The cab was small, dark, and musty smelling. It was a Yellow Cab, which I found amusing since it was, in fact, orange. The driver hadn’t said anything to me in the twenty minutes that we had been driving together. He was an aging man, dark skin, hair that was just starting to gray out. The ashtray under the radio was overflowing with dried out butts and ash, and he had Britney Spears club mixes blasting through the cabin at a volume well past the point of being comfortable.
My knees were bunched up on the divider, my head was pounding, and I was soaking wet; on top of which the blood on my hands was starting to run and stain the cuffs of my shirt. The driver didn’t ask me why I was covered in blood, and he didn’t say anything when I dropped the nine-millimeter with an absurdly long suppressor on it on the seat next to me. He just eyed me in the rear view mirror, put the car in drive, and nodded when I told him to take me to Untitled.
Untitled was a basement bar on Kinzie street in Chicago. It looked like a nineteen thirties era speakeasy on acid. It was a caricature of itself. Every feature exaggerated to pound the senses into acceptance. The clientele consisted of over privileged twenty-somethings that treated the place like a permanent costume party, showing up in zoot suits, flapper dresses, and other old-timey clothes that didn’t necessarily correspond to the era the bar was trying to mimic; and guys in their mid forties there, presumably, mostly to try and pick up a twenty-something flapper girl.
For me it was camouflage. It was dark, loud, busy, and full of flash. The mardi gras of it all was enough to draw attention away from the weird guy sitting alone in the corner booth. I paid the owner a monthly fee and in return I got a private booth in the back, an endless supply of cheap scotch, and no questions. Management let me smoke in there too, but after one night, I found that that attracted more attention than the environment could disguise, so I stopped.
The cab driver let me smoke in his cab too, or at least he didn’t say anything when I lit up. He was a quiet fellow. I don’t think I would have been able to stay so quiet if I were in his shoes. Pick up a fare and he climbs in soaking wet, covered in blood, and carrying a weapon and you just nod your head and drive? I had to hand it to him; he was cool. I rolled the window down and blew the smoke outside.
The driver pulled up a half a block away and on the wrong side of the street from the club. He didn’t say anything, just pulled to the curb and put the car in park. I hadn’t asked him to drop me so far from the door, but it occurred to me that it was a good idea. I was wet and bloody and didn’t have a good place to hide my piece. Getting out of a cab in this state right in front of the doors to the club would certainly attract more attention then I wanted. If I got out here, on the side of the road I could roll my sleeves, stash the gun and walk the half block to the club casually. Smart man. I was beginning to really like this guy.
I flicked my cigarette out the window and cranked it back up. I reached into my back pocket and pulled out a roll of cash. The meter in the front said thirty-four fifty, I peeled off eighty and handed it to the driver through the opening in the bulletproof glass.
“I’m usually here.” I said. “Most nights, I’m usually here.”
“So, I mean, this is where I usually go.”
He nodded again.
“Okay then.” I said.
He stared out the windshield like he was waiting for a traffic light to change.
“Alright.” I said.
I opened the door and got out on the sidewalk side of the car. I grabbed the gun and set it on top of the cab while I rolled up my sleeves, then I gave the silencer a quarter turn and popped it off the front of the piece and slid them both in my pocket. I shut the door to the cab and took a step back. The car pulled away from the curb and turned at the corner. It was an erie sense, but I shook it off, crossed the street and walked to the club.
As I stepped through the doors the doorman smiled at me and said “Good evening Mr. Gayle.”
A woman sits at a bar sipping some kind of pink drink. She is alone and of above average looks. A man walks up and sits on the stool next to her.
WOMAN: [disinterested] Hello.
MAN: I’m Brad.
WOMAN: Hello Brad.
MAN: Generally speaking, this is the part where you tell me your name.
WOMAN: Yes. Generally speaking you’re right.
MAN: But you’re not going to tell me your name.
WOMAN: You’re a quick learner.
MAN: I am, that’s true. Can I buy you a drink?
WOMAN: No thank you.
MAN: OK, to bad.
WOMAN: Yeah, for you.
MAN: Hmm, okay.
WOMAN: Okay. [pause] Wait! Okay?
WOMAN: Okay as in “okay it’s too bad for you” or okay as in “okay, it’s too bad for ME,
but you’re going to let me think it’s too bad for you”?
MAN: Is there a difference?
MAN: There’s a difference between the okays?
WOMAN: Yes! Yes, there’s a difference between the okays. Okay, like, it’s too bad for
you means I shot you down and you are a little hurt, but you’re willing to accept it because, presumably, you get shot down a lot. Okay as in okay too bad for me means that you don’t really care that I shot you down because either you weren’t really that interested in me, or that you think I really do want you to buy me a drink and I’m just playing hard to get.
MAN: And which okay is the right one?
WOMAN: The first one. The FIRST OKAY.
MAN: The first okay.
MAN: So what you’re saying is that it’s good that I said okay, but only if it’s because you are clearly out of my league and I should feel stupid for even asking to buy you a drink.
WOMAN: NO! I mean, no. Look, I don’t want you to feel stupid. I just...
MAN: Yes you do.
MAN: Yes you do. Yes you do want me to feel stupid.
WOMAN: No, I don’t. I just...
MAN: Yes you do. Look, I’m not saying you’re a bad person.
WOMAN: It sure sounds like you are.
