Somewhere in a Karaoke Bar

I meander through a sitting crowd who pay more interest in browsing instagram and the cost of IPAs than the woman standing in a dimmed spotlight onstage. Her long, straight fringe catches the edges of thick, winged eyeliner as she sways her hips to a solo, higher pitched rendition of "You Got Me Babe" wailing from her curved, glossy red lips. Her black, absurdly ostentatious leather dress hikes up her thighs far past age appropriateness, perversely exposing deep wrinkles and purpled spider veins that she wears explicitly well. I intoxicate on her euphoria, exclusively sipping from the fountain of her youth while the audience goes ahead and orders another round of something more hoppy. 

The song lingers. Deciding I want a smoke, I pass a bantering bouncer at the front entrance who remarks how arousing he finds the black haired woman's off key performance. Outside the air is thick with weekend smokers. I reach into my back pocket where I have mindlessly shoved a pack of reds and hopefully some matches. I seem to always forget matches. 

I lean my back on a vacant telephone pole, fondling an unlit cigarette loitering, while I scour for a light. A group of youthful twenty-something year olds leave the bar stumbling and laughing, not drunkenly, rather blissfully. I notice you by the way your hands hold your sides as you bend in hysterics. By the time you regain your posture, I realize I've been staring. The group of man buns, faux tortoise shell glasses, and wide brimmed black hats form on the opposite side of the telephone pole, rolling cigarettes and passing a lighter. I'm waiting for it to meet the edge so I can casually lean in and ask for a light. You're standing in the center of an abridged half circle when you get tossed it but before I notice that it's taken a detour, your hand is dancing in my face. You manage the rest of your body through a couple of friends and ask if I want a light. I flounder a yes and with one hand holding a lighter to my cigarette, another on the small of my back, you strike. 

I inhale. 

Your dark brown eyes fix on mine and I forget to exhale. Leaning forward, somehow meeting the curve of your neck, I fall into a coughing fit. Between breaths I feel your hands find their way to my waist. You hold my curve the same way you held yours and pull me close. I recover my breathing and posture, standing with my body against yours, when your lips settle on mine. We're pressing noses and cheeks, neglecting the hazy commentary from the voices of your semi circle. One hand holds the frame of your face, the other resting on your shoulder with a burning cigarette, I forget we're strangers in a karaoke bar.

We kiss until I feel the burn of ash on my fingers. Hesitantly arching my back, I pull away from you. As your arms hold my waist still, I drop the burnout to the curb putting it out. I look down finding my footing atop the smoke and looking back at you I catch you staring. I dust the ash from your shoulder and laugh. 

It's late and your friends want to find another bar near downtown. From the other side of the telephone pole I can hear you prompting them to stay a little longer but they say they've already called a taxi. When the taxi pulls in, I watch as all of your Cosby sweater and colored trouser friends pile in. You follow behind but just as everyone is seated, you close the taxi door. 

The sky is clear but the lights from the city are brighter than any stars. We walk down the street with my arm around yours until you suddenly stop outside a corner liquor store. You tell me to wait outside. When you come back out carrying something wrapped in a little black plastic bag, before I can ask, you hand me it and tell me to open it. Reaching into the bag, I pull out a small grey lighter. I smile and you kiss me. 

We sit on the curb outside the liquor store smoking cigarettes and talking about everything we can think of. Your words roll into mine and mine flow into yours. We laugh and kiss; intrigued and fascinated by the ease of our attraction. But somewhere between commentary on bar etiquette and explanations of irrational fears I notice the weekend smokers have gone home, the florescent closed signs lean in late night windows, and by the time of your watch its nearly 3 in the morning. The sky has greyed with clouds and it has begun to drizzle. When we pull away from each other long enough to notice the rain, our clothes have soaked through, and our last cigarettes are damp. We both agree it's time to go home. 

We wait under the flashing lights of the corner liquor store until the taxi pulls up to the curb. Before I walk to the taxi you grab ahold of my waist, bringing your face near to mine. We kiss slowly and softly this time. The driver honks his horn, disrupting the silence, as we realize how long he's been waiting. You walk me to the car and as I yank my seatbelt on, I ask you to get in. You flounder a yes and close the taxi door behind you.  

Somewhere in Westminster

Late afternoon finds itself at a pub filled with loosened tie business men drinking whiskey neat. I laugh myself into a blush when I hold my hand open, offering crumpled quids and various pence for a bartender to count £6 for a beer on tap and another £2 for tip. The bartender is kind and laughs too as he jokingly tips himself another pound from my hand. I find a vacant table tucked away in a corner under the front window. Outside the cobblestone streets resonate sounds of 9 to 5 commuters catching trains and taxis. The sun sets on their faces and I watch the glow reincarnate their silhouettes into ethereal creatures. I am mesmerized by this city of phoenix risings that, until yesterday, I never knew existed. I sit silently and sip slowly at my corner table scribbling experiences and encounters of the day on loose receipts I find in my bag.

