Marek nurses his lite beer, gazes in the mirror behind the bar, tempted to stick his tongue out at the miserable old fart sitting there then realizes that he’s the miserable old fart himself. He closes his eyes, shudders then sneaks another look at himself out the corner of his eye. “Thank God, I still have my hair, “ he thinks. He considers Botox for 3 seconds but remembers he’s terrified of needles and tosses the thought into the old mental bin. Sighing, he orders another beer, gives up on the mirror for a while and tries to concentrate on the Phillies game blaring out of the TV.
At the commercial break, his eyes wander to the mirror behind the bar again and he has to catch his breath. In the mirror there’s a woman sitting down the bar from him and she looks alot like Smitty. Like he remembers Smitty.
He is used to seeing Smitty but always at more of a distance and always when he gets closer it turns out not to be her. Four barstools down, in the mirror behind the bar, this woman looked a helluvalot like Smitty.
“Fully leaded coke, lots of ice and a slice of lemon.”
A contralto somewhere between a purr and a growl, and fully leaded coke.
He knows that voice. He can’t believe it, but he knows that voice.
Marek closes his eyes, turns slowly in her direction and asks, “Smitty, is it really you?”
“Closing your eyes won’t make me disappear, you know. But if you ask me to go away, I will, soon as I finish my coke.”
Marek sighs and mumbles to the ground, “…don’t want you to go away. I just can’t believe its you.”
“How are things?” he asks, looking at her from the side but not meeting her eyes.
“Come on, Marek, it’s been a lot of years…”
“Yeah, and this is really weird. You hardly got older.”
“How would you know? You haven’t looked me in the face yet.”
Marek starts at her right shoulder and slowly takes her in. Dancer’s neck, sharp chin, full lips, no don’t linger there, nose slightly crooked, eyes, move onto the eyes, she has eyes like a basilisk…
“Marek,” she says, dropping her gaze down to his, looking up, that Lauren Bacall thing she used to do, and he has to look away.
“Saw you when you came in. Beautiful,” he mumbles in the direction of his shoes.
“If you must know, I have an extremely hideous portrait of myself in the attic that does my aging for me, don’t you?”
“Obviously not. I got old.”
Marek finally looks up to meet Smitty’s gaze and their smiles reverberate from cheek to cheek.
“Hug me, old man, it’s been a long time.”
“Don’t know if I dare. I let you too close, you’ll break my heart like you always do.”
“I’ll hug you then, you keep your heart tucked in nice and safe, ok?”
Smitty slips off her barstool and wraps her arms around Marek, who has stopped breathing. He’s closed his eyes again, and buries his nose in her hair before taking a deep gulp of air to breathe in all of her scent before she lets go of him. She does, too soon for his liking and he wants to pull her close again, but doesn’t. That would make him seem too greedy, too needy, too sad for words.