Icebreaker

Diner

“That’s my beer.”

I looked at the female who had barged in next to me.  “It’s mine.”

“You’re drinking my beer.”

“I was sitting here.  My beer was here.”

“The barmaid killed yours.  That’s mine.”  A pause, as I considered.  “Go ahead and drink it now.”

Clink.  “It’s got ice in it.”

“I know.  It’s mine.  I like ice in my beer.”

I shoved the mug away.  “I’m not drinking that.  It’s got ice in it.”

She looked off to a woman standing next to her.  “He rips off my beer and now he’s bitching about it.”

“I’ve never heard of people putting ice in beer.”

“What do you think of it, now that you’ve tried it?”

“It sucks.”  I shoved the mug toward her.  “You can have it back.”

“Quit fussing, you two.”  The barmaid dumped the disputed beer, then served a new one to me.  “Sorry I killed your drink, Rob.  I thought you left.”

“I just went over to talk to Glynis.”

The barmaid set a new beer before the woman I’d been arguing with.  “Here’s yours, Jean.”

“Glynis just got back from Florida,” I continued to the barmaid.  “She says.  She doesn’t have much of a tan.”

“Can I have some ice?”

That turned me back toward the woman beside me.  “Ice?  You’re weird.”  I studied her profile, as the barmaid scooped some cubes into her mug.  “Are you just back from Florida, too?”

“No.  Why?”

“You’ve got a better tan than Glynis.”

“The sun shines here in Ohio, too.”

“Yes, but it’s only May.”

“I start working on my tan in April, as soon as it’s warm enough to sit outside.  At lunch I go outside to eat…”

“Where do you work?”

“P&G.  After work I’ll sit by the pool.  It’s not filled yet, but I’ll put on my bikini and stretch out on the edge.  The concrete feels nice and warm in the sun…”

“You’ve got a pool?”

“At my condo.  I’ve got a little baby condo.  Just right for me.  It’s on the top floor.    That’s good exercise, going up and down all those stairs.  It’s bad bringing up groceries, but then I don’t eat much.  It’s quieter on the top floor, with no one above you, and safer, it’s less likely someone will break in…”

“Let’s dance.”  She nodded, gulping.  As I stood I realized how tall she was.  “You’re tall.”

“Five-ten.”

“I’m six-three.  We’re a good match.  I dated a woman once who was four-ten.  When we danced her nose was in my navel.”

“Sounds like you should have enjoyed it.”

“Yeah, maybe I should find a woman just a few inches shorter to dance with.”

We danced and talked and drank until closing.  Then I followed her to an all-night restaurant.  Every sensation, such as the aroma of eggs and coffee, the clatter of cups and plates and the chatter of too-loud voices, the bustle of waitresses scurrying among the frenzied influx of drinkers seeking sobriety, the bright lights glaring down and reflecting off gleaming tabletops and glittering utensils, was all magnified by my stunned brain thrown out of gear by beer and the warmth of close contact that had wrapped tighter and tighter around us on the dance floor and at our stools while with heads inclined our hair brushed each other’s faces in animated conversation and exchange of bits of each other’s lives, like the exchange of gravitons between masses, drawing us closer and closer in the excited room as the music swept through us and set us to vibrating through the night all the way to the brightness of an early breakfast, by the newness of a new body, a new face, a new voice, a new life to lunge into.  Coffee and omelets were served.

“It’s going to rain tomorrow, so I’ll stay up late tonight.  If it was going to be nice I’d go home early and go to sleep so I could wake up early and go out to work on my tan.”

“I can see your tan a lot better in this light.”

“Yeah?”  She pulled open her shirt and tugged down on her bra, exposing whiteness.  “I’ve got good lines already.”

I stared.  “Yes.  Good lines.  The good kind of lines.”

As she rearranged her clothes, the woman Jean had been at the bar with sat at our table.  “I saw you flashing your tits.”

“I was just showing Rob my tan lines.”

The woman glared at me.  “Yes, Jean’s lines are very distinct.  Like borders drawn on a map, between the public and private parts of her body.”

I smiled at Jean.  “I’ve always been fascinated with cartography.”

She frowned in response, then engaged the woman in conversation about their jobs at P&G.  Bored, I looked away.  Glynis walked in, with some man I didn’t know.  I waved.  She saw me, but didn’t respond.  Jean’s co-worker abruptly left, then Jean turned her attention back to me.  “Damn, I thought she’d never leave.”  As I turned my attention back to her, I noticed she was frowning.  “What was that remark about cartography about?”

“She said your tan lines were like the borders on a map.”  She continued to frown.  “Cartography is the study of maps.  I was saying I’d enjoy studying your map.”

The frown blossomed into a smile.  “That could be arranged.”

At five we walked outside.  A garbage truck roared across the parking lot to fork a dumpster.  We watched, side by side, as it swallowed and digested its load.  I felt her shiver from the cool, so I walked her to her car.  A phone number, a kiss, and she was gone off into the night.

After that long night I soon discovered her fascinating topography.  And was invited into her baby condo.  And joined her by the side of her dry pool.  But I never did develop a taste for ice in beer.

 

By Mike Sherer

 

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