Jenny's Number, страница 1
by Richard McManus
Copyright 2010 Richard McManus
The following is a work of fiction.
It was still early and Talk of the Town by The Pretenders was playing on the jukebox. Lisa and I had just walked in through the main entrance of a popular dive bar in Old Town. We came in off the street and immediately felt the heat of a barroom beginning to fill up for the night. On most Saturday nights the place was packed by eleven. It was a Saturday night in December, two weeks before Christmas.
I know it was still early because there was room at the bar and not all of the dartboards in the back were being used by bar patrons. I was meeting some buddies for a few beers and, for a change, Lisa, who was home from school, had decided to join me. She hadn’t seen the guys for a few months and was looking forward to catching up with them. At least that’s what she said. But the way I saw it, she wanted to use the opportunity to gain some insight into what I did when she was not around. She was like that. She didn't trust me.
When I was in high school, before I knew Lisa, and before I spent my Saturday nights at dive bars, I used to spend most nights alone in my room, listening to music and wishing I were somewhere else. Those nights were populated with dreams of the girls of my youth, baseball and music on the radio. I wasn’t lonely or bored, just restless. And I always wished that the girls in my head would reciprocate my feelings. Girls like Jenny or Soledad or Janet. The last time I saw Jenny she was walking away from me right after giving me a hug outside the gymnasium on the night of our high school graduation. The last thing she said was ‘call me’. I never did. I didn’t think two weeks would so quickly turn into five years. Lisa didn’t know anything about Jenny. Jenny wasn't a cheerleader or a popular girl because that wasn't what she did. I liked her because she had her own identity. Of all the girls, Jenny was the one I loved the most. She was the one that caused me the most restless moments when I was sixteen years old. And until that night at the bar I hadn’t seen her since school.
My buddies arrived thirty minutes late. Lisa and I were halfway through a pitcher of Rolling Rock and Bust a Move by Young MC was playing on the jukebox. Bobby, Tony and Billy showed up together and they all gave Lisa a hug. Lisa liked the attention.
Billy put five bucks worth of quarters into the jukebox and selected several Led Zeppelin songs. It would probably be an hour before we heard them. Tony reserved darts and a dartboard and Bobby ordered a pitcher of MGD from the bartender. Lisa and I saved an adjacent table as young people continued to trickle in from the boulevard. Bust a Move made way for No Excuses by Alice in Chains.
“Cricket?” Billy said.
“That’s it.” Cricket was our game. We always played Cricket.
“Can I play?” Lisa said.
“Sure,” Billy said. I would rather Lisa had not been interested in playing. Somebody would have to sit out since the electronic dartboards were designed for a maximum of four players at one time. I volunteered, since Lisa was my girlfriend I felt like it was only fair.
“Are you afraid?” Lisa said. “Afraid I’ll beat you?” The guys laughed, they never missed an opportunity to laugh. Alice in Chains made way for Madonna.
“I’ll sit back and watch, that’s cool,” Tony said. I think he was trying to be nice and from his perspective diffuse an awkward situation for me.
“Alright, it’s up to you,” I said.
“Okay, last place sits out next round.” Billy said. We all agreed assuming Lisa would lose since she never played darts whereas we seemed to be playing darts at that very dartboard every weekend.
Within three rounds Billy had closed out 20, 18 and 15 and was piling up points with double 20. Bobby had 20 and 19 closed and Lisa was close to closing out 20 and 16. I had no marks through three rounds. It wasn't my night. I had resorted to taking tips from Tony who was left handed and threw his darts sidearm.
By the time Billy finally closed out the 16 he had run up a ridiculous, insurmountable score. But the revelry of the night meant that none of that mattered. As a matter of fact, three mugs full of beer into the night and not too much of anything mattered.
“Good game, Mike,” Billy said. “Now hand your darts over to Tony.” Billy liked to direct the games.
“Here ya go, man.” I handed the darts to Tony with a big handshake and a smile.
“Anybody for another round?” Bobby said. He was referring to beer. I lit up my first Winston. Lisa glared at me, then smiled, mouthing the words ‘don’t worry’. She always sent me contradictory signals and it drove me crazy.
“I’ll go in a minute,” I said, as my feet felt very firm against the bar floor. The first strains of nicotine hit me square.
“Here’s five,” Bobby said, as he handed me five bucks toward the next pitcher. The opening chords of Come Undone by Duran Duran echoed through the bar. Things felt good. I took a quick peek at the bar and it was crowded. I decided to wait until there was an opening, then I’d head for another pitcher. The next dart game began. They let Lisa go first. All the guys watched her.
A few minutes later the crowd along the bar had thinned and I decided to head over and place an order. The house beer was a terrible tasting yellow beer that was available by the pitcher or the glass. Pitchers of house beer cost $4 and glasses $1.50.
