I conk out on the sofa at 2:00am, watching an obscure, animated film by Hayao Miyazaki on my laptop. The sound’s a little off, and the drawing is clunky, but the story is amazing. It just goes to show how far a good plot will get you.
A hundred yards away, at the bar on the corner, a girl sits nursing a beer. She’s about as old as the film I’ve been watching. She was bordering on drunk earlier, when her friends were buying rounds of champagne, but most of those friends are gone now — moved on to the French Quarter, or moseyed home, realizing they’d hit their limit. She’s not sure why she’s still here. It feels like she’s waiting for something to happen. It’s a new year, after all. Something should happen, right?
The two guys seated next to her are engrossed in an argument. “Hey!” One of them turns to her. “Hey! My friend thinks I act like a black guy.”
“You do, dude. You totally do,” the other guy chimes in.
“I think he’s full of shit. What do you think?”
The girl hesitates. She doesn’t want to be dragged into this. Not because it’s stupid, but because these guys clearly aren’t what she’s waiting for. They’re just a couple of drunk 20somethings on New Year’s Eve. Not the magic she’s expecting.
“I dunno,” she says. “What does a black guy act like?”
“See!” says the first one. “I told you!”
“Man, weren’t you listening? She wasn’t agreeing with you. She just asked a question.”
“Which proves my point, bitch!”
The second guy pauses. “Dude, you’re not even making sense anymore. Time to put you to bed.”
“Promises, promises,” the first guy slurs, leaning over to give the other one a wet, sloppy kiss. “Let’s go,” he mutters, coming up for air. “See ya,” he says to the girl, climbing off the barstool and lumbering toward the door.
At 3:00am, some random begins hitting on the girl. “Nice tattoos,” he says. “What’s that?” he asks, pointing to some lines of text inked on her right forearm.
It’s actually a poem written by an ex-boyfriend, and five years ago, she thought it was the most beautiful thing she’d ever read, so she had it permanently installed on her body. But she doesn’t want to go into all that.
“Oh, just a poem.”
“Keats,” she says. Keats is the first poet she can think of.
“What’s it say?”
“It’s a love poem. You know truth, beauty. Stuff.”
“And that?” he asks, pointing to a Celtic band around her bicep.
“That was my first. I just picked it off the wall at the tattoo shop, but my grandmother was Welsh, so it’s okay.”
The conversation goes on like this for a while. He’s clearly not interested in the tattoos or the stories behind them, he’s just making conversation and looking for a New Year’s Eve lay. With her body language and short answers, the girl tries to make it clear that it’s not going to happen. She fake-texts a few friends, and eventually dude gets the hint.
At 4:00am the pretty, blond bartender leans across the sticky oak bar and says, “You’ve been sitting here all night. Wanna do a shot with me?”
“Sure.” This is not the magic the girl is hoping for either, but at this point, she’s not entirely sure it’s going to happen. Might as well get hammered, right?
And she does. The girl and the bartender down shot after shot of Jameson’s, Bailey’s — anything that feels a little bit rough and a little bit festive. As they talk, they discover that they’re both from Michigan (though from different towns), they’re both Leos (though the bartender was born in July and the girl was born in August), and here in New Orleans, they even went out with the same guy. They compare notes on his anatomy, just to be sure. Uncircumcised? Weird curve to the right? Bingo. “What a dick!” they say in unison. They laugh loudly.
At 5:00am, I awake to find my laptop still perched on my stomach, and the girl says goodbye to her new friend. I hear her shout, “I’ll call you tomorrow!” as she walks out the front door. She zig-zags to her bike and finds that someone knocked it over during the night. She struggles to right it before realizing that passersby have been using the basket on the front as a makeshift wastecan for their drinks. Sloshed with beer and well-brand booze, she eventually gets the bike unlocked from the No Parking sign and begins pedaling toward home.
“Another fucking year,” she thinks. “Another fucking year.”