Stuck in the Middle with Me 1/2

(The names of characters in this story are all pseudonyms because this story could probably ruin some lives. I will never confirm who they are, so don’t try playing Clue with smartasses of the blogosphere.)

My sloppy study habits calcified long before my incorrigible alcoholism, so a dimly lit bar was more conducive to working than an empty library that afternoon. Plus, a silent library hall, where sunshine beamed through the windows, could only distract me, as I imagined having having finished my work. Only one assignment stood between my $40,000 diploma and a $40,000 disaster; I should’ve completed the assignment–a complete and polished screenplay–but an unforeseen dalliance thwarted my scholarly resolve.  

I liked to go to Chuck’s to do homework during weekday afternoons. My last class for the term– Screenwriting 101: For Non-Screenwriters–sounded fun in the abstract but disappointingly mundane in reality, but I needed to pass. Just like when you and a buddy end up as the last two guys at a house party, drunkenly prattling about nothing until you both make a pact to open a bar later in life, once you both have some cash to invest. I imagine that once the novelty of being the center of attention wore off, I would start to dread a crowd of obnoxious drunks every night.

The central bar at Chuck’s is an enclosed octagon with four televisions facing the four cardinal directions; a series of mirrors encircle its top shelves and are angled so the bartender can see any customer from wherever she stands within the octagon. I casually stroll up to the bar and deliberately situate myself; opposite me, Kelly, the dark-haired dinner-shift bartender at the time, converses with a young fraternity brother, who’s very proud of the Greek letters on his shirt. I overhear him inviting her to his frat’s tailgate that weekend, and she politely declines. She looks up at a mirror, and when my eyes meet her reflection, I stick my tongue out at her. She giggles, and turns towards me.

Peeling off a cocktail napkin from the stack, and tossing it on the counter.

“Hey!”

“Where’s the manager at? I don’t know what’s going on here nowadays but the service has gone straight to shit.”

“Oh shut up,” she mutters. She grabs a glass, points at me with a curved finger, squints, and asks, ”You want a, umm–”

I order a gin and tonic, and tell her, “Don’t like act you forget my order, Kristin.”

She lowers her face to the same level as mine. She pouts hers lips, then smiles toothily. “You’re right, how could I possibly forget you?”

She turns away to make my drink, as I restrain myself from grinning. Out of the corner of my eye I see her watching me carefully.  

Over the the past few years, Kelly has hooked me up with at least a hundred free drinks. Since I’m not a particularly generous tipper, I figure she wants to get down, Occam’s Razor and everything, but last I check she had a serious boyfriend.

I loudly unzip my backpack, pulling out my laptop to actually work on this script. I had already written a few character descriptions, and  completed a basic, flexible, and appealing treatment to present to the class. Over the past few weeks, I had slowly worked on the screenplay, yet I had trouble recalling not its tile afterwards. I scoured my computer files for every Word document saved on the hard drive. I double-clicked the file untitled.docx, and scan over my work from the last few weeks: “Daytime. Dan’s apartment. Dan, mid-30’s, prepares a pot a coffee. He slowly walks around in a bathrobe and slippers. The phone rings.Fuck. So much for getting a head start.

Kelly throws a napkin on the counter then my drink on it. “How have you been? I haven’t seen you in awhile?’

Without looking up, I reply laconically, “Been better, been worse. You know how it goes…”

“What’re you working on?”

“An erotic novel…based on my life.”

“Oh yeah? Do you even have enough source material to write a novel? I think you might have better luck with a short story,” she says with a smirk. “So can I hear more about it or will it screw up the creative process?”

I pause to think about my response. “Okay, so the main character, Rory, is a salesman. Pretty sleazy, actually, and he knows it. In fact, he’s proud of it, because he lives in a world where everyone is constantly apologizing for nothing particularly egregious. He’s a hedonist but an honest one. He sleeps with a lot of wives, girlfriends, and single mothers, because he’s upfront and unapologetic about what he wants. He doesn’t feel guilty about taking another man’s woman, because in the end it’s that guy’s fault she’s cheating on him. Then, after they’ve fucked, these women will talk shit about their boyfriends and husbands, and tell Rory all about their man’s insecurities. And then, he..well that’s as much I’ve got so far. I don’t know how it will end.”

Of course, none of this was really true, but I told the story with conviction, and Kristin was pretty spellbound. “Wow, that’s pretty good. But…why does he only go for girls with boyfriends?”

