One night a month in dark little bars way off main street, dykes crawl out into the night in small groups or all alone and knock on that back door to breathe easy. People seem to know each other in these places. People are mostly friendly. Mostly friends. Couples don’t show up. Strangers are rare.
I was traveling. I was the stranger. Who was I? Why was I here? Someone passing through town. I saw heads turn, size me up as someone here tonight and gone tomorrow. The looks quickly died away, but I could feel the curiosity. Or maybe it was more like an interrogation. No one was going to talk to me, but I wasn’t going to be ignored.
I like small towns and hidden bars. I seek them out. I like to wander. I like to stray. I have my spot in every bar, the dark corner that only holds one, maybe two barstools. The seat next to the wall and a little outside of the pool of light that falls around the bartender. The bartop’s always sticky in that corner. The rag never quite reaches far enough at the end of the night. Sometimes the brass pole under your feet is sticky. I try not to lean against the wall. Especially if there’s wallpaper.
I walked into this bar on this night and headed for the darkest corner but it was already occupied. I shoved a hand in my pocket, fingered my loose change, thinking. I didn’t want to look around for a seat. I wanted to know where I was headed first. I resigned myself to sitting off center in front of the bartender. I tossed a twenty on the bar and pushed the stool back as I sat down, feeling for a hook to hang my jacket and looking sideways at her. The girl at the end of the bar. The girl in my spot. I could hardly make her out.
My rye in hand, I took my time staring. She sipped her drink through the tiny straw they put in your glass in bars. I’d never thought of sipping a drink through that little straw myself. I thought that was a stirrer. I always toss it on the bar before I sip my drink. Or I forget to take it out and scratch my cheek with it before I throw it on the ground, cursing myself.
I smiled at her mouth. The way it curled around the plastic. She looked down at her hands. One holding the glass, the other gripping the straw. I followed each articulated knuckle down to the tips of her painted fingernails. Her nails were a light color, maybe gold. It was hard to tell in the dark, amber light.
The bar smelled like piss and stale beer. God, I miss smoking in bars. If nothing else, cigarettes mask the real smells of drunkenness. Stale smoke is nicer than this. I sat there, slow, enjoying my drink. I sucked the ice, letting it rest on my tongue and melt away. I have a habit of it. Freezing my tongue like this. I forget that I do it and feel stupid when I kiss some girl with my frozen tongue. It’s not sexy. But I don’t plan to kiss anyone tonight. I’m tired. I feel lazy. I ask for another whiskey. Rocks. I like the bartender here. There’s no chit chat. She pours my drink with a weary face and rough looking hands. I watch her sinewy forearm ripple as she tips the bottle into my glass. She pours the whiskey to the brim and just over, leaving a puddle around the glass. “That’s right,” I nod to her as a salute with my dripping glass raised eye high. “You know it,” she says lazily and moves on.
I turn my head and look at the girl in the corner just in time to catch her looking at me for a split second before she jerks her head back down and opens her purse, delicately ticking through its contents. She pulls out some cash and flags the bartender over. They chat. Maybe the bartender is a talker after all. She leans her elbow on the bar and laughs as they talk, eventually making her another drink that I’m pretty sure is an old fashioned and scooping up a handful of singles. I like an old fashioned. It’s a good drink. A simple drink. I was starting to like this girl in the corner.
I decided to stare. I watched her while I sipped my drink. I wanted to smoke but I was trying not to, and anyway, I wanted to wait until she acknowledged me. I wanted to smile at her. She kept looking down or straight ahead, staring without focus across the length of the bar. I made up stories about her in my head. She didn’t look lonely or sad. She looked satisfied. I imagined her happily out of some kind of bad relationship. Done with dating for awhile. Something behind her now and she liked being alone tonight, avoiding even her friends. Not everyone likes to sit alone at a bar. Not everyone is that comfortable with themselves. She likes the whiskey and the fact that a bartender is going to make it for her. She likes the buzzing energy around her even when it’s all calm inside herself. She likes to imagine who’s going home to fuck. Who’s getting lucky. Or maybe that’s me.
Impatiently, I drained my second drink and shoved the bar stool back to stand up. Without waiting to think it over, I walked to the girl in the corner and leaned my ribs against the bar, facing her. “Hi,” I said, “You’re in my spot.” She looked at me, opened her mouth to say something, but then closed it again and raised her eyebrows before turning back to her drink. “I’d like to buy you a drink,” I continued, “I’m enjoying watching you at the end of the bar I always think of as mine. Not everyone likes to sit alone. I like your sense of ease. It’s comforting to me.” Now she smiled at me, half inviting and half aware that I might be crazy. “Look,” I said, “I’m not trying to bother you here.”