MAN: No, I’m simply acknowledging your motives. And you, I think, are starting to feel guilty, because now that you’ve said it out loud, you think your motives sound mean.
MAN: But they’re not.
WOMAN: They aren’t!
MAN: No, they’re not.
MAN: They’re stupid.
WOMAN: Then we agree.
MAN: [sigh] Yeah?
MAN: Yeah, stupid.
WOMAN: Now you’re saying I’m stupid?
WOMAN: Yes! You just said I’m stupid!
MAN: No, I said your motives are stupid.
WOMAN: My motives?
WOMAN: But not me?
WOMAN: Ya know...
MAN: Are you single?
WOMAN: Yes, well...
MAN: Do you WANT to be single?
MAN: Oh my God!
WOMAN: I don’t WANT to be single, but I don’t mind it. I don’t NEED a man.
MAN: Sure. [not being condescending, but agreeing with her]
WOMAN: I don’t! I’d LIKE a boyfriend, but not just any guy. Not just some random...
MAN: Guy that would try and pick you up in a bar.
MAN: You want a nice guy.
MAN: Because you’re a nice girl.
WOMAN: I am!
MAN: Look, I just offered to buy you a drink. I didn’t ask you to meet me down the street at the Zwieback Motel.
WOMAN: The “Zwieback Motel”?
MAN: Yeah, the Zwieback Motel, people don’t usually sleep there too well.
MAN: You want a nice guy, and you’re pretty sure any guy that would try and buy you a drink in a bar ISN’T a nice guy.
MAN: Despite the fact that you consider yourself to be a nice girl, and yet, here you sit.
WOMAN: I am a nice girl!!!!
MAN: I’m sure you are. That’s why I offered to buy you a drink.
WOMAN: EXACTLY!! So you could get me drunk!!
MAN: You get drunk off of one drink?
WOMAN: No, but...
MAN: Because if you do, then you'd really be a catch. A nice girl AND a cheap date.
WOMAN: No, I don’t get drunk off of one drink but...
MAN: Do you read?
MAN: Do you read...Books?
WOMAN: Now you’re asking if I can read?
MAN: No, I’m not asking if you can read, I’m asking if you do read. Do you read? Are you a reader? Do you enjoy the company of a good book?
MAN: You read?
WOMAN: Yes, I read. I like to read. In fact, I love to read. I read all the time. I have a Goddamn Gold Card for the local library. I like to read!!
WOMAN: What do I read?
MAN: What do you read?
WOMAN: Mostly books.
MAN: What books?
WOMAN: [pretty irritated at this point] What books? What books do I read? What, you want titles?
MAN: What kind of books? Specific authors? Genres? What kind of books do you read?
WOMAN: All kinds!
MAN: How do you pick?
WOMAN: The books?
MAN: Yes nameless woman who loves to read, and frequents bars, but doesn’t drink. How do you pick the books you read? You walk into the library with your gold card and stand in front of aisles of shelves with thousands of books; how do you decide which book to take home and read.
WOMAN: I’m confused. Weren’t we talking about me shooting you down for a drink, which by the way, I do drink. You said I didn’t drink, but I do. I do drink, I just didn’t want a drink bought by you!
MAN: How do you pick the books?
WOMAN: Because, if I let you buy me a drink, then you think that I somehow owe you something.
MAN: Do you throw a dart? Do you blindfold yourself and play pin the tail on the book you want?
WOMAN: You think that if you buy me a drink, then we are on a date and you are entitled to some kind of end of date prize, like my phone number, or a kiss or more likely you think that I will get naked for you and...
MAN: Or do you...
WOMAN: I read the flap! OK?! I open the cover and read the inside flap! Jesus, what is wrong with you?! How does anyone pick a book? I read the fucking flap!
MAN: You read the flap?
WOMAN: Yes! There are all the books, so I pick a few, open the cover and spend a few minutes reading the description on the inside flap and decide whether I want to put the time into reading the whole book.
MAN: You read the flap.
WOMAN: [sigh] Yes, I read the flap.
WOMAN: Okay. Why do you care?
WOMAN: Really, really!
MAN: Well then... I don’t. I really don’t care. You have made it clear that you are not at all interested in having a drink with me. But since I am an altruistic kind of guy, I will tell you this for your future reference. When a guy asks to buy you a drink, it doesn’t mean he is trying to get you drunk and it doesn’t mean he even wants to go out with you. It means he wants to read your flap.
WOMAN: EXCUSE ME?!
MAN: There are lots of beautiful women in this bar. You are not the only one! So when I asked to buy you a drink it’s the same as reading the flap on a book. It takes five or ten minutes to have the drink, during which time, generally, people talk to each other. They find out a little about the other person. They get the basic gist of each other’s story and decided whether they want to “keep reading”. It doesn’t hurt either person to have a ten minute conversation and see if that person is someone they just might like to get to know better. So when a guy asks to buy you a drink and you, as you say, “shoot him down” out of some petty spiteful sense of superiority all you are really saying to him is, “no I’m the type of girl who judges a book by it’s cover and have no interest in reading the flap to see if it’s even a story worth starting.” So when I said Okay, of your two Okays, I meant the second one. Okay?
WOMAN: [visibly shaken] Okay.
MAN: Okay. [stands to leave]
WOMAN: Hi, I’m Susan. [pause] Can I buy you a drink?
MAN: No, thank you. I wasn’t crazy about your flap.
WOMAN: Oh... okay.