
Up close he is old and wrinkled. This is ok. Old men need less. Maybe? Maybe he is tired too. Maybe you can go home together and use each other's bodies to block out the silence of the night. You can take it in turns to purr a low static hum. You can swaddle yourselves in the sounds of one another's breath.
What are you drinking, you say. I'm drinking gin, you say.
You have read enough articles to know how you are supposed to behave and you can see right through them. You know about craigslist, the men who demand.
wanted: filthy cum slut fr daddym, I will satesfy you're deepest desires
Sometimes you spend hours reading them, breathless, aghast at the words spilling out like sergeant's marching orders, the list of filth, this, the same as your body, the things that you think of, the things you will do.
But he is not like this, this man, this bar is not like this. It is a nice place, the lights are dimmed to a soft, buttery glow. There are no stains on the counter. You don't squat over the toilet seat, tensing your skin not to touch.
The man, who is old and quiet and probably listens to plays on the radio, looks up at you. This is what you would like: a man who listens to plays on the radio. A man who knows the difference between ruby and tawny port. A man with soft, unhurried knuckles which close around door handles and see you through.
A gin, huh?
Yes, a gin. And tonic, and lime. Unless you think they do a gin fizz here? I've never had a gin fizz. I always used to wonder what was in a gin fizz. Do you know? Didn't you always wonder what was in a gin fizz?
Your voice is bright polished plastic. Too bright for this room. There is colour rising in your cheeks. You wonder for a moment, but this is not the kind of man who wants to see that. You do not want another one that thinks about the red rising up in your cheeks. You are exhausted. Suddenly the last thing you want is another drink. The bubbles would riot and shriek in your stomach. The blood in your neck would pulse.
Home is a small room, a squat, pokey room, with cushions scattered on the floor like carbuncles and after what happened there you are hiding, hiding from the stains he left, hiding from yours, hiding from the sound of your own voice moaning Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes.
The things that went on there are waiting for you when you wake up and you would rather be in the company of strangers, in a room with a radio play, with (if you could hope for it) coffee brewing. Pastries, even. A room with an old man, who will not look for much, who won't demand. A man who will fall asleep, soon enough.
I saw you from across the room, you say. I thought I’d come over and say hi.