Just as soon as one car pulled from a parking space near the curb, a bright yellow taxicab vied for the spot while another vehicle waited close on its tail. Reason being.. it was a choice spot and taxis never sat idling in one place for very long. But just as the taxi pulled over curbside, the rear door opened and a slender, ambiguous figure dressed in black leather pants and a long, dark trench stepped out. Waiting on the curb there beneath the lamp post for a little break in the traffic.. the figure turned and gave the other person, just as equally ambiguous when it came to gender, a brief glance.
Why did she glance over? Perhaps that was the one and only thing that distinguished the natives or very long-time residents of New York City from all the recent transplants. In California.. they always looked. Always.
Needless to say, it was nothing more than a brief glance before that welcomed break in the traffic came, and the leather clad figure stepped off the curb and hurried across the slushy street to the opposite side. To the little pub that wasn't so much to look at from the outside.
Inside, they had a grilled menu that was to die for, and all the windows were fogged up with wonderful aromas wafting from the kitchen. Overhead, there was a huge 65-inch LED screen television broadcasting whatever game was being played out on ESPN-East, and the smell of fresh beer running from the taps behind the bar added that unmistakable home-like ambiance to round it all off.
Nancy pulled the big heavy door open by its brass handle, glancing one last time across the street before vanishing inside.
Once inside the bar, Nancy removed her black trench and hung it on an empty branch from a big wooden coat & hat tree. Too, she tapped the grey-brown cakes of slush from her boots onto the floor mat before heading further inside. Beneath it all she was wearing a simple white tank top, looking pretty much like any basic biker chick -- except that Nancy didn't have a motorcycle. In fact, she'd never even been on the back of one in her entire life.
She seemed to know a few folks there. A few of the regulars who came to watch the games on ESPN because the big screen beat the hell out of their cheesy, old-time picture tube television sets. She waved to them as she headed for the bar. Hey, it was no secret that most New Yorkers lived in the dark ages when it came to electronic gadgetry.
Nancy hopped up to a stool somewhere near the center of the bar as she reached across for a small bowl of peanuts there on the counter, turning to watch the game only after ingesting a small handful.
Strangely enough, she could still see the dim silhouette of the kid standing outside on the curb across the street. He was hard to miss all illuminated underneath the glow of halogen lamplight, despite the foggy condensation on the big glass windowpanes. If he was a hooker, she might have felt a brief pang of sympathy for him. But not enough to go out and rescue him from the cold. You know.. let the Salvation Army do it. That was their job, anyhow.
"What can I get you, sugar-britches?"
Behind the bar an older fellow with a close-cropped salt & pepper crew-cut, mopped up little wet rings on the bar with a clean white towel. His nose was slightly out of joint, looking as if it had been broken a time or two in the distant past. And despite his years, the guy was built like an ox.
This wasn't a frou-frou joint. They didn't serve alfalfa sprouts on croissants, and the only thing on the menu that was under 1000 calories.. was a glass of water. It was man-food all the way, baby.
He stopped wiping when Nancy pulled the menu out from between a pair of salt and pepper shakers to study the laminated typeset underneath.
"I want one of those big fried onion blooms, with extra grease on the side. And a half-pound burger. Medium rare. With extra salt and everything on it. Oh and.. " she said as she put the menu away. "A diet Dew."
The two of them busted up laughing before the older man whipped his clean white towel across the bar with a snapping sound.
"That'll be seventy-five dollars, not including the tip, sugar-britches."
"That's a steal of a deal, Normie."
He turned to go then, leaving his newest customer alone once more to acclimate to her surroundings.
It wasn't like Nancy was the only woman in the bar. There was a woman with a dark haired kid sitting at one of the booths across the bar. Her son, maybe? Ehh.. there were a few women scattered here and there. But the majority of the patrons were men. And to be honest, Nancy was much more at home in a sports bar than she was in some nightclub with strobe lights and disco balls, and an endless parade of fucktards hitting on her all night long. You see.. a woman just couldn't go to a nightclub by herself to relax and enjoy her own damn company. Because every fucktard trying to score kept seeing the imaginary sign tattooed on her forehead that read: 'Hit on me. I'm available and desperate to get laid.'
Normie came back with a beer. Not a diet Dew. And that's what was so damn special about a place like this -- the guy knew her well enough to know she had been pulling his leg. Nancy's burger and onion rings would not be swimming in grease, nor would the meat be dangerously under-cooked. That too, had been a joke. And when he set her beer mug down on a small napkin, the two of them briefly knocked fists.
"Gimme about ten minutes on your burger and rings," he said before wandering off again.
Despite the slight foggy buildup on the windows, seeing through them from the outside was still likely feasible since the lights were far brighter inside the pub. Staring back out however, you'd probably not see much more than the headlights of passing cars. Regardless, after having glued her attention to the large overhead TV screen for at least ten minutes, Nancy turned around to have a look out the window following an eerie, prickling sensation -- the exact kind one gets when being stared at. But she could see nothing more than the headlights of passing cars or the bright glare of traffic lights.
In the meantime Norm had finally returned with Nancy's burger and onion rings. He set them down on the bar before her, briefly glancing at the window afterward.
"You waitin' for someone tonight?"
Nancy turned back around and shook her head- "Oh.. no. I just thought I saw someone out there."
"Between you and me, kiddo," Norm leaned down and said all discretely at if he were about to confide something to the woman. Out of rote habit, Nancy leaned a bit closer, too, to listen-
"There's about eleven million people out there. But don't tell 'em you heard it from me."
"You ass," she laughed, reaching across to yank the man's bar towel from his hand. And when she did, she popped him one on the arm with it.
Norm howled and rubbed his arm, acting as if he were bruised and injured.
"You have pretty good aim-" he began before Nancy cut him off to finish the line for him.
Or in this case, in unison- "For a girl."
"No, seriously, Normie.. there was a guy standing out there when I came in. He seemed kinda, you know.." she lifted a finger to her ear and twirled it round and round, indicating the universal finger-sign for loopiness.
"Yeah, yeah.." Norm nodded before turning to glance at the game again about two seconds before a touchdown scored and the entire bar broke into a raucous roar. "Outta that eleven million out there, ten and a half million's freakin' whacko."
Nancy grinned again. He didn't quite get what she meant. Not an ordinary nutcase, but --
-- and she turned again to stare back at the window. That kind of strangeness. The kind that reminded you of ghouls and goblins and things that hid under the bed at night, waiting to bite off your fingers or toes if you dangled them over the edge the least little bit.
Patrick S. © February 2012