A Night at the Bar
Some inside-baseball here: it's not always easy to write in The Tomb. It helps to go elsewhere. And it helps to have a drink, to hasten arrival in the proverbial zone.
Monday night, I went to a bar after work to try to get a little writing done.
It's fairly empty as I walk in, but not PERFECTLY empty... which is in its own way perfect. I didn't want to be the only person in a dead bar. I wanted just enough white noise to help me think.
Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a black woman and a white woman talking to each other at the end of this small bar. (Coworkers, perhaps?) There is a series of empty stools between them and the next grouping of people, which is also perfect. I sit down. Order a drink. Retrieve my notebook and pen and proceed to do what writers do.
A minute or two later, I hear a female voice call out in my direction:
"Hey. Tattoos. I like your tattoos."
I turn to my left. I see this little reddish blonde white girl staring back at me, smiling. I remember thinking she somewhat resembled "Ginny Weasley" from the HARRY POTTER movies. Maybe early 20s, a flirty sparkle in her eyes.
I look at her. Look back down at my writing notes and think to myself, "Well... you haven't gone on a date in an unconscionable length of time... there's no hard deadline on this thing you're writing... When's the last time you even talked to a girl like this...? Let's just see where this goes..."
I set aside my writing notes and engage in some light preliminary palaver. She beckons me, patting the empty stool beside her. The woman she was initially chatting with is now talking to someone else. (So maybe they're not coworkers?, I think.)
I obediently scooch over and start spouting a little canned b.s. about the ink on my arms. I don't really like going into too much detail about my ink with perfect strangers.
The girl listens with seeming interest before she starts to tug at the sleeve of her coat...
"I... DON'T... have any tattoos... but I've got something better..."
With some tense fanfare, she removes her coat and dramatically starts to roll up her sweater sleeve... revealing these DEEEEP scars all over her right arm...
This was not some semi-artful scarification body-mod thing. This was DAMAGE. This looked like her arm had been taken off and sewn back on.
"I was in a foster home for most of my life and I ran away...," she slurred. And it was only then that I noticed that she WAS slurring. In fact, the more I listened to her, the less sense she was making.
"I'm known all over the world for shortboarding," she confided in me. "Other people longboard but I... I...... I'm know for shortboard...... 'nd that's what.... people know me the world over.... shortboard..."
Her words weren't really coming together to form coherent anecdotes or statements -- such that it was hard to even fake polite small talk with her because I couldn't understand what she was saying. It was around then that I also noticed her eyes were slightly out-of-sync, like a chameleon's.
It was also clear that I was the fool who was now engaged in a conversation with the one person at the bar who everyone else was trying to avoid.
"I... swam... in gasoline," she confessed to me. And then insisted more emphatically: "I swam... in... gasoline!"
HERE I'd realized, without a doubt, that I'd made a huge mistake... and the stool where I was originally sitting now appeared to be a million miles away.
I began the delicate operation of trying to extricate myself from the situation without offending her and without making a big deal of it...
"But you're all right now, right?" I offered. "That's great."
"I swam in gasoline," she repeated. Seeming to be proud of this simple statement I couldn't even fathom.
"And you made it through," I suggested, trying desperately to put a cap on the matter. "The take-away is that you're in a better place now! You survived and that's... great. Right...?"
She smiled and nodded.
I smiled and not-so-subtly tried to go back to writing in my little notebook.
After an awkward beat of silence, she started up again:
"So, tell me about your tattoos."
"Actually, I'm sorry, I've got some homework to do," I said, trying to politely cut it off.
Another awkward stretch of silence. For a moment, I thought I might be free of her... before she insisted, again:
"Tell me about your tattoos!"
At this point, I just stopped trying and slowly inched away from her. Back to my original stool.
"What. You don't wanna hang out with me...?" she cried, plaintively.
I looked down at my writing notes. "I've just got some homework to do," I explained.
But she wasn't reading social cues.
"TELL ME ABOUT YOUR STUPID TATTOOS...!" she spat at me.
I tried to use my canned responses. "They're personal...", "They're little bookmarks for myself...", "They mean different things, it's complicated, I don't want to get into it..."
She would not accept these responses.
Around here, the female bartender came by and asked me if I wanted another drink. I said "yes" -- stubbornly not wanting to let this girl know how rattled she was clearly making me (and stubbornly wanting to stay and write).
The girl piped up: "He's going to buy ME a drink, too!"
The bartender exchanged a look with me and I flashed her a silent communication confirming that I was NOT going to be buying Troubled-Girl a drink. That Troubled-Girl probably shouldn't be drinking at all.
Without warning, the girl GRABBED MY ARM and said, "FINE, I'LL DO IT MYSELF!"
I thought she was going to stab me.
I don't know why, but I swear for a moment I thought she was going to stab me in the arm.
But she just turned my arm over in her hands, groping my arm as if it were... not attached to a living human being. As if she were a kid at a children's museum where you were allowed to touch all the art.
At this point, an Irish hostess approached the girl and kindly suggested that they wouldn't be serving her any more drinks because she seemed a wee bit out of it already.
Troubled-Girl seemed to take this in without too much protest.
But she didn't leave.
She remained seated for an extended period of time. Continued to lob questions at me as if 'we' were still a thing. "Are you Korean?" she squawked. "ARE YOU KOREAN??" she hollered, as if I may have missed the initial query.
After a few more minutes of me not responding, she threw a pen at me across the bar. I glared at her. She just had this huge childish frown on her face.
Finally, she started to pack up. Put on her coat, grabbed her bag...... and disappeared into the bathroom.
I immediately started talking to the bartender:
"She walked in about an hour before you arrived," the bartender explained. "She said someone stole her wallet and I felt bad for her so I bought her a drink, but then she started acting crazy..."
I couldn't relax because I knew the girl was still in the building. Was in the ladies' bathroom, doing god knows what.
15, 20, half an hour goes by and Troubled-Girl is still in the bathroom. Soundless.
Irish hostess raps on the door, angrily.
"Ah'm bein' serious, yeh've got teh leave! Ah've had enoof...!"
I can't relax because I know she's still the building. In my mind, she's either shooting up in the bathroom or killing herself or preparing to stab me on her way out.
When she finally exits the bathroom, she has a confrontation with the Irish hostess.
The Irish woman wanted her out immediately and was done being polite. Troubled-Girl was not liking the disrespect she was receiving.
This escalated FAST.
The black woman from earlier (who I'd thought was a coworker and turned out to be just some random woman trying to humor Troubled-Girl) reappeared to serve as an impromptu referee .
In no time at all, Ginny Weasley was literally upside-down and then flat on her arse on the ground. They ended up literally tackling her to the ground because she just flipped out and started throwing wild punches. And now she was lying breathless on the ground.
Problem was, she was DEFINITELY not leaving now...
She gets up and parks her ass back at the bar. (I remained seated right in the middle whereas all the other guys had fled to the far end of the bar.) Now Troubled-Girl and bartender girl are hollering at each other.
TROUBLE: "My nickname is Atticus Finch!!! CALL THE COPS!!! YOU LAY YOUR HANDS ON MEE, CALL THE COPS!!!"
BARTENDRGRRRL: "WE ARE CALLING THE COPS, YOU FUCKING LUNATIC!!!"
It takes about twenty minutes before FIVE UNIFORMED COPS walk into the bar and surround Drunk/High/Deranged Ginny Weasley.
First cop walks right up to her says, "Time ta go."
No further arguments. No questions of different sides of the story. Just a brute escort-out.