Hello Friends and Gentle Readers,
I seem to have fallen behind on the Nanowrimo track; I’m at 19000 words and should be at 26000 or so. But that’s ok. I turned off my creativity for a few days to concentrate on being lazy for the weekend. I also started reading Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami and finally watched David Lynch’s Wild at Heart. The latter has inspired me to delve into some serious melodrama. I’m talking about pulpy forbidden love, with lingering gazes and amazing one-liners. I’m already bringing out the red lipstick and blue eyeshadow. Too bad none of my characters have Southern accents…
But before I get to that, I’ll share this fragment with you (it’s not very good, don’t judge me). In this chapter, Sabine is meeting the mysterious “Emma” at an awful bar in the east-end. Yes, my hatred for the east-end is palpable. I find that area absolutely horrifying and refuse to walk around there after nightfall. Sabine apparently met Emma during the night that she can’t remember, but the circumstances are…mysterious. Hope you don’t mind it!
Sabine changed into some tights, leather boots, and an oversized men’s shirt belted at the waist. She tousled her hair and was ready to leave the house. Emma would be at the bar in thirty minutes, and Sabine didn’t want to be late. She walked down the stairs from her apartment and onto the sidewalk, heading to the corner where a streetcar would pick her up. She waited in the fading daylight with a collection of solemn looking people, none of them talking. She shuffled her feet in the chill, and sifted her hands through her jacket’s pockets. In one pocket she had necessities like money, a bank card, and id. In the other she has the address of the bar she was to meet Emma written on a post-it note. She’d never heard of the place, probably because she hardly ever hung out in the east-end neighborhoods. It was called the “Moonlight Tavern.” The streetcar approached and Sabine got her fare ready. She climbed aboard with the crowd, taking a transfer from the listless driver. She decided to stand at the back of the car rather than sit. The streetcar started off, and the crowd lurched backward with its force.
Sabine was a bit worried about whether she would be able to recognize Emma, and that was partly why she wanted to get to the Moonlight Tavern early. She had studied Emma’s picture online closely, but sometimes the difference between a photograph and reality can be enormous. No one would put up a photo freely on display documenting their recent dramatic weight gain or tragic acne scars. No, Sabine would be sure to find a seat at the bar so that Emma would have a chance to recognize her when walking through the door.
Eventually, the streetcar landed at a spot near enough to the Tavern so that Sabine only had a few blocks to go on foot. Even a few blocks were a drag in this neighborhood. Many of Toronto’s shelters and subsidized housing units were clustered in the area; it was the only pace she ever saw people pimping or freely doing drugs. And the streets always were so empty, which made her uneasy. The characters passing by made her even more nervous. But she trod the few blocks down to Dundas, where the bar was nearly located. Moonlight Tavern. It sounded like a grim dive bar from a Hollywood film made in the 1960s. She pictured Bukowski characters and hard-up dames swilling away their sorrows on a Thursday afternoon. Lo and behold, as she stood on the opposite side of the road from the tavern, it appeared exactly how she imagined, both from the neighborhood’s image and the place’s kitschy name. The sign was painted black with a blue border. Inside, it said Moonlight Tavern in an old fashioned handwriting. Around the words was painted a crescent moon, stars, and clusters of bubbles – which she assumed signified the presence of beer. Under the sign was another, hastily printed off of a computer, reading “Fully Licensed. We ID.” There were small and dark windows facing the street, but she couldn’t see anything inside, other than the presence of dim lighting. The door was solid, and painted white. Outside of it there was a cluster of people smoking. Three gruff looking men and an older woman with cheap blonde hair, too much makeup, and a miniskirt with nylons were engaged in some sort of conversation. The woman burst into a cackle of laughter and the men chuckled in likewise amusement. Sabine sighted and walked over to the scene. She opened the heavy door.
Inside the lighting was grim. A long bar lay against the left side of the room, while the right was dedicated to booths. Five or six single patrons dotted the bar, nursing their beers and whiskeys, staring into their drinks or up at the television silently showing a hockey match. She could tell they were regulars. Some of the booths were taken by small groups, with a couple women thrown into the mix. No one was below forty. Sabine saw two free stools at the bar and claimed one for herself. She waited for the bartender to take her order. He was a greasy man in a flannel shirt, overly long and thinning hair, and a mug that could use a trim.
“Gin and tonic, please,” Sabine said when he nodded in her direction. While waiting, she took a look at her cellphone. Gordon had written:
“Be careful tonight. Let me know if you need anything and I’ll come rescue you.”
She wrote back, “Thanks, just at this awful bar called Moonlight Tavern, waiting for Emma. I’ll keep in touch.”
The gin and tonic arrived, and Sabine paid the bartender. She squeezed the lime crescent into the glass and stirred it with the tiny straw. She took a sip. It was delicious, much better than the average gin and tonic. The key was proportion. Too much gin and it would prove undrinkable. Too much tonic, and it would be sickly sweet. She sipped the drink and idly gazed at the television screen. She didn’t even bother to look at who was playing or who was winning, it was just light and movement. She was thankful that none of the bar flies attempted to chat with her. When she sat down, they had casually glanced at her, but they quickly lost interest. She was an anomaly in the place, but not interesting enough to distract from the task of drinking.
She looked at her phone again. It was just nine o’clock, and Emma would probably be here soon. When she put the phone back on the bar, she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around, and there stood a cute Japanese girl. She was small, with fine features and shoulder length, stick-straight hair. She wore a blue, collared dress, with a grey felt jacket over top.
“Hey!” said Sabine, feigning familiarity.
“I’m so glad to see you,” said Emma, taking the empty stool beside Sabine. She took off her jacket and hung it off the stool’s back. “Have you been waiting long?” she leaned towards Sabine and put her long thin hand upon her shoulder. It was cold, even through a layer of clothing. Sabine was taken off guard by the familiar gesture, and stared at the hand for a moment. Emma noticed the look, and removed it. She removed her eyes as well and caught the bartender’s attention.
“Jack on the rocks,” she said, and then turned back to Sabine. “Have you been to this place before?”
“No, interesting choice though.”
“Isn’t it great?” Emma looked around for a moment. “I feel like Mickey Rourke is going to walk in at any moment.”
“Yeah, and the bartender’s giving him a run for his money.” The bartender stood at the other end of the bar, drying glasses. They sat quietly for a moment.
“You know,” said Emma, looking into her glass. “I’ve been thinking of you a lot all weekend.” She smiled up at Sabine.
“Oh?” Sabine took a sip and smiled back. “What about, specifically?” she was attempting to act coy, as if she actually remembered even meeting this girl.
“Oh, you know what I’m talking about. I’m not going to say it in public.”
Jesus, thought Sabine, what did I do to this girl? From the sounds of it, they must have only briefly met at Rudi’s house, because they hadn’t left together. And Gordon hadn’t mentioned anything about seeing the two of them even talk. And he would have mentioned something; Emma was beautiful. But it was in a way that Sabine wasn’t especially drawn to. She was too thin, too fragile, for her taste. Definitely not the kind of girl she would normally try to pick up.
“I see,” said Sabine. “But I have to come clean, I was totally out of my mind that night.”
“So was I,” Emma put her hand on Sabine’s thigh this time. “That’s why I’m so glad to see you again. Under rational circumstances.”