“He doesn’t do it on purpose, it just happens.”

“Show me.”

“When’s your shift over?”

“Eleven.”

“Cool. Let’s meet at Malarkey’s at 11:15.”

“Okay. I’ll see you there.”

She walked away to serve a customer. I quickly packed up my stuff, because to linger there as she finished out her shift would ruin everything. She waved goodbye; I grinned and winked at her. Sometimes I even surprise myself with how sweet my bullshit smells to some people.

***

When I arrived at Malarkey’s Kristin was already sitting at the bar. She was talking to an obviously inebriated older man, his face flushed and sweaty. He was trying to maintain eye contact with her, but she glimpsed me slowly strolling over to her, and her dark eyes lit up. She was drinking a martini, which I thought only rich blue-bloods enjoyed. Olive skin, olives in her drink, she probably liked Greek salads. I ordered a jack and coke.

“How was work?”

She stuck out her tongue, crossed her eyes, and pointed a finger at her forehead.

“That sucks.” Might as well get to the point. “Hey, let’s finish these drinks, and head over to my apartment. I’ve got some cheap wine.”

***

Over the next two days, we were mostly confined to my tiny apartment, tangled together in bed, on the floor, the living room couch, the shower, a recliner, the countertop, or on top of the kitchen table.

After we finished, she slowly moved out of bed as she scanned the floor or even a lampshade for undergarments. Five minutes passed, she fretted over her missing panties, which hung from my bed post. I rolled over on my side, holding my head in hand, and admired her long black hair that traced her back’s graceful curves and reached down to her lower back.

“What’s wrong babe?”

“My underwear..I can’t find my panties.” She scoured through the melange of our clothes, hastily disrobed.

“Well, what’d you do with them?” I asked in mock naivety.  

“Me?!? You’ve already ripped one of my favorite bras this week, so it’s not unlikely.”

I couldn’t help a smile forming at the corners of my mouth as she playfully swung her head and chest around towards me; her hands coyly covered the nipples of her naked breasts. I noticed she had no tattoos.

“What happened to the one last night, then?”

“You ripped it with your teeth, you fucking psycho,” she answered sweetly. “I thought you were gonna chew on my tittie.”

“It’s part of a balanced and nutritious diet. Staves off depression, reduces stress, confers good luck on one’s work. Fights osteoporosis. Titties are healthy.”

“Oh my god, you’re such a pervert… What class do you have to go to today?” She returned to bed and snuggled her head on my upper chest. I patted her on the arm, and signaled up towards to the ceiling. Her pink thong wrapped around a bedpost, swaying from the ceiling fan’s gentle breeze,like that famous American flag planted on enemy soil in WWII.

“You’ve staked out your territory.”

She purred, “Damn straight. I want you All…To…Myself.” She kissed my bare chest during those long pauses.

“Let’s go get brunch before school. Not that I don’t like fucking instead of class or eating or any other responsibility.” I sat up abruptly. “Plus, I’ve to finish this screenplay.”

“I thought you were writing an erotic novel?”

“Well, no, I’m just living one.”

“Either way, put it off. Brendan, please, pretty-pretty please, let’s just stay here in bed for a little longer.” She kissed my neck.

I shook my head. “I’ve got to get this work done or I’m fucked.”

I sat up abruptly, and she clawed at my bare skin as I swung the covers off myself. It suddenly occurred to me that she still had a boyfriend.

“So where does your boyfriend think your are?”

“Oh him,” she groaned. “Florida for a business trip.” She rolled over onto her stomach, and inspected her nails, the black polish just starting to chip away. I struggled to put my jeans on.

“How old is he?”

“25. And no, you don’t know him. You’re actually the only other guy I have slept with since I started dating him.”

“It’s an honor.”

“It’s been a pleasure,” she quipped and hopped up to grab her underwear from the bedpost. “I guess you should finish your script. I’ve class tonight anyways.”

I watched her study herself in the bathroom mirror, brushing her long black hair and quickly putting on the make-up she carried with her in her purse.

My heart sunk, and I sat down at the edge of the bed; deep down, I had always wanted to fall in love. I knew now that there was no such thing.

“Why are you staring at me like that?” she yelled, still half undressed.

I held up a hand without saying anything. “I’m still struggling to decide whether I’m going to fuck you now or after I’ve finished my work.”

She giggled, and running on her toes, she leaped on top of me, ripping off my shirt.

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