BAR TAB

Opposing the diminishing temperatures outside, the cramped jazz club was teeming with sweaty, anticipatory bodies trying to find a place to stand and consuming alcohol. I too had wanted some purely alcoholic cocktail, but was too afraid I might lose the table I'd so desperately fought for so I was left in the corner sober and hot.

After fifteen painstakingly sober minutes, I decided to place my shoes on the table in hopes of claiming it so I could dash to the bar. Relieved when my plan seemed to be working, judging by the confused faces, I plopped in front of the bar-tender, helped myself to those fructose-infused maraschino cherries and grinned.

"Goddamnit get me drunk!" I laughed and pushed my credit card to the bartender. "Put it on the tab." I always liked pointing to the plastic rectangle and smugly requesting to open a tab; it always made me feel superior.

"Of course," he was short but attractive enough to make me blow at least $100 on unnecessary drinks.

As he mixed the Amaretto Sour I decided to start with, I pivoted on the barstool and studied the crowd, already teeming with intoxicated dilettantes. I was hoping I could pick out the music scouts so I could buy them some drinks and make nice, but I had a sneaking suspicion they were already partaking in the inebriated artistic chitchat. Bernard, pronounced "burr-nerd" because the emphasis on the first syllable made him feel British and he liked that, slipped my drink over to me and grinned as an unimaginably familiar girl skipped over toward me.

I winced, suddenly wishing I'd started out with shots instead of something I had to daintily sip through a coffee stirrer of a straw. "Molly? What are you doing here?" I also wished I'd purchased a more potent liquor so I could make that twisted alcohol face at her and easily justify it.

She bounced into the stool next to me and tossed her head to the side, freeing her face of the hair she'd spent too much time styling earlier that evening. "I come here all the time, silly!" she sipped her cheap daiquiri and winked at me for wearing the strappy black dress. "Don't you look hot!"

"I try…"

"Getting some ass tonight?" she bumped her shoulder into mine and wiggled with excitement.

"Perhaps," why was she here?

"Yeah me too," she kept gazing toward the stage and bobbing up and down in her seat. I had to fight the urge to reach out and kick her off the stool so she'd stop.

"I didn't know you liked jazz, Molly." It seemed a little above her comprehension, if you asked me.

"Of course I do," she refused to look at me and she sucked in more alcoholic sugar. "Oh my God, have you heard this guy play? He is incredible."

I turned to her as she gawked at the empty stage, "I come here all the time, Molly, and I've never seen you here."

Nodding, she brushed off my comment and explained that she too was here, she just never ran into me. I eyed the bartender before abandoning Molly on her stool. Much to my dismay she hopped off, still parading the daiquiri glass around in the same hand as her cigarette, and followed me to the table.

We remained in sticky silence until Taylor came onto the stage. For someone who had panicked not even twelve hours ago, he was shockingly calm as he slid into the space between his bench and his piano.

"God he's gorgeous," Molly took a sip of her daiquiri and groaned.

I kept watching her watch Taylor, how she tongued her daiquiri straw and tried to suck on it seductively, the way she shimmied in her seat, the way she giggled when her tongue missed the straw and she was only licking the air. Women flirting with Taylor hadn't bothered me in eight years, but suddenly it was personal.

Frustrated with her sexually intended facial twitches, I excused myself to the bar for the remainder of his time on stage. Burr-nerd and I bonded over Appletinis, a refreshingly tastier beverage than the dry martini itself, a few Buttery Nipples, and topped the night off with what I believed to be French champagne, though at that point I could have easily been drinking liquid drain cleaner and not known the difference.

When Taylor was finished on stage, the uproar of acclaim from the audience was absolutely deafening. Excited myself, I surmounted the bar stool, threw my arms in the air, and screamed as loudly as possible. "Hell yes, baby!" I would deny this ever happening the next day, but it seemed somewhat appropriate at the time.

Toting my shoes in hand, I galloped toward backstage to congratulate him on a fantastic performance. Unfortunately, it took longer than usual thanks to my gradual lack of depth perception and basic motor functions. After having shoved at least two dozen people out of my way, I wrestled with the immense velour curtain until I reached backstage.

"Taylor!" I reached out for a bastion.

"Molly!" Taylor yelped, missing me completely as I toppled forward.

"Molly!?" I whipped my head around to see she had, in fact, followed me again. "Goddamnit, Molly!" I slurred on the floor, brushing hair from my eyes.

"Kate?" She laughed at me and reached for another safety cigarette.

"Kate," Taylor stood me up.

"Taylor, you know Kate?"

"I…" He dug his hands into his pocket and opened his mouth without speaking. "It's…well yeah." He shrugged and forced out a laugh.

"Psh, of course he knows me!" I began leaning on Molly since Taylor was doing such a shotty job of supporting my dead weight.

Molly locked her gaze on my bobbing head before handing me her cigarette to occupy my wiggling fingers. "You were really great." She started to wriggle beneath her tight little dress.

I poked the side of her face with the unlit cigarette in a fruitless effort to defend my love interest. And she was obviously trying to find a way into his pants.

"I just wanted to see what everybody was talking about," she was still writhing in her little red dress.

"I think I'm going to go home," I announced flatly, staring at Taylor and hoping he'd catch on as I pushed myself off Molly's shoulder.

He nervously laughed and began gyrating his left leg furiously. "Right, it's, wow, it's been a long night." Forcing a yawn, "I better get going too. Good seeing you again, Molly." He sped walked ahead of me out the backstage door to keep me from running to the cement walls.

I watched Molly as he led me away from backstage; her face had fallen in a bout of utter confusion and dismay. Sometimes, I like to reassure myself that had I not been so belligerently drunk, I probably would have been more concerned, though it wasn't very likely.

"God, what is it with her?" I asked in the safety of the outside, clutching onto Taylor's arm for support.

He laughed apprehensively and admitted he had no clue.

"Did you know she doesn't own a pair of pants?" I fingered his cheek bones, admiring their prominence.

"Oh hey, good news." He piped up, changing the subject.

"What!?" I was thoroughly intrigued.

He nudged into my left side with his arm teasingly as he explained. "Despite your scathing review a few months back, I'm a hot commodity now."

"Wow, a hot commodity? That is news," I joked.

"A few independent labels sent scouts here tonight."

"Is that so?" Despite the alcohol, I was well aware of the importance of that night's performance. "Just to inflate your ego, I'm sure." If only they could have seen that twelve-hour long panic attack he'd had before he went on stage.

"They want to hear more; they want to make a demo tape."

Impressive. "I guess you're no longer the vintage Taylor Hanson with questionable talent, huh?" I snorted, burying my head into his shoulder.

"A simple, 'congratulations; let me fuck your brains out you gorgeous music machine' would have been nicer, but yeah, basically."

I grinned slyly at him and laughed, "I love you, Taylor." "I know." He would never comfortably admit the same, and that always made me uneasy, but for some reason I never questioned it.

Wrapping his arm around my shoulders, he steered me down the forty block hike to his apartment. Through the stumbling, I kept repeating the confrontation backstage. Within my drunken haze, I recognized something uncomfortably awkward about Taylor's reaction and Molly's persistence, but refused to question it.

I had an easy roommate and an edgy lover. That was all.

Really.