K.S. ANTHONY: Glances, Glasses

08 October 2016

Glances, Glasses

"There are only three things to be done with a woman. You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature."

--Lawrence Durell

There's no room at the bar except next to a thin brunette in a black dress, so I ask if she's waiting for company or if the seat is available. She says it's open, so I sit down. I'm somewhat uncomfortable when the trio of women who were sitting next to me then decide to get up and leave because now I'm not sure if I should move or not. I don't. The problem is solved when a man who looks like the bastard offspring of Dennis Miller and Jeff Goldblum sits on the other side of me.

The owner asks me what I want and I ask her for a glass of red wine. I'm not picky, nor am I much of a wine snob, and I trust what she pours for me: I know her. She pours me a cab and it's a big, chocolate cigar of a wine.

The woman sitting next to me asks if I speak French. I just say a little. She pays me a compliment, I thank her. I ask how her dinner was and she says she hasn't had it yet.

Her lipstick is the color of garnets.

I take a sip from my wine, then slide it towards her. Try this, I tell her. It's like a chocolate cigar.

Are you sure, she asks.

Yes, of course.

She takes a sip from my glass and smiles. You're right, she says. Like a chocolate cigar. Here, try mine.

I do. It's a merlot. Young, green--the wine needs some time and some air.

The conversation turns to the same thing conversation always turns to when people have nothing to say: the question of how one earns a living. She's in medical sales, with a degree in biology from UT Knoxville. I am a reckless layabout in Nantucket reds and a white cotton button down with the sleeves rolled up. I offer to buy her a drink, which she politely declines, partly because she has to get on the road, partly because the jackass to my right has joined our conversation. I thank her and she leaves.

She leaves her napkin on the bar, it is blotted with her lipstick, wine red. I wonder what it would be like to press my lips to hers. I will never know. There is something about that thought that secretly delights me. I am not sure why, but the abrupt disconnection makes me very happy.

The fellow next to me asks why I didn't press for her phone number or offer her a card.

The reason I didn't is because there is something far more beautiful about a napkin, well-kissed, than a number I won't ever call. There is something much better about watching a lovely woman's long fingers caress the stem of the glass you pass to her and the traces she leaves. To try to hold onto her would smear the traces; crush the delicacy of the moment.

The reason I didn't is because she was a perfect stranger.

I wanted to keep her perfect.

Written mid-2010.  This ended up as a part of a piece of fiction that I workshopped at Yale Summer Session. The temptation is to edit all the pretentiousness out of this, but it is what it is: a short, guarded essay by someone who still hasn't gotten past his own need to stay "perfect."