The lounge is empty. It’s 3:45 p.m. Shift change. The day bartender looks up darkly from counting her bank as if to say “Oh, now you decide to show up!”.
Avoiding the implied intimacy of the deep leather booths, they settle instead on the dark wood and upholstery pub chairs at the long marble-topped bar. The halogen spotlights are too bright for mid-afternoon, turned up, apparently to provide better light for the bartender’s end of shift duties.
Their bodies angle toward one another, but they say nothing for a long while. Waiting.
“What can I get you two?”
Gin and tonic would be too nervy. She knows it would only go to her head. She orders a harmless glass of red from the list.
“Corona, if you have it. Lime.” He takes her lead, nodding to the bartender as she sets about filling the order.
It seemed easier to navigate in the clean, spacious, sanitized landscape of the conference room, sitting across a table, reading the carefully crafted prose, giving thoughtful, objective critique, despite the deeply personal nature of the subject matter they wrote about today. But they are mature adults, after all.
Without the work spread out between them, they seem somehow smaller–reduced to their simplest terms. One man and one woman. Both married. Both happily, or so it would seem. They could be work colleagues talking shop or acquaintances who ran into one another, deciding to grab a quick drink before returning to their separate lives. But it’s not that simple.
“I’ve never written about my first crush before.”
It was easy, the way he pulled it out of her. But then, she has always been good at following directions. It says so right there on her grade school report cards. Always a little too eager to please. More rebellious in her youth, perhaps, but with so many miles behind her now, she realizes she’s the same girl she used to be.
“Neither have I. I don’t want to jinx things but I think we make a great team.”
“Me too, I don’t want try to read too far ahead. One chapter at a time.”
He smiles and nods, taking a big sip of his beer and glancing toward the doorway as a second couple enters, obviously enamored of one another. They nestle together in a booth in the corner, unlocking their eyes only long enough to place a drink order.
“Honeymoon?” She winks at him.
“Doubtful. But then, we are the writers. We are the dreamers of dreams.”
They both laugh, visibly more relaxed than when they first sat down.
The lights fall abruptly, casting the bar into momentary darkness.
“That’s our cue…” he laughs.
“Sorry, folks. Just a sec…”
The bartender adjusts the dimmer to the proper level of atmosphere for the happy hour crowd. They see each other, literally in a different light.
“You’ve gotta admit…the timing was perfect.” She pats his shoulder playfully.
“Another round?” The bartender looks back and forth quickly between them, unsure of the deciding factors for this couple, balanced uneasily at the bar, but obviously straining toward one another for something undefined.
“I’m okay.” She eyes her glass, still half-full. She is pacing herself.
“We have time, right?” He awaits her approval.
“Oh, sure. I don’t have any plans.”
“Yes, I’ll have another.”
To be continued…