I never cared for the taste of strong liquor until the day Lorna introduced me to the aqua vitae.
She of the exquisite face and form.
She with hair the color of burnished copper catching the reflection of the setting sun.
She of the jade-green eyes…jaded.
Good and gone.
But if it’s good, why do I feel so bad?
By, “introduced,” I mean to say that she was the cause of my foray into the nether regions of the liquorous palliative.
Although, I dare say that given the speed with which I hit the skids—one of her kinder descriptives of my, shall we say, unfortunate situation—one could argue a certain inevitability at work.
Thirty-eight last month!
I’m thirty-eight, and everyone I know thinks I look ten years older.
No, strike that.
Everyone I know who will be honest thinks I look a good fifteen years older than that!
The bar is kind of quiet tonight.
It’s funny, you know, but everyone in here is looking for something, even if it’s just a place where you can escape inside a bottle; even if only for a little while.
The jukebox squawks out a tired, old tune.
A tired, old tune that, to this day can still tear my heart out.
I hate it that she still has that power over me.
You probably wonder why she left, me being the prize catch that I am.
It’s simple, really, she was beautiful and headed for an amazing career in film, while I, well, can we just say that I’m not beautiful, and leave it at that?
That skinny woman sitting at the back table keeps looking over at me. If you want to know the truth, she looks over at me about every ten seconds.
I wonder if she expects me to go over and stand there while she pretends interest long enough to get a drink out of me? Or whatever.
Not tonight, sweetie.
“You want another round?” this from Ralphie, the bartender, apparently, my new best friend.
With a slight motion of my hand, I indicate that he should keep them coming.
It occurs to me that I sit at the end of the bar every night, which is fitting because, to be completely honest with you, I’m at the end of my rope.
“The Midnight Cowboy is having another round!” I shout out, apropos of nothing or anyone.
If I keep this up, it will definitely be “last call” for the Midnight Cowboy.
Not that anyone would care one way or another.
That’s what they call me around here, you know.
The Midnight Cowboy.
I’m really drunk.
It’s a good thing I lost my license…no, really, because if I hadn’t, I know for sure I’d try to drive home…probably with the skinny chick in tow.
No…come to think of it, I’m not quite that drunk, although ten minutes ago I tried to buy a drink for my reflection in the mirror on the way to the head.
I turned me down, of course.
That was funny…man, that was really, really funny.
I mean, wasn’t that funny?
Against my better judgment, I dig my iPhone out of my pocket, spilling close to a hundred dollars in loose bills on the filthy, sticky floor, scroll to Lorna’s name and proceed to dial her up.
She isn’t home, of course.
I may be drunk, but I’m not crazy!
I just wanted to hear her voice on the answering machine.
Yes, she still has one of those.
“Hey, cowboy,” says a husky, feminine voice behind me. “Want some company? You look like you want some company. I can usually tell the guys who want some company.”
I turn to dismiss the unwelcome intruder…and look right into those jade-green eyes.
“Lorna?” I manage to croak out before the tears blurred my eyes. “Lorna, I…”
“Shhh,” she said, while wrapping her arms around me.
“You really smell good,” I said after breathing in her oh-so-familiar scent.
“Well, you don’t,” she said with a soft laugh. “Come on, let’s get you out of here.”
I open my mouth to utter the first of about a billion questions, but she just covered it with her hand and said, “We’ll just take it slow, all right?”
I was walking with her toward the exit; unsteadily, but walking nonetheless.
I waved what I believed to be a final good-bye to my reflection as we passed the mirror and walked out into a night that was much warmer than I had remembered.