(This is the second part of the story, . . . the first part is here.)
I was still thinking about Terri when I got up the next morning. (Arrrggh, mornings . . . I hate using the alarm clock. I hate getting up before noon.) I’d already hit the snooze button three times so I had to rush to shower and get dressed . . . towel down, throw on work clothes, and then bundle up for the walk to work.
That day, after the blizzard, I was slogging through the drifts for almost half an hour — it usually took less than ten minutes to get to The Sunflower Café. Now on either side of Harvard Street the walls of snow left by the rotary plows sometimes rose up to the telephone wires.
Halfway to Harvard Square I walked past an old woman who was standing on top of a wall of snow in front of her home. She had a shovel in hand and was complaining loudly, although there was really no one around to hear.
“Why did they do this to me,” she was asking herself on top of this cliff of snow, “Why did they do this to me?”
She was shoveling about the equivalent of a small breadbasket full of snow with each scoop, somehow determined to dig her way down driveway level. She’d bend over and lift up a tiny amount of snow with the tip of the shovel. She’d toss it, and then bend down again scooping a little more snow, bitching and complaining.
It took me a while to slog past her and I was looking up at her the whole the time.
“Why did they do this to me?” she was saying, “ . . . THEY KNOW I LIVE HERE!”
(I don’t have an actual photo, but this one will do. Imagine a little old lady standing at the red “X” . . . a small shovel in hand, determined to work her way down to the sidewalk, scoop by tiny scoop.)
“WHY, WHY . . . THEY KNOW I LIVE HERE!”
I was sure that she had someone to help her later, but she wasn’t going to wait. She was one feisty old woman.
I opened the bar at 10:00 AM. sharp, and was surprised to find customers showing up right away. All the seats at the bar filled up, and soon there were a lot of people at the tables. We never had this much business during the day.
These were people who couldn’t make it to their jobs, or whose place of work was closed. These were people who had cabin fever from being cooped up for so long during the storm. Now they were all showing up at The Sunflower Café and they were all strangely in a great mood.
It was like some shared festive activity, an unscheduled holiday.
I was busy all day, but I kept hoping that Terri might show up to say hello. Every time someone new walked down the stairs I looked up to see if it was her.
Around ten o’clock that night she did show up . . . but she was with three guys. All day and half the night — all though this double behind the taps — I’d been hoping she’d stop in. And now she was here . . . with three guys!
I didn’t know who the hell they were, but they found one open seat for her at the crowded bar. They stood around her, all three of them good-looking and cocky, and they were all competing for her attention.
As it turned out one of them was a graduate student at Harvard University, and another was a young doctor at Mass General. The third guy was a stock broker at a major investment firm in Boston.
“This is Mike . . . ,” Terri said after she’d introduced them and told me who they were.
That was it.
Just . . . “This is Mike.”
As in . . . “Mike the Bartender.”
One of the guys sort of looked down his nose at me and made a little circular motion with his finger . . . as if to indicate that I should run and fetch them another round.
I went down to them once or twice later as though checking on their drinks, but what I really wanted was to somehow get Terri’s attention. I was trying to get a word in edgewise with her.
But there was no break in the conversation that each of them tried to dominate — each hoping they’d be the one to get lucky tonight.
“You’re not talking with Terri,” one of her girlfriends said when she came down to the other end of the bar where I was working. “ . . . How come?”
“I’m not sure she’s interested in talking to me,” I answered.
“Maybe that’s what she thought last night,” Terri’s friend said now looking right at me.
Was that the look Terri gave me as I was leaving the Inn Square bar?
Everything had happened too quickly. We’d gone from complete strangers to opening up, and then spending the night together . . . but it had all happened in the middle of a storm, in the privacy of her apartment, with me in a woman’s bathrobe. There was nothing from the everyday world involved, and now back in that day-to-day world it seemed we’d lost whatever we had going on between us. We were complete strangers again.
I had no idea what Terri was thinking . . . perhaps she felt the same way.
I worked my way down to Terri’s group one last time — I figured I’d go out on a limb and try once again to talk with her. But just as I did, she was getting up to leave with one of the guys.
She made a point to catch my eye, and waved goodnight while putting on her coat. She had another of those equivocal looks on her face. It might have been a look of “Hey, I’m sorry to leave like this.”
But she was also smiling, so her face could have been saying, “See what you’re missing!”
Now I was glad that it was really busy . . . no time to think about it. She had too many choices, and I was never any good at waiting in line.
When is being behind the bar not just the best place to be?
If you’re in a good mood everyone feeds off it, and you feed off them; it’s like some perpetual good-time atomic fusion.
And when you’re down . . . working behind the taps soon makes you forget it — all that exists is the shared energy of the crowd, the constant activity.
By now it was last call and I’d been talking off and on with a young woman at the far end of the bar. She was a writer. One of her plays had won some award in Boston last year.
She knew a lot about Nietzsche, so we talked about philosophy. I was really interested in — and very impressed by — everything she was telling me about writing plays. We were really hitting it off, so after I gave everyone last call I figured I’d give it a shot.
“If you want to hang out while I clean up,” I leaned over the bar and said to her, “I’ll be done here in about an hour.”
She laughed. “And then what?” she asked, “. . . Then we go back to your place and fuck?”
“I don’t think so,” she laughed. She’d caught me off guard with her directness, but the quick challenge on the nitty-gritty presented an opportunity.
“OK then,” I said with a smile, “I’ll tell you what. I have this Monday night off. Why don’t we go someplace nice for dinner, maybe catch a movie.” I thought about it for a second, then continued. “. . . And then we’ll go home and fuck.”
I kept smiling, and she laughed once more. “We’ll see on that last one,” she said. But she grabbed a cocktail napkin and wrote down her number. Things were looking up again.
(OK, now I really have to apologize. When I started this story I was thinking of one post. Then it ran into a Part Two, and I’m still not done with it yet. There’ll be one last part coming next week — the stuff that I originally planned to write about this story — I guess I got carried away with the other details. One more episode of The Perfect Storm next weekend . . . and then I’ll move on.)