cherry_chicken_salad_sandwich“So, I guess I have an admirer.” Aliah tells me as we sit down with our lunch. She  looks like she’s about to crack up.

“Oh, yeah?” I wipe at the mayo trying to escape the certain death that is my digestive system by jumping off my lower lip to the plate below.

“Yeah,” she continues, eyebrows raised high. “I guess we just missed him the other day. That day when you came by for the first time? Dale said he and a friend came in like 15 minutes after we took off. He sat at the bar and kept looking around like he didn’t think anybody could tell he was looking for someone. Well, okay…not that bad, but Dale picks up on these things quick, being a bartender. You know, reads people pretty well?”

“Did he say what this guy looked like, at least?” I ask. No use getting worked up over an admirer if they don’t measure up, you know?

“Oh god, you know guys can’t give you a decent description ever! All I got was average to tall, sandy blonde, kinda skinny, with dirty finger nails…but like multi-colored dirty, like with ink or paint or something.” She took a bite of her sandwich, chewing as she went on. “I guess he said he’d been in the Friday before while I was working…that’s when he saw me… but what Dale described didn’t ring a bell with me. Anyway…” she swallows, “I guess his friend had some sort of freak-out as they left. Like, just all of a sudden cut Dale off and bailed out the door like he saw a ghost or something. Weird.”

“Whaddaya mean? He has no idea what triggered it?”

“Nope. One minute he was asking more info about me…you know, probably for his friend who was in the john at the time. Like, was I into girls or guys and were you that kind of friend or what…that kind of stuff. And then the next minute he just, poof! Freaked out. Dale said he was telling him about how he didn’t know you, but that I didn’t usually go for girls…and he didn’t think your were my type or some nonsense. How do guys determine this shit anyway? Do they just get some idea in their head and let it sprout into a full-fledged theory based on, what? Spirit dust? Whatever.” She takes a drink of her soda. “So, anyway…the one guy bails out the door and Mr. Loverboy comes back from the bathroom all cartoon-like, looking first at his friend’s back walk through the door then at Dale, then back at his friend outside, before asking Dale what that was about. ‘Course Dale didn’t know; he was just as confused as Mr. Loverboy! So, Loverboy paid the tab and followed after his buddy.” She shrugged. Apparently that was that. End of story.

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“But, what about this guy…he didn’t try to find out your schedule, or leave a message or phone number for you…or anything?”

“Nope. Must be love for real then, don’t ya think?” Her eyes wide, eyebrows high on her forehead, she stifles a laugh. “I mean, I guess he was a bit distracted by his buddy’s freak out, but…still…”

“Do you think he’ll come back?” I ask. What a stupid question. Of course he’s coming back. Probably not with his freaky friend, though!

“Oh sure, probably. Unless he’s as freaky as his friend apparently is, why not.” She’s collecting the dishes and stacking them to take them to the kitchen. “Who cares, though, really? I mean, I’m not like aching for a date or anything. It’s just kind of amusing and all.”

Yeah, she was right. Who needed a couple weirdos hanging around, anyway. We…well, I, anyway…had enough on our plates right now. I help Aliah bus the table and say I’m going to venture out towards Capitol Hill or Downtown, maybe look for more work to fill in the empty spaces in my schedule. She looks at me hard before asking her question.

“You’re not going to go digging too deep and get yourself too worked up, are you? Really.”

Yep, I’m one really shitty actress, alright. I heave a sigh. “Alright, okay. I am going to check in at the other Twice Told about adding to my schedule…and I was thinking that I could try to get a hold of Shayla’s land-lady again.” She’s looking at me with that look again. “What?” She just continues to look at me that way. “Every day I don’t try to find her is another day something bad could be happening to her. I have to do this!”

“I know, I know.” She wipes down the table. “Just…take it easy, okay? I promise…you, me and Todd…Chris too…we’ll all sit down and figure this out. I mean it. You can’t do this by yourself. You need help. Depending on what we find out, we might need help. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it…”

I let her go back to work and tell her I’ll see her later back at the house.Stubbed-Out-Cigarette_web Digging in  my bag for a smoke, I head out the door to find a bus going my way. Of course, just as I get to the bus stop, only three puffs into my cigarette, there’s the bus already and I flick the fag in the street. Frickin’ waste of a good cigarette. Oh well…what do I keep telling myself? I don’t really need to keep smoking? Yeah…whatever, okay.

I plunk down in what is actually only half an empty seat next to an old lady up front…one of the seats that face inward toward the aisle instead of forward. She has one of those wire folding carts parked in front of her, obscuring the aisle, with old wrinkled plastic bags over flowing from it. Her swollen ankles in support hose, with shoes tidy and in good repair, but look like they’re from a 1970’s Sears catalogue…like in those weird chain emails that get forwarded all over the place with big fashion “don’ts” from years past. They’re plastic, caramel brown, and would look like nurses shoes if they were white.

She smells of feces and rosewater. I just don’t even want to think of why…

© 2008 D. Kessler