Another older bit of writing.
She leaned back languidly and twisted herself a little more comfortably, the last few golden drops of scotch sliding around the rocks. Her eyes wandered over the room, covered in plush green velvet and gilded in gold wherever the proprietor saw fit to gild. The place was dark and quiet – dark in its low lighting, provided by tarnished gold chandeliers, none of which quite matched the others; dark in its polished hardwood floors and tables and chairs; dark from the curtains drawn over the two lone windows placed squarely in the front wall. For show only – those curtains were never open. It was a place of private, lush solitude – a blessed retreat for the rich and reticent. She inhaled and held the smoke in, letting her mind go fuzzy for a few moments before exhaling upwards and watching the smoke twist itself around the ceiling.
She lifted her glass but it never reached her lips; halfway up, she remembered that it was empty. With a slight sigh she let it rest on the dark polished table at her left, keeping her hand curled around the cold empty glass, absentmindedly tapping a finger or two to the melancholy voice playing softly on the record. In her other hand she lifted, equally listlessly, a cigarette, mostly ash in its long elegant black tube. The lone bartender, needlessly wiping already spotless glasses, gestured vaguely: would the lady like another? She waved him off with her cigarette hand and he returned to his inane task, she to her despondent thoughts.
She didn’t need to drink and didn’t even particularly enjoy the heady sensation most bar-goers so eagerly seek. She drank tonight not to block out an unpleasant past or to erase some distasteful memory; she had few of those. She drank now on behalf of the future.
The door opened with a smooth hushed creak and closed quickly, though not quick enough to keep out the elements – a draft of iced air crept in and wound around her bare ankles, sending a sprinting chill up to her knees and sprinkling onto her thighs. She lifted the glass and again remembered that it held nothing further for her. As the smoke dissipated with the draft, she turned her attention to the bar’s newest patron and her interest was slightly piqued.
The man didn’t fit in with the velvet and gilding and quiet sophistication – his appearance jarred with the understated greens, browns and golds. His coat was too worn, his hat too outdated; coat and hat, once removed, revealed what could only be described as battered finery, sad gaudy silks that had seen better days in the drunken exploits of frivolous youth. His eyes slid quickly sideways to her, still halfway reclining on the velvet chaise, and after a brief second turned to the bartender. “Vodka, on the rocks,” he ordered resignedly as he sat.
And there he stayed, intermittently sipping his drink until the last drops had been downed and the ice chips had melted. She watched him all the while and, after some time, came to a gloomily ironic conclusion: This man, she decided, who was so obviously out of his depth, was like her – so like her. He too stared off into the room, unseeing and unfeeling, barely thinking – a miserable bent-back grey mare put to pasture too late, barely extant. Another inhale in and she pondered this. They were the same person, she realized, only at different stages – she earlier, he later. He drank to eradicate what she hoped to dull to comfortable numbness. Life had happened to him; it waited for her, lurking in wait to spring from some unseen shadowy corner.
Ridiculous dainty sandwiches sat untouched on their tray beside her, toothpicks stuck in as though the morsels were so large they couldn’t stay together, the little bits of attractively placed lettuce now slightly wilted – no use to anyone except as decoration, she thought imperiously as she breathed in the last few dregs of smoke from her cigarette. Ignoring the monstrosity of a grandfather clock that loomed in one corner, she pulled from her jacket a heavy gold men’s pocket-watch, opened it, and snapped it with a satisfying click.
In keeping with the implicit laws regarding one’s conduct in very nearly deserted bars, she left silently, not disturbing her barmate’s solitude. Slipping her glass and bill on the counter and donning her furs, she gave the necessary polite nod to bartender and wretched client and fairly slunk out, leaving the bar as desperately melancholy as it had been when she’d entered a day earlier, the plaintive record providing ambient noise for clinking glasses waiting to be filled and tired minds to wander.