Pure Slush

flash ... without the wank

Same Same

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by Michael Webb      

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The bar was cool and dark. Deep brown wood and leather, music piped in from hidden speakers. I had spent the day in Philadelphia to meet movers and shakers who might want to exhibit my work. Philadelphia wasn’t New York - it seemed like it was trying to be, but it wasn’t. It was smaller, more provincial, more self-consciously historical.

But the bars were the same, and the ice was the same, and the drinks were the same, and the bartenders were the same young student types, this one a porcelain skinned Irish girl. She was down at the other end of the bar, chatting with a woman.

I spent the day talking, showing my work, pictures of my oversized canvases alive with color and talking, talking, talking. I spoke to Jacob on the phone briefly. We exchanged the requisite questions - How are you, I’m well, I miss you, I miss you too - neither of us wanting to ask: Are you being faithful?

I was. I thought he probably would, too - he’s too hung up on propriety. I knew I wasn’t above it, but, after all the mental chess I had played today, the last thing I wanted was to negotiate a liaison. I’d be home tomorrow, and Jacob soon after that, and our partings usually resulted in some fireworks when we came together. So I’d just wait for that.

I paid my tab, picked up my portfolio and left, walking to the elevator in the lobby. The hotel was handsome enough, but it could be Omaha or Baton Rouge - there was nothing Philadelphian about it. I pressed the arrow, waiting for the car to arrive. A man in a very sharp suit, with receding blonde hair and knowing blue eyes, came up behind me. I felt a tiny thrill in my abdomen. He smelled slightly of cologne, but it was subtle, like the bar: hints of leather left to dry in the sun, perhaps a tinge of sweat. He looked sure of himself and his place in the world.

The car came, we got in and assumed the elevator etiquette positions, as far away from one another as possible. My heart beat faster as the car reached my floor. He hadn’t pressed a button.

He checked his watch as he got out, then stopped, mussing his hair in the mirror opposite the elevator as I walked past. I turned down the corridor to my room, inserting the key, looking back instinctively. He met my eyes, walking down the hall, glancing down, then back up. I opened the door to my room, still holding his gaze.

I stepped inside the door, still looking at him. Walking straight, still watching me, not yet at my door, he continued towards me. I set my portfolio down inside as he stopped. He looked at me. I didn’t know what to say. I stepped aside. And shut the door behind him softly, as if someone was listening.   

published 7 August 2011


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