Teeth

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Chapter 8 - Handling It

November 26th, 1991

Don William’s steel, chocolate voice strolled through the barroom like it owned the place. He danced into my head and two-stepped with me while I sipped on rum and coke, Cuba Libre. The crowd thinned as the last slow dance played.

There he was. My eyes slowly focused on him, sitting at the end of the bar. His high-and-tight looked a little less tight.

Sarge saw me.

As he walked from his end to mine, I shifted, tried to decide an escape route, and realized there’s nowhere to go.

“Can I buy you another?” he asked.

“Sh-ure,” I replied.

The bartender immediately showed, like he knew I wouldn’t turn this one down.

“Rum and Coke, and a shot of tequila,” I said.

“Same for me,” he said as he moved closer to me, but not too close. “How’ve you been?”

“Shitty. You?” I replied.

“Good. I’ve been real good,” he said.

I watched the bartender fill the glasses.

“Want one?” he asked while offering a generic cigarette.

“No. Save your money; just breathe,” I replied as I pointed at the smoke that lingered like fog above the bar.

He smiled as he paid the bartender, lit his cigarette, and asked, “What brings you here tonight?”

Like he didn’t know. I couldn’t go a day without a drink since he pushed his way into my world.

“Just bored, I guess,” I answered. I couldn’t lie well enough to fool a two-year-old.

“Can I help?” he asked.

No.

“How about a dance?” he asked.

“The song’s nearly over.”

“Well, we better hurry then.”

He pulled me down off the stool and I followed him out to the dance floor. I stumbled once, but he was there to keep me from falling. He held my hand and led me to the dance floor like a child. Once we hit the smooth dust covered concrete floor, he grabbed me around the waist and turned me into the dance traffic. Two steps forward and one step back, my head swam in the music and my body danced without my brain across the dance floor. We eventually made it down the length of the floor, and by the second turn, the song ended. He twirled and dipped me like Ginger Rogers, and he held me close to him as we left the dance floor.

Once we stepped away from the concrete, he let go of my waist, but he lead me by the hand back to my barstool.

“We’d like to thank all of you for coming out tonight…” the D.J. announced the end of the night and invited everyone to come back for next Wednesday’s Country and Western Night at the enlisted club.

“Where are you going?” he asked as I stood and headed for the door.

“Home and to the bathroom, not necessarily in that order,” I replied with one eyebrow reaching for the ceiling.

“Can I walk with you?” he asked.

“Afraid I’ll wander into a palm tree instead of a bathroom stall?”

He smiled, “I mean to your apartment.”

“I’m not worried about getting lost.”

“I know. I just want to make sure you’re safe.”

“I gotta go pee before I make a puddle.”

“I’ll wait for you outside.”

I hurried to the ladies room. While I was zipping my Wranglers, I overhear, “Can you believe that girl? She’s twice my size, and Sarge dances with her. She must make up for her looks some other way. I’m no prize, but damn. You’d think he’d have some standards.”

At this, I flushed. The voices stopped, and I unlatched the stall door. Two girls saw me walk out, and they walked quickly for the exit. I stopped at the sink to wash. Normally, I ignored the mirror above the sink, but tonight I stared into it. They’re right. Why does he want me? Why won’t he leave me alone? Jaded blue eyes stared out of the glass. Short, razored, mousy-blonde hair adorned a moon-shaped, pimpled, pale pink face. Nothing exotic or beautiful, I was more like three times that girl’s size.

I smeared some lip balm on my lips, rubbed my plain face, and buried my fingers in the roots of my newly shorn hair. I cut it myself with kitchen shears and a pink plastic razor. Straightening my shoulders, I walked out of the bathroom and headed for the fresh, tropical breeze waiting outside for me.

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