by Paul Germano
The bartender wakes up hung over and content, his sleepy green eyes half open, a slight smile on his chiseled face. A weathered American flag, handed down to the first-born for four generations thus far, hangs proudly over his headboard. There’s an empty bottle of Chardonnay and two wine glasses on his nightstand, one with the cardiologist’s pink lipstick still on its rim. On the nightstand’s edge, along with a lamp that’s been pushed aside, his reading glasses rest on top of a provocative historical biography, not that he did any reading last night. He reaches over to turn on his lamp, then decides against it.
Her perfume, a crisp citrus scent, still lingers in his bed, drifting elusively, a hazy reminder of last night’s festivities. It hovers seductively on his feather-filled pillows, waffling its way through his tangled, twisted sheets. He’s wearing a silver chain with the holy medal of his patron saint around his neck and nothing more. The Sun’s been up for a spell now, poking at his bedroom window, desperate to get inside. But thick curtains keep the sunlight at bay. He yawns, stretches, scratches, then shifts to his side, pulling the covers across his naked torso, his dark summer tan finally beginning to fade. He whispers her name in a drunken groggy mantra. “Annie, Annie, Annie ...”
His shabby knock-around Mets ballcap is hung over the bedpost. His brand-new sneakers are one over the other, leaning against the pale blue wall. On that same wall, the nearly identical flags of Italy, Ireland and France, hang in proud homage to his immigrant ancestors. His clothes are in a mangled clump on the floor.
Annie’s clothes are gone.
They had words, briefly, a sour exchange about trust and commitment. He wasted no time in refocusing her attention with one of his most celebrated maneuvers. “Oh Sebastian, that’s the ticket,” she moaned. He had successfully muscled his way back into her heart, if only for a fragile and temporary truce. Usually she’d stay overnight; he’d make breakfast in the morning. Not this time.
Afterwards, satisfied and yet not satisfied, she relaunched into her grievances about trust and commitment. No way would he have the same argument twice in one night. He switched gears in a flash, his intentions calculated and obvious. “Well look at you, a hot shot cardiologist, carefree and single, driving in from your pristine mansion on the lake for another night of slumming in the city with your bartender boy toy.”
She fidgeted with the delicate Star of David on her gold chain. “I don’t see us that way,” she said defensively. He raised a skeptical eyebrow and watched her squirm. “And it’s one hell of a stretch to call my house a mansion,” she said. ”Is it?” he grunted.
“Enough of this,” she said in a snit. She sat on the side of the bed, slipped into her clothes, then fussed with the buttons on her silk shirt.
“Wait, I’ll walk you to your car,” he said. She told him “don’t bother” so he didn’t. But he watched from the window to see her drive safely away.
Yeah, usually, she stayed overnight, not this time.
He rolls over, touches himself. His nostrils flare at the crisp citrus scent that still lingers in his bed, fully aware that it will soon fade away. He thinks about that common phrase, the one his perpetually optimistic cousin likes to say every chance he gets. “When one door slams shut, another door swings wide open” or something like that. He’s far too groggy to remember the exact wording his cousin uses, but he’s confident the sentiment fits his current situation. He has foggy memories from later that night, after Annie left, of stumbling to his bathroom, splashing water on his face and spritzing himself with cologne. Hazy snippets fill his mind of where he went and what he did. These memories, cloudy as they are, hover joyfully just beyond the confines of the double-locked door to his apartment. He rubs at his sleepy green eyes, his slight smile still intact, knowing that the alluring floral scent of another woman, with some impressive maneuvers of her own, continues to linger in the stairwell, two flights up. He rubs again, at his sleepy green eyes, then rubs at an ache in his neck. That slight smile on his chiseled face, grows now to a large fully formed smirk.
Two flights up, in a narrow hallway darkened by low-wattage lighting, a door creaks open. A Calico cat meows from inside and a lanky pharmacist with disheveled blonde hair and pedicured bare feet, peeks out, cautiously looking both ways. Wrapped in a terrycloth robe and nothing else, she slinks her way down to the landing.
On the blue-tiled landing, where the lighting is dim, a bottle of Bourbon rests on its side, completely drained dry. Next to the bottle, a red high heel waits, forgotten in the heat of the night. The landing still smells of his wood-based cologne intertwining with her own floral perfume. She takes a deep breath and smiles, straining her eyes for a quick look around.
“There it is,” she says in a whisper, grabbing the shoe by its long red heel and making her way up the blue-tiled steps. The hallway is shadowy, like a secret well kept. She tiptoes into her apartment, quietly shutting the door behind her. Inside, her Calico cat purrs contently, rubbing against the lanky pharmacist’s bare ankles.
Two flights down, Sebastian shifts restless in bed and again rubs at the ache in his neck. He reaches once more to turn on his lamp and again decides against it. He closes his sleepy green eyes and drifts back to sleep, that smirk still firmly intact on his chiseled face.
On the blue-tiled landing, where the lighting is dim and that empty bottle of Bourbon remains on its side, a lightbulb flickers its last hurrah and burns itself out for good.
akes up hung over and content, his sleepy green eyes half open, a