Continued from Chapter 1.
“Nothing ever changes, Jill.”
Marty’s lip trembles as he blinks to hold back his tears. I’m terrified. How could a person, so sensitive, so in touch with humanity, turn into this…monster? The bar is silent. Every single person’s eyes are fixed on me. I have no idea what to do.
Marty breaks the silence. “I’m tired, Jill.“ Then he commands, “So pour me the drink.”
It was a slow Tuesday at work. At first I was relieved as I was finally able to get comfortable behind the bar. But after about four hours I wanted to pull my hair out. There was me and a quiet and silly homeless man spending his “spare change?” money. I had nick-named him Sloppy Joe. I couldn’t help wishing Marty would come in. He and I didn’t really have a chance to talk the other night as I was perpetually in the weeds.
The front door opened and I sharply turned my head like a dog left home all day. But no Marty. Just a young couple. They immediately went to the back then started gratuitously making out. I could have gone over to them to ask them to order or get out, but when you’re working a painfully slow shift, you don’t really want to do anything. So I left them to their public privacy.
Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore and rested my head on the bar top. After what felt like seconds, I was awakened with a startling thud. Indentations in my forearms and cheek mirroring the rivets of the bar top paired with the warm apprehensive tingling sensation of the chest and neck were indicative of an ill-timed nap. I surveyed the bar. PDA couple, Sloppy Joe and…was it…could it…yes! Marty.
He was sitting in the exact same stool from a few nights ago. Black trench coat, hat resting beside him and his briefcase propped open on the bar. That explains the thud. I approached him as he sorted through his papers.
“What’ll it be stranger?”
“1/2 dozen hot buffalo wings and a club soda with lime.”
He ordered matter-of-factly, not looking up from his papers.
“Sure, you don’t want a Negroni?”
“A club soda with lime will be fine, thank you.”
Nothing. Nada. He is a customer. I am an order taker. I was a little heart broken. Maybe he had gotten drunk the other night before he came into the bar. Hell, maybe I had imagined the whole thing to begin with.
“You want those less cooked, so their not crispy, right?”
He gazed up from his papers and took a good look at me.
“And if you don’t want a drink, Can I make it a ‘Marty’s Half Dozen?”
“Why that sounds magnificent, Jill.”
He smiled and went back to his papers.
When his food finally came up he put his papers away and we started talking. I told him about New York and my mistakes with Mack prompting me to move back to Seattle. We were interrupted by PDA guy.
“Excuse me. Can we get some service, please?” he demanded.
“Thought you two wanted your privacy.” I quipped.
He sneered then, “Two shots of Patron.”
After dealing with him I went back to Marty. “Can you believe those two? This isn’t a motel.”
“Well, I don’t take to his rudeness, but at least you can be happy for them.”
“What? Why? It’s disgusting.”
“I guess so. But I walk through this city, riding its buses, and with the constant overcast, I find myself surrounded by so much solitude, so many grimaces, and utter contempt. It’s nice to be around someone enjoying themselves.”
“Well it doesn’t make me feel any better. It makes me feel angry. It feels unfair.”
“I know. Believe me, I know. That’s hurt. That’s loneliness. You wonder why love has been kept from you. Rationalizing that luck simply just hasn’t gotten around to you yet. But when you see two lovers there, in front of you, it’s real. Like being picked last for baseball, there’s no denying the problem is probably you. And you sink deeper.
But that breeds something dark within you, Jill. I used to have a friend. She’d say that we should always feel the joy of others. For the longest time, I rejected that. But I’ve found that she has a point. Something magical happens when you spread the good.
“Sounds like some cheesy after-school sentiment to me.”
“Maybe it is.”
With that he left me a 20 for his wings. “Hey Marty, one thing before you go. You always do the club soda thing. You ever drink?”
“Let’s just say, I lost something very very special because of it. And I’ve been wandering ever since. But that’s a story for another time.”
“And you still, ‘spread the good'”?
“Yes, I have to.”
He put on his coat, packed up his briefcase, gave me a smile, and went over to Sloppy Joe.
“Have one on me.”
I’m still terrified, but I stick to my guns. “Marty, if you want a drink, you’re going to have to go somewhere else.”
“No Jill. You’re going to pour the drink. Or you’re next.”
And that’s when it occurred to me. That when the best of us fall, they do the most damage.