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Guest Writer

M Bar
by Beth Cooper

onday night. M Bar. A young woman enters. She hesitates at the door – it is more crowded than she had anticipated.

But she goes in anyway and sits at a table near the windows but away from the door. The night is far chillier than the day had been.

She sits for a moment, as though surveying her position, then stands abruptly and peels off her coat, ducking her head under her army-style shoulder bag. She lets it all fall into a heap on the wooden bench with an audible sigh. She pauses a moment, then sits again.

The woman places one hand over the other on the thickly varnished table then lowers her head to rest her chin on her hands. She gazes first at the yellow gerbera daisies in a long-since-emptied wine bottle, then at the flame of an oil lamp whose wick is set too high.

Someone orders a glass of white wine. She watches. The room is small. It is easy for her to listen to each conversation in turn, but they do not interest her. The usual crowd of offbeat intellectuals and solitary space-seekers has been replaced tonight with too-beautiful college students and trendy early-20-somethings and a couple in the corner making out ceaselessly.

She looks away.

Voyeurism is less enticing when you know you will sleep alone that night. Besides – they're sloppy kisses. She makes a mental note about people who learned all of their lovemaking skills from porn flicks and James Bond movies. When the couple rises to leave, smiling secret smiles at each other, glitter fluttering on the girl's eyelids, the woman smirks quietly.

She raises her head and stands. The bartender, a slender, solemn Asian woman, greets the woman non-committally. When prompted, the young woman orders a bottle of beer. It is a brand she has never heard of, but adventure comes in many forms, and she is looking for something unusual tonight. It has been a long day – too much work, no space or time of her own, and undeserved chastisement.

Besides – she left work today looking for the opposite of the oppressive, conservative, immaculate surroundings. Hoping for something more … messy. More fundamentally alive. She doesn't find it in the beer.

She sits again, listening to the bartender explain to someone that she's doing a workshop in Gestalt Therapy next week and she just dumped her boyfriend because she likes him as a person but just wasn't feeling it, attraction-wise. The young woman wonders briefly what life would have been like in the 18th century. She hopes she is less ordinary than these people.

Sipping her foreign and less-than-great beer, she notices suddenly that she is the only one not drinking wine. She wonders what that means. Probably nothing, she decides, and rests her head again on her hands. She surveys the tiny room again. Nothing much has changed, so she sips the beer again and reaches into her bag to pull out a pen and a greeting card. The card has no relevance, but that, she thinks, is why it would be a good one to send.

Three swarthy-looking guys saunter into the bar. They are big for the space, and incongruous among the BMW-drivers and Gap-wearers. The woman watches as they order three glasses of red wine.

She stares for a moment, not sure whether to be surprised or not, then shakes her head slightly and sets her pen to her card to begin a letter to a man who, in her opinion, blows the rest of the male half of the human race totally away.

Monday night, she writes. M Bar.

See more from Beth in our archives.

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