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She came in all fire and pearls. She looked like a woman who had a very acute sense of direction. Like the path had been born out of her quite naturally and all she ever had to do was walk. I lowered my eyes as she came closer and then slowly brought them back up.

         "What can I get for you?"

         "Dirty Martini, please," she placed her purse on the bar. "Don't you get any customers in here?" she asked and the sight of her had the same effect as the sun. It burned my eyes.

         "It's Monday. It's slow on Mondays." I stood in my jeans watching her eat an olive I just gave her for lunch.

         "I see." And then, as if she could not survive the boredom or the silence or the lack of extravagance, she did something that almost took me by complete surprise.

         "Don't be shy. You can look," she said as the last few remaining objects fell from her purse and onto the bar. I said nothing. This job begs for you to listen.

         "This is a picture of my daughter and these are my spare hairpins. This is the gum that I chew and this is the lipstick that I wear. These are my cigarettes and this is my wallet. Here are my credit cards, these are my keys and these are my coins. This is my lighter. This is the pen that I use and this is my watch. These are my earrings, my checkbook, and my love note. This is my diaphragm, don't blush, and here is my perfume. This is my nail file, my pills, and my eyeliner. This is my smile. These are my eyes. Here are my wrists and my palms and my fingers and my veins. This is my left breast. This is the freckle on my stomach. This is my throat, these are my thoughts. Here is hope. Here is joy. Here is solace and trembling and daybreak, I hate daybreak, and here is desperation. This, here, hold this in your own hand." She handed me a piece of invisible air and I took it seriously.


"This is love."

Her eyes held mine very closely and I fought to stay with them, surrounded by their color and large grief. I wanted to take whole handfuls of her hair and bury my face into them and then move my mouth quietly along the line of her jaw. I longed to press my chest against hers so that we had two hearts on either side of our bodies, beating. But I did none of these things. Instead, I just stood there as she, without her gaze faltering, began to slowly move her thin forearm across the bar pushing everything onto the floor. The sound of it was like small thunder and when it was over she finally broke her stare, bowed her head and knelt down. I came around the bar to kneel beside her.

 "I can help you clean it all up if you want me to."

 "Clean what up?" She asked, all fire and pearls, smirking. "This is not the real mess."


Yes, I know.

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