It’s a warm summer evening. Beth and I are trudging towards Café American for a post shift cocktail. We’re both exhausted. The dinner rush was brutal. We did, however, make a lot of money.
“I need a drink,” Beth says, sounding shell-shocked.
“Me too,” I reply, equally benumbed.
“I can’t believe that couple on table 24,” Beth says, “How could you stand serving them?”
“Oh, they were all right,” I reply, “Just a little frisky.”
“Fluvio was afraid they’d do each other on top of the table,” Beth exclaims.
“That would have been interesting,” I admit.
“I’m not against public displays of affection,” Beth says, “But that was ridiculous.”
“Would the gentleman and lady please refrain from exchanging bodily fluids during dinner service?” I titter in an exaggerated faux waiter voice, “The management and staff would be most appreciative.”
Beth laughs out loud. “You should have said that to them.”
“Aw they were fine,” I reply, “Sometimes people can’t contain themselves.”
“Ugh,” Beth says, “They should’ve tried.”
Suddenly I remember kissing a girl on a crowded train platform and not caring who saw me. It was all very “Casablanca” and long ago, but man – that was some kiss. It seems like yesterday.
“Sometimes people get swept up in the love scenes of their own personal dramas,” I say, “It happens.”
“Maybe,” Beth says.
I smile to myself. Beth’s a private, contained young woman. That’s ok. We’re all different.
As we walk towards Café American we pass a bar catering to a rowdier clientele. Three young women are sitting outside drinking Coronas and smoking cigarettes. They’re all cute and not a day over twenty-two. The girl facing away from me is leaning forward. Her derriere’s on full display revealing a lacy white thong. I like looking at girl’s derrieres. I like lacy white thongs. Being a male of the species my eyes are pulled downwards. I look, send thanks heavenward, and continue on my way.
As I pass the table one of the girls hits me in the arm.
“Hey,” she shouts, “Quit looking at her ass.”
I stop. I feel angry and stupid at the same time. The girl didn’t hurt me but I’m embarrassed.
“I guess he didn’t like my tits,” the girl next to her adds, glaring at me.
My mind processes what’s going on. I got caught sneaking a peek. The girls are drunk. They’re dressed in a way to elicit male attention. It’s not like I’m ogling matrons at a church picnic.
“And how are you ladies this evening?” I say with a slight authoritative edge.
The girls say nothing. They’re surprised I’m talking.
“Having a good time?” I ask.“Everything all right?”
The girls grins start disappearing. Suddenly I feel like I’m looking at children.
“Good night ladies,” I say walking away, “And stop hitting people.”
“What was that about?” Beth asks once we’re out of earshot. I tell her.
“Oh God,” Beth groans, “I saw that girl’s underwear too.”
“Good,” I say laughing, “Nice to know you saw it too. Now I don’t feel like a dirty old man.”
Beth pats my shoulder. “Everybody in the neighborhood could see that girl’s ass. You’re not a dirty old man.”
I don’t find Beth’s words reassuring. I feel unsettled. We get to Café American and grab a table on the patio.
“How’s things?” Jackie, the bar waitress asks, laying down a pair of menus.
“Some girl hit Waiter,” Beth says laughing.
“Really,” Jackie says, a sly smile playing on her lips, “What did you do to deserve that?”
I tell her.
“I’m forty-four,” Jackie says, “And let me tell you something. Girls get mad when you look but then they get mad when you don’t.”
“I know that,” I reply, “I just felt embarrassed.”
“It’ll probably happen again,” Jackie chuckles, “Now what do you want to drink?”
I order a scotch and ginger ale. Beth gets a beer. We talk a while and finish our drinks. Beth excuses herself to go to the bathroom. I order a second round.
On the streets men and women engage in an ancient ritual. Eyes flash, mouths whisper, and people almost touch. The summer air’s filled with desire.
The three girls who hassled me stumble past my table. They’re blasted out of their minds so they don’t see me. I watch them come. I watch them go. They are cute. They are also very young. I remember something I read once. “They say lust makes a man old, but keeps a woman young.”
I think about the girl I kissed by the train. That was ten years ago. I remember every line of her face. She’ll be forever young. I’m just getting older.
My second drink arrives. I sip it slowly.
It’s going to be a long night.