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Back You are here: Home Stories Words for the People Poetry March 2011: The Ides The Sadness of Two People Meeting in a Bar
Monday, 28 February 2011 23:22

The Sadness of Two People Meeting in a Bar

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For a moment the crowd parts and they see each other, him at the bar, her on the wall, but it’s not long enough to tell if they’re attached. She gets a cigarette going, he orders another beer, the pads of his fingers leaving smears on his frosted mug, and they watch each other, and let each other look—him standing once, pretending to try to see the game on the television better, her in turn angling herself sideways, as if she’s just seen a friend through the plate glass. Twenty minutes later they’ve sidled into their places beside each other, and the bartender knows what to do, and her friend knows what not to do, and the only two people in the whole place suddenly unable to open their mouths, form the right words right then, are him and her, because they’re seeing it like a movie already:

that she has a husband she doesn’t want anymore but can’t throw away. That he’s only in town for two weeks, recovering from something he can’t really talk about. Something dark and suggestive. That, over the course of the next two nights, after she surrenders her body to him in the parking lot, he’ll become addicted to her enough to ask her to run away with him. But she can’t: her husband. So, a plan, a diagram, the husband alive at point A, dead in a trunk by C. Then the house and the land and the fortune is theirs, but soon enough his plan eases into motion: to come to the city, find a rich, needy girl, get her to marry him, and then, six months later, stage her suicide, inherit her money. But the husband, maybe he never really dies in the trunk of the car that goes into the pond, maybe he was just in the kind of debt he could only hide from in an obituary. And maybe the dark and suggestive thing in the new husband’s past was a formerly rich, now-disfigured woman, who finds the not-really-dead husband staking out the new honeymooners, and they’re in a bar, of course, oblivious, and the two wronged not-dead people swear vengeance together, the bartender as witness, but their plan has so many machinations, finally, that, in the boat-explosion (Step G), everyone wakes swimming in the moonlight, nameless with amnesia, and suddenly they don’t know who to save anymore, who has priority—the woman with the patch over her eye? the man with the gun?—and so wander off into the city to their separate dooms, their individual rags-to-riches stories, the baby one of them doesn’t know about it, the dog waiting to reunite with its owner.

In a moment as long as a dart arcing towards the board, the two of them see this, but she doesn’t draw the back of her hand away from his third knuckle, where he’s accidentally brushing her, and he doesn’t stop reaching for his drink.

“I can leave,” he offers, not looking quite at her, and in answer she takes his cigarette, the dart nosing into a bent green rectangle on the board behind them, and whispers that she doesn’t have a dog, does he? and because of this they think they can beat it this time, stay one step ahead, so they race hand in hand into the parking lot, leaving the bartender behind them cleaning his glass, the dishrag wrapped tight around the hook his hand is now, the dart board bristling with darts thrown by the woman with the leather patch over her eye, and nothing ever really stops, you just have to decide where to get off.




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Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Gra­ham Jones enjoys long walks by quiet lakes, the silence bro­ken only by the occa­sional zom­bie across the water, moan­ing to the night about his insa­tiable need for brains. His short story collection, THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY, was recently nominated for the Bram Stoker Award.

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