I leaned lower to whisper in her ear, reaching up to tuck her hair back as I moved my mouth closer to her. “I want to buy you a drink, but I’m not trying to take you home. I’ve enjoyed watching you sit here in the half shadows. I’ve imagined why you’re here alone. The way you look and the easy way you sip your drink tells me that you want to be by yourself. I like that. And I’d leave you alone but I’ve got this crazy energy that wants to fuck all the time. Do you know what I mean?” She nodded slightly. “I think you do,” I said.
Her palms had been flat against the bar but now I watched her fingers draw up, her knuckles lifting. She grabbed my index finger and pulled my hand to her lap. “That’s not what I want right now,” I whispered, letting my lips brush her skin, “I don’t think it’s what you want either, is it?” I shifted my hand so that it was on top of hers and slid her own fingers up under her skirt. “I want you to sit here and drink another cocktail. I’m buying.” I dragged my hand slowly away from hers and back to my own pocket where I hid it deep down against my thigh. “I want to go back to where I was sitting and drink my whiskey and let you watch my hands on the bar, itching to feel you. I want you to take a long time moving your hand higher and higher up your skirt, inching your fingers between your legs. Sip your drink nice and slow. Know that I’m watching. You know what I want.” She nodded her head side to side, “No,” she said, “You have to tell me.” So good, this girl. So good. I went on, “I want you to pull your panties to the side and slip your fingers between the wet lips of your pussy. I’ll be watching, feeling you on the tip of my tongue. I want you to go slow. Teasing. Feel your hole open. I want you to squeeze your clit between your fingers, hold it in your knuckles. I want you to come for me while I watch. That’s all.” She sucked her breath in slowly between her teeth. “I hope you do this for me,” I said and nipped her ear with a little tug of my teeth.
I walked back to my seat at the bar feeling high. I nodded to the bartender and ordered her another old fashioned and the same for myself. As she set my drink down, she shook her head at me, “You’re right to try, but she never lets anyone sit next to her. It’s not just you.” I nodded, “She seems good by herself over there.” The bartender left me to my drink and I held my glass, rubbing the condensation with my fingertips. I looked to the corner again. She was in shadows. I watched her closely and couldn’t see a thing, but I knew her fingers were still right there between her thighs. She seemed just the same, looking down at her drink or vaguely across the room, but now and again I’d see her catch her breath. My hands ached, sitting on top of the bar. I wanted to rub my own clit through my stiff jeans. I wanted to touch her panties with the tips of my fingers and rub the fabric against her pussy. I imagined the way her skirt would feel against the back of my knuckles.
I took a drink, resting my teeth against the rim of the glass. She caught a glimpse of me like this and it made her smile for a second. I wanted her to see how much this drove me crazy. I needed her to know how much I want her right now. She needed to feel it. I stared openly. The low rumble of the bar crested and fell in waves around me. People were getting louder, slurring their words. Pool balls cracked somewhere. Butches laughed and loudly slapped one another on the back. It was getting late. Everyone needed to puff out their chests and preen a little more. That’s how it is in a bar as the night wears on. A little more. Come on, now. Just a little more. Roll up your sleeves and let her see that new watch, that tattoo, your leather cuff. Run your fingers through your hair. Tuck your shirt in just right.
I wasn’t bothering with any of it tonight. I had what I wanted. Right here in front of everyone and nobody knew it but me and her. I nodded at her. I wanted her to come. I wanted to know the moment she came. How would I see it? She took a sip of her drink and I watched her fingers slide slowly down the glass when she set it back down on the bar. I saw the tight grip. The control. I searched her face for it. She was slightly turned away, turned towards the wall, when I saw her eyes close and her eyelids shudder. And then she relaxed. Her shoulders melted lower. She rolled her neck a little. Her eyes stayed low, never meeting mine. I felt myself relax too, realizing I’d been holding my breath.
She finished her drink and pulled a few singles out of her purse, leaving them on the bar as she stood up. I hastily did the same, grabbing my jacket and getting in her way as she headed out of the bar. She put her hand up to my face, touched wet fingers to my chin, sliding them to the edge of my lips. “Thanks for the drink, stranger,” she said. I nodded, speechless for a moment, smelling her pussy on my face. I said “Thank you,” too softly for her to hear as I watched her walk out the door. I stared after her for a minute or two before heading out into the night for a long walk. A quiet, cold night. I walked to my hotel. Stripped naked in the bald light of the bathroom. Splashed water on my face and ran a wet hand through my hair. I crawled into bed and jerked off. My back and thighs rubbed raw by the scratchy, over bleached sheets as I kicked, jerking my hips. I held my own wet fingers to my lips.
It’s dizzying what we can know about each other sometimes. Or what we like to believe. I’ll leave it at that. I slept better than I had in weeks that night. A deep sleep. My reward.