The Kingdom of Noise
She was looking at her, not him.
Look would be all almost anyone could do,
because the spattering waves of overlapping conversations,
all a bit to bright, a bit too loud,
a bit too nasal, never ever intimate,
always for the crowd.
The people at the tables,
over salads touched with Salmon roe,
the people at the bar, women in their tube skirts,
men in office casual.
There were mirrors near the patio french doors,
that opened on the street,
so that everyone could see and be seen,
because look was almost all that anyone could do.
She was looking at her, not him.
Perched on her bar stool peering slightly downward at a couple at a table.
By the standards of the moment,
she was dressed to kill, the hem cutting off at mid-thigh,
the shoes more than a week at cashier's wages would bring home,
a week, but not a month, bangles around her neck,
and gold leaf dangles from her ears.
The girl at the table was not so decked out,
and that was the point. Because whatever else you can measure,
whatever else could be said,
the girl at the table, with plain pulled up hair, and ordinary jeans,
had something that the lady on the perch did not:
the absorbed and complete attention of a man.
complete attention of a man.
He, did not seem to pay much notice to the legs
stretched out and on display,
he did not gaze at the exposed half curves bolstered out from the decolletage,
nor at the sequins on the shoes that gathered up the light
and cast it as reflections on the walls.
Instead he would soak up the mauve
that touched the rills of clouds that glowed into the sunset,
he glanced at couples that drifted along the sidewalk outside,
or at the lights from the shops on the opposite row of the street,
half upscale and fashionable, half fashionably downscale. He would tilt his head and strain to catch the ambles of conversation that drifted into comprehension
and up out of the glamour.
He might glance at some expensive automobile,
and point it out to the woman at the table,
or at some interesting individual with some sign of the exotic.
But mostly he gazed at the young woman
across the tiny marble topped cafe table,
mostly he smiled at his companion.
His shirt was out of date, no one wore turtlenecks any more,
even of the soft brushed cotton that he had.
His pants were non-descript and tan, his boots of somewhat worn calf-skin. But he was unconcerned with anything,
and she was trying to ascertain how such a simply adorned young woman
could have his gaze locked on her for so much of the time
Since being on the perch she'd gotten glances and gazes,
offers to buy her a drink,
and whispers from her girl friend
companion about who had looked,
for how long, and when.
But nothing amused her.
There might be plenty of fish in the sea
but she wasn't looking for a fish,
her last fling had been a cold on.
She remembered his grunting shoves while making love before he rolled off of her and was almost instantly snoring.
The colour of morning light on the white apartment walls
was warmer than any affection she felt for that last companion.
Lover would have been entirely wrong,
and to call that relationship a friend with benefits would have implied that he was a friend,
or what they did in those hanging hours would classify as a benefit.
She arched a leg to hook her heel around the lowest wrung of the stool,
it's metal supports having a reassuring firmness that belied the wobble of the legs.
Was it the stool that was unsteady?
Or had the dirty martini made her unsteady?
she stroked her white forearm against the ledge of the bar,
and glanced again at the woman in the couple.
Wondering what that girl had that she did not.
A glowing smile was from the happiness,
not the source of it,
and their conversation seemed painfully frail.
They stood up and walked away,
hand in hand, their words growing more complex
and hard to follow, the subject clearly had no interest.
He must be dull anyway,
but the racing gloves on his hands implied quite the opposite.
Black leather, worn, open fingered.
The way he walked had bad boy written all over it,
how he navigated her past obstacles – people in line, tables out of line,
waitresses trucking food
– showed a command of physicality.
But mostly, she looked at her, not at him.