Sarah had left a message while Rachel was at the gym. She listened to the message. “Hey. I am super excited you got out of work! We are going to have a blast. I work until 5:30, so can you just meet me downtown? I have a change of clothes in the car, so I’m good to go. Call me back.”
Sarah was Rachel’s most nomadic friend. She kept enough supplies in her car so that she did not necessarily have to go home everyday. She did it on purpose. She had moved back home after graduating from college, and her parents fought a great deal. Sarah had told her in college that she thought that her parents were waiting for her to graduate high school before they would divorce, but that didn’t happen. They stayed together, even though they seemed to hate each other. Rachel had been over Sarah’s house once when I fight erupted. Sarah’s mom got so angry with her father that she through a plate at his head. Luckily, he ducked out-of-the-way, but it shattered into a million pieces in the livingroom. Sarah’s mother glared at Rachel and Sarah standing in the doorway to the kitchen. “I don’t know what the hell you two are gawking at.” Mrs. Postingle walked by the girls and went into her office, as if nothing had happened. Mr. Postingle sighed heavy, stood, took out the vacuum, and without saying a word, began to clean up the mess.
Rachel dialed Sarah’s number. It didn’t even ring, but she answered.
“Hey,” Sarah said.
“That was totally weird. It didn’t even ring,” Rachel replied.
“It rang once. I was holding the phone in my hand.”
“In anticipation of my phone call?”
“With bated breath.” They both laughed.
“So what’s the deal?” Sarah asked.
“Well, it’s 3:30 now. I need to take a shower and get ready, but I can be anywhere by 5:30.”
“All right. Let’s meet at City Tap. They have that cute bartender that I like to flirt with.”
“That tatted-up guy? Yuk!” Sarah and Rachel had completely different taste in men. Sarah liked the anti-establishment, bad-boy look. The bartender she referred to was stretching out his ear lobes, had a piercing above his eye and in his lip, tattoos– presumably everywhere, and a straggly beard. Definitely not the type of boy you proudly brought home to mama, which is probably why she liked these types of men. She was trying to find the opposite of her father so that maybe she could be happy.
“You know it. He’s got beautiful eyes and you have to admit, he is super sweet.” Rachel nodded her head in agreement, even though Sarah couldn’t see it. He was a nice guy. Rachel just thought the mutilation of his body was slightly unnecessary.
“All right. I will meet you at City Tap at 5:30. Hopefully we can get bar stools so you can flirt.”
“Awesome. See you then, Love.”
Rachel hung up and jumped in the shower. She had recently purchased a new jersey, and she was excited to wear it. It was totally retro-nineties. Her favorite player’s name and number was on the back: Alomar and 15. When she was a kid and played rec ball, she insisted on wearing number fifteen every year. She thought that someday she would grow up to be a catcher like Sandy Alomar. Thinking about it now made her laugh. Girls weren’t allowed in the Majors, and to be honest, she was a terrible catcher. In seventh grade, she got moved to second base, and she actually started to play well.
She dried and straightened her hair. She put on a little mascara and blush, but nothing else. She didn’t like the way her face felt with make-up on. The liquid make-up made her face itch, and she always felt like she looked like an oompa-loompa, no matter what shade she bought, her skin turned a strange shade of orange. The powder just dried her out. Thus, the best skin care for her was as little make-up as possible.
She looked in the full-length mirror after she put on her sandals. She was pleased with her outfit. The jersey was a little big, but with a red tank top underneath, it looked good. She had on a denim skirt and a pair of Sketcher sandals. She felt like she looked like she should be going to a ballgame. She tucked her hair behind her ears and made a last-minute decision to wear a ball cap, too. Now that her hair was shoulder length again, she liked wearing hats. She had the face for it, and not everyone can pull off wearing hats, but she could.
It only took her less than ten minutes to get downtown. She did not really expect much traffic, but it usually took a little bit longer. Just this morning, it took close to thirty minutes, and she was not driving downtown during rush hour traffic then either. She got out of the car and looked at her watch. It was only 5:07. She pulled into her favorite garage on Huron and parked her car. She walked across the street to the bar. Just as she figured, it was only half full. The after work drinkers were starting to arrive and a few people in Indians garb were milling around as well. In an hour, the bar would be wall-to-wall, but now, it was just a steady crowd.
She found two bar stools together and she sat down. The bartender that Sarah liked was pouring some drafts, but he immediately saw her.
