We find ourselves in a bar called Dixie. Bras hang from the ceiling like medals. He opens a tab for happy hour and keeps me with an endless supply of cheap American beer. It’s not great, but it’s okay. It takes about half a beer but we set ourselves at ease. He tells me about his not-girlfriend. I tell him he is kidding himself. He smiles with the corner of his mouth and admits that he probably is.
“The thing is… this is going to sound… I just know that I’m never going to want to marry her, so…”
“Well. You say she’s not your girlfriend but you practically live with her and judging by the constant text messages she sends you, she’s not exactly comfortable with you hanging out with me…”
“We talked about it. We are on the same page. I am free to do what I want.”
“So, if you were to hook up with someone else…”
“Would you feel guilty?”
Hesitation, “I guess I probably would.”
“So then she’s your girlfriend.”
“She is not my girlfriend.”
“If you say so.”
We take long swigs of beer and change the subject. We reminisce about Corfu. I tease him about his drunken confessions to me. He says he remembers. I’m surprised. That he remembers and that he would admit to it. We laugh until the floor tips slightly as I make my way to the bathroom.
At the show they stamp the inside of my arm in red and we take up residence next to the bar. I make friends with the girl dancing next to me in her white tank and fedora. Effortlessly cool. I think how I wish I could pull off a fedora. She gives me her number. I make friends with the bartender who slides free shots to me every once in a while and tells me how we should hang out after. I tell him sure but never get around to giving him my number or name. I make friends with a girl in the bathroom who retrieves my phone when I drop it on the sticky floor. They all keep buying me drinks and I just love Portland so much. The openers are upbeat. I catch eyes with a guy at the other end of the bar and when he sees he puts a hand possessively at the small of my back and brushes the hair off my face and then we are kissing in the crowd. I pull away and laugh, never having expected this.
We retreat outside where the cool air greets us, drying the sweat on our skin. I sink down next to him cross-legged on the pavement. We share a cigarette. He starts telling me things I don’t need to hear so I stand up suddenly and tell him I can hear Gaslight Anthem starting and I’m going in because that’s what I came for. He nods. I go to buy another drink and realize I’ve had plenty so I change my mind. I retrace my steps and look for him leaning against the building but he’s gone. I’m convinced in my heart that he’s abandoned me. I’m texting him, asking where he is. I can feel stress tears gathering behind my eyes when he appears next to my side.
“I thought you left.”
I take his hand and lead him back into the center of the crowd. Fedora-girl hugs me when she sees me and asks where I’d been. We dance, hands in the air next to each other. He keeps a hand at my waist or on my back. Always. I notice that he stops answering the buzz and glow of his phone.
After awhile we get tired of the noise and heat so we leave. Wandering toward the waterfront we find a bench. He sits and gestures for me to join him. I drop my purse in a heap beside him and straddle his legs. He laughs but when I shrug and go to move he pushes down on my hips and keeps me trapped to him. We kiss and we kiss and we kiss. The occasional passer-by never distracting us. His hands on the skin of my back. Tasting of beer and smoke and good music. I stop to catch a breath and lean my forehead against his.
“So, do you feel guilty?”
“No. God, no.”
Later, we sit on the back of his truck. He is telling me that the thing is he can’t see himself marrying me, either. I laugh.
“Seriously? Is that what you thought I wanted?”
“No. I guess not. I don’t know.”
“Well. It’s not. Not at all. I just want to have fun. Can we just have fun?”
Yeah, he says. We can just have fun. He lays back and pulls me with him. I settle into his shoulder.
“I’m just no good with relationships.”
The lights of the city and my phone chiming in my pocket. I’m not sure who said it. We lay still and silent with plastic ridges digging into our skin; both of us miles away thinking the same thing about someone different.
The Gaslight Anthem – Film Noir