A Night on the Green River
They were in the restaurant and it was very dim and her teeth were the easiest thing to see. There was a light in her eyes that made him stare and a gleam from her earrings that made him smile. She had perfected the half-smile, her eyes alive and showing complete attention. That was her way. She could do that to a man. She could do it so delicately but she could do it nonetheless.
There was a great distinction between women he could sleep with and women he could marry. He knew this well and he typically could tell very quickly. He would often decide immediately and from there that decision would guide his words and actions.
But with her the man was not concerned about anything past the moment and was too preoccupied to think about any consequences that might follow, any penalties he may incur. He knew the bill always came but like a good drink the girl made him forget about how expensive it was, so he sipped the drink and looked at the girl.
He watched her lips move and noticed the black dress, the silver necklace positioned in a way that drew his eyes from her lips to the necklace and down towards her chest, the dress open in the front and supporting her fully. When she laughed she would lean back, then straighten up again and bring her hands off her lap and out in front of her. She paid little attention to the drink on the table and he thought, if there’s one fault, maybe that is it.
But there wasn’t much time to ponder faults when he noticed her long, brown hair cascading down to her shoulders, then going past and looking so full and attended to. She spoke often and deliberately, and he paid close attention and did not let his mind wander off, did not let other thoughts creep into his head while he was focused on the girl. He had problems with this but right then he was determined to not let it be so.
The waiter came and refilled her water glass and she thanked him. That’s a good girl, he thought, don’t act like the world revolves around you. Let’s be fair, he then thought, she’s given you no reason to assume otherwise. But the others had given him reasons and when the waiter went to refill his water glass he said, “No thank you,” and he ordered another aperitif.
And then he put his attention right back on the girl and was startled when the waiter brought the drink over. He wondered if the girl noticed he was drinking so much. She’s not like that, he then thought, she gets it.
But that of course was a complete assumption and when his thoughts began to wander off about how he wouldn’t mind waking up next to the girl, he became conscience of it and brought himself back to the moment. The candle in front of him was burning steadily and did not flicker, the salt and pepper on either side atop the white table cloth and he looked past all of it at the girl.
Then the waiter came up and gently asked, “Are you ready to order or are you waiting for someone?”
“No,” he said, “It’s just me. I’ll have another one of these,” he said, holding up the glass.
“Do you want to order something?”
He looked at the waiter and told him sharply, “The drink for now.”
“Right away, sir.”
When the waiter brought the drink over he thanked him, and he saw the girl rise from her chair and take the man’s arm and go out the door.
After he tilted the glass and finished the drink, he threw down some money and put his coat and gloves on and went out the door.
He turned right and saw them down the street and he ducked into the alley and ran as fast as he could.
He knew that her house was further from the restaurant and that the man would not walk her home.
***Please see the follow up to this story, Upon the Waters of the Green River.***