Snippet, Chapter 4

It was two hours later. The bar was beginning to empty, I had about half an hour before I rang the bell for last call, and Hollywood was still staring at his screen. He’d downed four, was working on his fifth, glass of beer in two hours. That didn’t sound too bad, except our glasses were in pints and the beer was high in alcohol content. He’d pretty much drank the equivalent of half a bottle of tequila.

I’d moved from being concerned to freaked the hell out precisely ten minutes ago when he started in on the drunken rambling. Apparently, if the words of a highly inebriated person could be believed, he’d killed someone named Dolly and was ‘so fucking sorry.’ Yeah, he’d better be talking about an elderly pet he was forced to put down because I did not need the headline, “Brooklyn bartender leads to break in cold case!” I’d been in the news more than enough for a lifetime, thank you very much.

I got teabags out of the cupboard and brewed two cups of black tea. I squeezed some honey into each glass then dropped a few lemon wedges into the cups and stirred, before bringing a cup to one of my regulars who’d face-planted onto the counter about twenty minutes ago. I might’ve been worried if that wasn’t her usual MO. That, and the fact that her shoulders moved visibly with each inhalation.

“It’s hot, ” I warned, placing the second cup in front of Hollywood.

He glanced from his phone to the tea to me; the first time he looked away from that thing all night. “Thank you.” Those hazel eyes and lush brown lashes, striking as they were, were tortured and red.

I grabbed two abandoned Buds off the counter and emptied them in the sink. Mind your own business. Call dude a cab and plead the fifth when the cops come knocking. “What’s wrong?” I was a masochist.

He chuckled, but there was no humor in the bitter sound. “Nothing is wrong. My life is perfect. I want something. I crook a finger. And it is mine.”

I rinsed and transferred dirty glasses from the sink into a dish rack to be washed later, then glanced up at Hollywood. He seemed to have developed an accent of some kind now that he was three sheets. “And this is a problem, how?” Because I was sure people would legit kill for that kind of life.

“How can it not be enough when you have the world?”

Was he seriously asking the chick doing other people’s dishes at three in the morning this? I was about to say something perfunctory, possibly even rude, when I realized he was genuinely curious. My response, whatever it may be, would be important to him. Why? Who knew why shit-faced people thought the way they did?

I wiped my hands with a dish towel and actually considered the question.

“Honestly, I can’t even imagine a life where I get everything I want just by virtue of existing.” I scratched at a spot on my chin. “I guess it would be great. At first, at least. But that kind of existence, well, I’d imagine it’d get boring fast.”

I eyed the dude. He wouldn’t remember anything I said in a few hours, and even if he did, it wasn’t as if I’d ever see him again anyway.

“I live a pretty simple life. I enjoy it. I have everything I need, a lot of what I want, and I have goals that I work towards attaining. I look forward to each and every day, because each one brings me that much closer to my goals.”

Hollywood, who wasn’t looking all that pretty anymore after five pints, asked earnestly, “And what are your goals?”

I shrugged. In for a penny. “I wanna move outta the projects. I’ve lived there most of my life. My mom spent her last days on the bed I’ve been sleeping on since I was six.” He mumbled a curse. I ignored him, and kept going. I’d never told anyone this stuff before, and it felt kind of liberating to get it all out. No wonder people drank. “You see my scar?” I tucked my bangs behind my right ear and touched my fingertips to my cheek. “There’s like two layers of professional level concealer, and I have foundation over that, but you should still be able to see that the skin is raised. ” I didn’t bother waiting for his acknowledgment. This was no longer about him. “Scalding hot oil. My dad did that to me. Well, to be fair, he was mostly aiming for my mom.” Not that she escaped unscathed. Her back and the left side of her upper body and limbs took the brunt of the damage from shielding me. It was probably why I wasn’t blind.

He studied my face and started to say something, then changed his mind and closed his mouth again. Finally, he asked, “How?”

Dude was at a loss for words. I didn’t blame him. It wasn’t easy for me to talk about it and, thankfully, I didn’t feel the need to anyway. Most people went out of their way to avoid staring directly at my scars. I think it made them uncomfortable for some reason; people were funny like that. Their discomfiture didn’t stop their glances and whispers though.

There were also people who felt entitled to know what happened to me. As if my face, my scars, my trauma and pain, were owed to them.

Depending on who was asking, I either ignored them or gave them some bullshit story I came up with on the spot. Very seldom did I feel the desire to share.

Kids asked the most often, not that it was a natural occurrence. The older ones who knew better could be rude and hurtful, but most kids, the younger ones especially, were just curious. That was something I understood, so I gave them the G version.

“Why did my father attack my mother?” I clarified.

He nodded, suddenly looking a lot more sober than he ought to have been.

I smoothed my hair back in place. “He was drunk. Or high. Probably both. I don’t know on what, but it made him angry- angrier than usual anyway. He barred us in my room and left us in there until he came down from his high. By then, it was almost a day later, and already too late.”