This man, he travels from table to table like a wet silk panther. He is sleek in his black coat. His smile is almost pleasant but for the gloss coat of whiskey slicked across his lips whenever he licks them. The hunting hours start at 5pm each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He orders a water, a whiskey and sour, and compliments the wait staff. Perhaps a about comment about my shade of lipstick or an appreciative once over of Marcus’ choice in over coat.
Next comes the steady sitting at table 4 near the door, sipping from his glass. I avoid catching his eyes when I buss past him, keeping my gaze trained on the wet path my towel makes as I clear tables. Women never approach him, but they appear to appreciate his initial company when he slides down next to them at the bar. They are charmed; he is aggressive in a lion-like manner with his smooth brown mane. He uses words like “miss” and “young lady”. I see him leave with a variety of personalities, both short leather skirts and pleated blossom blouses; woman who look easy and woman who make him do paces to appease their pride.
I know, and have witnessed, that some men bring black nights to women. Perhaps, they should have expected as much? In this place, in the places like this. But this man? Each of his one-night ladies always come back. And they are never wounded more than they are in pride when he steps off with another who is not them. He’s the cleanest sleaze I’ve seen.
He came alone at first, for three months. Until recently. A woman followed in with hair as brown as his and a mirror tilt to her smile, a sure scar of shared parentage. She named herself Karen, his sister. She sat down at the end of the bar to pester me with tales of her brother. One embarrassing snippet to cut him down every time he slicks his way into another woman. I have trouble understanding the two her and he, together and related. Whenever he comes over to speak to her, he stands a ways to her left. If there was anyone who at this bar who shifts to timid and wounded, it is him when he sees her. Later, I learn they are partners. She is the fisher-woman and he is the bait.
The tab, a combination of his, Karen’s, and his night woman’s drinks, is always paid by the sister. She leaves a sizable tip that sweetens our wariness but doesn’t take the edge off of the falseness of her smile. I used to believe she was feminist, with her brashness and take no prisoners attitude. But now I know she’s an asshole, nondiscriminatory in her prejudices, with a raw ability to find flaws in even the most agreeable people that walk through our doors. Some nights I want to lean over and slap her. But sometimes…often more then I’d like to admit… she’s more right than many others.
‘Women, as much as men,’ she tells me, ‘perpetuate sexism. This is why I have to be such as asshole,’ she leans over close to me, ‘to smack the prissiness out of them. Men get called misogynistic, but I have the ‘get out of jail free’ card.’ She points down to her pants. ‘My vagina.’
I think she’s hateful and sour, but I get paid to give her drinks and for all her words she doesn’t create trouble or pester us when we’re busy. When I first witnessed her brother, Bruce, talk a woman into sleeping with him I thought he was the asshole. But when juxtaposed to his sister, his smile at least shows an honesty when he talks to them. He has a twenty-first century romanticism about him, built around phones with names attached to numbers he’ll never have to try to remember. A one night wonder man, transparent.
Tonight, Karen sits in her usual seat. However, as the night has been unusually busy, another of our regulars is forced to sit beside her. Typically seated at stool 8, she is an older woman, a mother and a wife: a nonentity in Bruce and Karen’s ploys. But she talkative and I myself have enjoyed her softly buoyant laughter and watery voice. After a few moments of silence, she speaks to Karen.
Image: Jonny Lindner