I walk down the street – my eyes feel swollen, my lips are raw. I’m accosted by secretaries on their way to lunch, delivery men unloading boxes, babies in strollers pushed by nannies. Each person I pass stares though me. They see the strappy black heals, the short skirt, the shiny, low cut top, that 12 hours ago looked sexy, but now … they all look at me with suspicion, like they know I’ve got last night’s panties balled up in my purse.
I see an oasis on the horizon.
The noonday sun creeps through the dirty Levalor blinds, raping the bar of any ambiance it might have had. I climb onto a bar stool, seeking refuge from the office people outside. Retreat, relax, reorganize.
Out of the corner of my eye sits an older gentleman – grey hair – slightly balding. The lines on his face suggest he is a smoker and a man of the world. He vaguely reminds me of a friend of my father’s. Someone I’ve met as a child in my parents living room, someone I was introduced to, briefly, while on my way to bed.
He wears a black leather vest which shows off his perfectly round and pumped biceps. His grey curly chest hair peeks out over the plunge of the leather neckline. With his left hand he fishes the olive from his drink. In his right hand, he holds a leash, silver, with links. At the opposite end of the leash is a delicate, dusky, slightly strung out Latino boy. The leather dog collar, softly pinches the boy’s neck.
I’m sure that I know this gentleman. I’m positive that he’s told jokes with my father over lunches at the club. His wife and my mother volunteered together at the Symphony’s Book Fair. I seem to recall that he used to bring me birthday presents – until I hit adolescence and stopped being cute.
The gentleman tugs the leash, yanks the boy closer, kisses his lips, then loosens his grip, letting the boy slip away. I have seen dog owners yank at leashes in this way when their pet is misbehaving. But now I watch in awe, as the gentleman, the one who used to play horsey with me when I was six, sips his drink, yanks the leash, kisses the boy and releases. Over and over and over and over.
I wonder if I should approach the gentleman and re-introduce myself. “Hi, I’m Andrew LeBlanc’s youngest daughter – you used to come to our Easter parties. You helped me win the Easter egg hunt, remember?”
But what would the gentleman say to me? Would he deny that he knows me? Would he make an excuse why he is in this hustler bar, this boy? But for that matter, would I?
I tighten the reigns of my own leash, find the wad of $20’s in my purse – next to yesterday’s panties and order a martini, straight-up, dry, with olives.
This man doesn’t know me anymore.
I don’t know him, much less myself.