“Hey you! Haven’t seen you in a few weeks. Where you been hiding?” He walked over as he was talking to her. Rachel still found him unattractive, but Sarah was right, he was a really nice guy.
“I have been working a lot myself lately. I got a waitressing job at the Lizard on Rockside. It’s been good, but I don’t make it downtown as much because of it,” she told him.
“Dude, we need help here. We have had two girls quit in the last month. It has been chaos. You should apply. Downtown is way cooler than the ‘burbs.”
“Really? I don’t know how to bartend,” she admitted.
“Super easy. I could teach you myself in two days,” he replied. “I’ll start right now. You tell me what you want to drink, and I’ll show you how to make it.”
“Smart. Going for an up sale from the two-dollar happy hour drafts.” She winked.
“No. No. You want a draft. There is an art to pouring draft, too,” he said.
“Yeah? Show me. I’ll take a Burning River.”
“Fine choice, my lady.” He bowed slightly and rotated his hand. It was cute and chivalrous looking and a complete juxtaposition from the way he looked. He talked her through the pour: tilt the glass, let the beer touch about half way down, as the glass filled, slowly turn the glass up. “See, a perfect pour: a crisp beer and with just a little bit of head.”
He put it down in front of her. She pulled out a twenty, but he pushed it back. “That one’s on me.” He smiled, and his face lit up. Rachel thought if he cut his beard and took out the piercings, he would be rather cute.
“Thank you,” she smiled back. “Hey, I’m Rachel by the way.” She put her hand out to shake his hand, but he turned it and kissed the back of it.
“A pleasure, Rachel. I’m Tony.”
Tony walked away to help another customer. Rachel felt butterflies in her stomach. Physically, she felt an attraction to this man, but she would not act on it. He was Sarah’s type, not hers.
Rachel intermittently watched Tony work and Sportscenter. Every so often, she looked at one of the two entrances, thinking that Sarah should be arriving any minute. Twice, she had to stop people from taking Sarah’s bar stool. “I’m sorry, this seat is reserved,” she politely said.
She finished the beer and looked at her phone. 5:45. Sarah was late. She texted: Flirting with your boyfriend. Haha. Where are you?
Immediately, Sarah texted back. Two minutes. Get me a beer.
Tony walked back over. “Are you ready for another?” He pointed to her empty glass. “Yes and a Woodchuck, too.”
“Oh! You’re cute little friend is meeting you?” Rachel was impressed. A good bartender may not know your name, but he damn well better know what you drink.
“Yeah, she should be here any second.”
Rachel liked that he called her cute. Sarah was the epitome of cute: five foot two, bobbed blond hair, freckles, and an award-winning smile. Just then, she walked in. Rachel waved at her, and she walked over. She had on a cute blue sundress and flip-flops. Sarah had a way of dressing that no one else could pull off. The dress seemed out-of-style, but the way it was belted with a red bandana, it looked chic.
Sarah kissed her on the cheek. “Liking the new jersey and the baseball hat. Very fanatical.”
“Thanks. The dress is adorable,” Rachel complimented back.
“You like?” Sarah spun around. “I was cleaning out my grandma’s closet, and I found this. It’s from the fifties.”
Just then Tony walked over with the beers. “Hey Toots. How’ve you been?” he asked Sarah, putting her beer down in front of her.
“Good, but great now that I’m here.” She took a sip of her beer.
“How much do I owe you, Tony?” Rachel asked. Sarah’s eyes got big and she mouthed “Nice,” obviously referring to the fact that Rachel had gotten his name.
‘Four,” he said. She handed him her twenty. She smiled. She lifted her glass to take a sip of her beer, but someone knocked into her from behind and she spilled some. She whipped around.
“I’m so sorry,” the man was saying looking at his own hands and shirt, drenched in his beer.
“Jason?” Rachel said, feeling slightly confused.
He looked at her without recognition.
“It’s Rachel, from this morning.” She pulled off her baseball cap so he could see her face more clearly.
“Holy shit. I mean, Oh my God. I mean…. I cannot believe I just spilled beer on you,” he said apologetically.
“Of all the bars in all of the world, you walked into this one and spilled beer.” She handed him a napkin.
He looked her directly in the eyes and smiled. The lack of recognition was gone. She actually felt like he was looking into her more than at her. “I guess I’m going to have to make it up to you somehow.”