Rocket by Smashing Pumpkins began. I reached into my pocket just to make sure I still had the five from Bobby. I did. I still felt good, unaware that the next ten minutes were going to change my life. I stood there as the male bartender bypassed my five bucks to serve a blonde girl a soda. I was patient.
“Mike...” I heard a voice call from behind. I didn’t turn at first. I heard my name but I didn’t recognize the voice so I figured there must be another Mike nearby.
“Oh Mike,” the female voice continued, almost like a song. Just in case she was calling me I turned away from the bar and began to look around.
I scanned the crowd. “Over here.” The voice was teasing me now. I felt my heart pound.
I turned to my right and there she was. Jenny. Time slowed. It was Jenny. She was standing still. Time stood still.
She was moving in slow motion and as she looked at me. I hardly recognized her, but she looked the same. It had been five years since she had walked away from me in her graduation gown. We were alone in the bar. My heart began to race.
“Come here,” she called. “Come here Mike, don’t just stand there!” I was still and my heart sank. I felt like a kid standing alone. Standing alone forever. I didn’t move but she did.
She slowly walked up and put her arms around me. She looked like a woman but still like a girl. Her hair was different. It was red, almost bright red. Cool. Through the fog of my perception she looked like a woman. I completely forgot about my friends back at the dartboard and I forgot about Lisa. I was sixteen again.
“Mike, do you remember me?” she said, as she tilted her head to the side and smiled.
“Of course. Jenny.”
“It’s been so long,” I said.
“You look great.”
“Thanks.” She smiled at me.
“Are you here with friends?” I said.
“I’m with a guy, I guess you would say a boyfriend, but as of right now I’m pretty sure I’ve been ditched,” she said, as she looked around. “I think he’s gone.”
“Maybe it’s for the best?”
“Yeah… it is… for the best… but it’s the timing, you know. I don’t feel like walking home in these,” she said, grinning and pointing down at her boots. She was still cute. Over one o
“I never come to bars.”
Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead filled the room. Jenny's eyes were glowing.
“I’ve missed you Mike, I’ve missed everybody. I feel lost these days. Oh God, I'm so high right now!” She looked at me and laughed. I laughed too. The she turned serious. “Things are different now. My dad died last year.”
“Oh Jenny, I’m sorry,” I hugged her and it felt natural as she hugged me back. I leaned in toward her. When I leaned in she kissed me. It was a short kiss. I got a chill.
“Things could have been different, Mike.” She smiled at me. It was nice and I felt warm, for a change.
“You know what?” I said.
“Why don’t you give me your phone number?”
“Good idea,” she said. “You know I wish you would have called me once in five years, it would have been nice.” She smiled and winked at me. She was right, it would have been nice.
“My number is new, the old one is no longer good.”
She took out a pen and wrote her phone number directly onto the palm of my hand, in red ink. It was just like something she would have done years ago.
“Let’s not lose touch this time, okay?”
Her eyes were glowing. She did look high. She was talking about something and I was lost in her eyes. Then she stopped. Her eyes were following something behind me, over my shoulder. I looked to my left and Lisa was standing there. I was jolted back to reality.
“I thought you were going to get another pitcher?” Lisa said, in a low tone. I was torn. Shit. Jenny was still standing there.
“I am,” I said. I pulled the fiver out of my pocket and held it up. Not knowing what else to say I said: “Jen this is Lisa.” Jenny offered her hand for a handshake but Lisa did not reciprocate.
Lisa leaned in and whispered something to me: “Who is she?” I glanced over at Jenny and could tell she was uncomfortable. Lisa walked off before I could respond.
“Hang on okay,” I said, to Jenny.
I hustled back to Lisa who had returned to our table.
“What did she write on your hand?”
“It’s a phone number.”
“How? It's ink. You can't erase ink!” I was about to walk away from the table, from her, for good. She shot bullets at me with her eyes, grabbed half a glass of beer from the table and poured it directly onto my hand.
“What the fuck!”
“I’m leaving!” she said. She left out the front door and was gone. I looked down at my hand and the ink had smeared and the numbers were unreadable. Not to mention the fact that most of the beer had actually landed on my pants. It looked like I had blood on my hand. And it was dripping onto the floor.
I looked over at my buddies and they were all watching. I shook my head, wiped my hand on a napkin and lit a cigarette. My mind quickly returned to Jenny. Fuck.
I made a beeline for the section of the bar where we had met. She wasn’t there. She must have seen the way Lisa was acting and made a run for it not wanting to cause any trouble. She was always very considerate of other people’s feelings. I looked around but couldn’t immediately find her. I went back to the table and asked Tony if he could help me look for the chick that I was speaking with over by the jukebox. He obliged and we walked around the bar and out onto the street but there was no sign of Jenny. Tony went back inside but I stayed out on the sidewalk and had another cigarette. I looked down at my palm. Fuck.
Inside, a song by Led Zeppelin was playing on the jukebox.
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