Think I’m getting the hang of it.
The crash, as it turned out, was ruled the woman’s fault. Time had passed and I was starting to feel like myself for the first time since moving back to Seattle. At Wild Child Wings, I could now handle the main bar on a Saturday night by myself without writing a single order down. And if anyone gave me shit, I had a line of regulars ready to throw the bum out.
There was Eddie a lanky Irish banquet server from up the street. Carolyn, an actress who was in the “inner circle” of Seattle Equity actors. She had the cutest Hello Kitty backpack even though she must have been 34. Thomas and Stanley, two newly weds. I always thought it was funny that they came all the way down to drink at Wild Child in Pioneer Square rather than staying in the much more gay-centric Capital Hill. And Solomon. Solomon had a sheepish quality. He didn’t like to come when the place was busy and he often stuttered when it was. Someone told me that he took care of his mother, but others said that he lived with her because he had had a nervous breakdown. I didn’t know which and I didn’t care. He also used to tip me in half dollars. And I love half dollars. They’re the perfect size.
The only one I didn’t see often was Marty. Something was different now. He had been there for me in the bleakest of moments and instead of that making us closer, I had started to avoid him. Marty always used to come in on Tuesdays and I had told Gus I couldn’t work them anymore. When Marty did come in, I put up a wall.
When he came in on a Friday, I did my best to play it cool.
“And how is the night treating you?”
“Good.” I replied as I turned away to restock the lowboy.
When I came back a few moments later, I dryly asked “So what’ll it be? The usual?”
He looked at me, maybe deciphering, maybe interpreting, and maybe just thinking. Then he answered, “Sure. Sounds good,” Giving me a smile as if to say, ‘It’s okay, do what you’ve got to do.’
He ate his wings with a contented smile as he turned to Solomon.
Meanwhile, Carolyn argued Stanley about Pride week.
“How can you say that?” Carolyn exclaimed.
“I’m sorry, I’m just over it.” Stanley matter-of-factly retorted.
Thomas, with his arms hugging Stanley’s waist silently mouthed “He’s not.”
Stanley instantly responded with a playful slap to Thomas’s face. “I am, it’s become too commercial. I mean, there’s corporate sponsorship.”
Carolyn interjected, “Jill! Tell Stanley he’s full of it, then cut him off!”
“What makes you think I give two shits about Stanley’s Pride participation? All I care about is if he wants another Goose on the rocks.”
“As it should be! And I do!”
On the other side of the bar, Solomon looked deep into his Strongbow. “Are…yo–you sure?” Marty wiped his hands and took cash out of his wallet placing it on the counter. “Solomon, I’m not 100% sure of anything. But you have needs too and there comes a point when you’ve done all you can for someone.”
“You’re going? B–but what if–“
“Solomon, if it does…there’s nothing I can say to stop it from happening. And I would hate to think that your anticipation of it stopped you from living the life I know you deserve.” With that Solomon gazed back into his Strongbow. Marty put his hand on his shoulder. “Have a good night, Sol.“
Marty put on his coat and headed towards the door. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched to see if Marty would look back and give me some sort glance or wave goodbye.
“But it’s not. It’s about expression, right Eddie!”
“Carolyn, are you talking about football?”
“No, we’re talking abo–“
“Then I don’t give a flying fauck!”
With that the entire group erupted with laughter. The clamor obstructed my view of the door. When the group died down, Marty was long gone.
The night died down and one by one Wild Child Wings emptied out and I started to get ready to close. The only one at the bar top was Solomon, still staring into his Strongbow Cider.
“Hey Jill, I have one table left. Just one guy over in booth 3. Can I transfer him to you and get out of here?” On weekend nights we have a server or two to take some of the tables. Lindsey was always antsy about making the last bus.
“Yea, just let him know, it’s last call in 15 minutes.”
I went over to Solomon. “You’ve been nursing that cider for like 2 hours now. You okay?”
“Yeah. I think so. But…” Solomon lingered with his thought, as if he was about to ask a question that would ruin his whole outlook on life. Like a kid asking this parents if Santa Claus is real or a wife asking her husband why his office didn’t know he was going on his “business trip.”
“You and Marty used to be really close right?” I was afraid that I was going to have to confront Marty and my estrangement sooner or later. I just didn’t expect it to be with Solomon.
“Yes. Yes we were.”
“Then you were in that accident. And then…nothing. What happened?”
That very question I had spent dozens of 3 am mornings trying to figure out. Notions of my own sense of vulnerability that Marty had managed to penetrate deeper than anyone before. He was there when I was my weakest and most desperate and I couldn’t stand that. There were questions I was afraid to ask. What was he doing there the night I had crashed? Had he been watching me? Had I simply out grown him? Too many feelings and I just found it easier not to address.
“Nothing happened, Solomon. We just grew apart.”
“Hmm…” He took another moment. “Do you trust him?”
Now it was my turn to take a moment. I wanted to say yes. To say no would call into question all the wonderful things he had done for me, and all the other people I’ve seen him help night after night. Sorting though their problems with an uncanny sage-like wisdom. His ability to pierce though a person’s exterior and almost instantly know their inner thoughts and fears…helping these people see what they’ve been running from. A gift like that, it must come from an altruistic and giving person. Because otherwise…it would mean that…well that was something I simply couldn’t think about. And so, in avoidance of that possibility I started to answer.
“The thing you have to understand about Marty–“
“She doesn’t.” A voice from booth 3 interrupted.
“Excuse me?” I inquired.
“She doesn’t trust him.” The voice continued.
Then the patron stood up from the booth. It was Ralph. “And I’ll tell you why…how about a Negroni?”