Like being suddenly woken from sleep, I abruptly lift my head from jotted notes to notice that the large table nearest to me has accumulated a group of heavy accents and brutish spirits dressed in pressed button downs and shined leather shoes. I realize I have been lost in thoughts for nearly an hour and can't recall when my pint glass emptied. Wanting another but refusing to relinquish my little corner table, I reluctantly lean into the group nearby heated in a conversation of a recent football match. Before my mouth can even purse a "pardon me", you interrupt the stream of conversation and careen your body around another. In a single breath you offer to watch my seat in exchange that, maybe, I find something more interesting than a tap beer to drink. I blush a smiled thank you and discreetly refill a hand with jumbled coins and paper bills as I savor your sentiments.

At the bar I try thinking of "something more interesting", though, I keep finding myself more interested in my curiosity of you. The bartender from earlier jests an eye roll as he folds his arms over the bar. I tell him "I want something interesting". He obliges and offers suggestions of vodka sodas with splashes of this and that or maybe cocktails with drunk slices of fruit. Though eventually, I ambitiously settle for a top shelf glass of champagne. I think this will both impress and intrigue you. I open my fist again and begin picking out recognizable coins to pay but the bartender stops before I'm able to make a full pound. I assume he's going to offer to help count coins but instead he tells me that you've already offered to pay the tab. 

The moonlight has mixed with the low lights of the pub and paints sharp corners and jagged faces with dimmed subtleties, casting softened shadows on wood paneled walls. The ambiance liquifies and people with and without empty glasses drink and get drunk on an atmospheric cocktail that I to feel flushed on my cheeks. 

When I arrive at my table, my chair is gone, however, noticing you've suspiciously gained an empty chair. I inquisitively bend down, leveling my face to yours, and ask about the mysterious seat. You tell me you were watching my seat but you noticed a girl sitting alone and being taken by here, you needed a reason to invite her over. I laugh, humoring your guise, and setting the glass of champagne on your table ask if this any bit "more interesting". You hide your smile behind a smirk as I find my new seat next to you. 

We excitedly bound through basic questions of who, what, when, and where that grow into unanticipated deep conversation. 

As you talk, I imagine you as a wall covered in layers of varnish. Canary yellow painted edges that curl in, exposing years of blue and green hues that you seem to have tried to hide. I see those colors when you speak about your estranged sister in Surrey or when your hand timidly reaches for mine before it abruptly pulls away or when you recall fond memories that only exist before you wore business appropriate attire. I tell you about the house I grew up in with a yellow walled kitchen and how you remind me of familiar things. Chips of paint fall to the ground of the pub nestling themselves amongst discarded peanut shells and small pools of spilled beer as a smirk reveals your smile. 

Time left us two bottles of champagne earlier, so, forgetting that the last train out of the city leaves just before midnight, we fill our empty glasses with a third. 

I excuse myself to the restroom as you pardon yourself to pay the tab. Fixing the lipstick I'm wearing in the mirror, I overhear someone mention it's a quarter past eleven. I'm suddenly sobered by the awareness of time and hurry down the stairs to rush a goodbye to you. You wonder why I'm rushing until I inform you of the time. Grabbing my hand, I can tell you wished we had more. 

I grab my coat pushing my chair in when you ask if you can take me to the train. I don't hesitate a yes. 

We hurriedly walk the cobblestone streets with your hand holding mine, the side of my body pressing into yours as it begins to rain. Your leather shoes splash in puddles gathering in the dips of pavement pulling me under old marquees and through alleyway tunnels. We run through the city sometimes stoping to laugh at our ironic romantic situation until we reach the station.

We stop at the stairs to the train, our laughter ceasing, as we stand fixated on one another in the rain. I worry I will begin to see glimpses of a canary yellow wall but my thoughts are disrupted when you grab my waist, pulling me in, and press your lips to mine. We kiss until my train arrival is announced over the speakers. I pull away, kiss you one more time, and then catch the last train out. 

Somewhere in the Mountains

Burrowing my face into a flattened pillow dusted with dirt and pine from when we unloaded the car the day before, I fall half asleep tucked in a sleeping bag with a pair of wool socks pulled to my knees. The lights in our cabin are out by eleven and I wait till I hear the quiet of sleeping girls before reaching under my bed for the boots and coat I had hidden earlier. I place my feet on the ground methodically before rising and collecting a pair of gloves and scarf from a coat hook. I feel heavy as I slowly and quietly fit my body into the coat. The girl sleeping on the bunk bed pressed perpendicular to mine keeps stirring. I worry I might wake her with my movement but her dreams hold her close but I keep still in the dark until her body finds itself comforted and sound asleep again.  

Slipping out the door to the cabin, I notice the new layer of snow that must have fallen in the past few hours. Clusters of cabins are blanketed in white, their porch lights twinkle. I reach for the note you wrote me shoved deep into the front pocket of my coat. Your handwriting scrawls across the torn corner of a receipt you had found in your wallet. Snow begins to fall again. 

It settles heavy on the road as I walk along a row of pines counting a hundred strides then turning left to break the line. The trees gather close keeping warm and I navigate through their entangled limbs, listening to the secrets they whisper to each other until I am emptied into an open clearing. I close my eyes remembering the way you described the congregation of trees where the snow settles smooth where you'd be meeting me.

Leaning against a dampened tree, I reach into my left boot and pull at a sunken sock that has collected at my ankle pausing when I hear the tread of someone, I assume to be you, coming from opposite the clearing. I watch as your arms grab hold of sister pines trailing behind your legs and body. You're hurriedly tucking a mess of ashen brown hair under a greyed beanie when your eyes find me poised with a handful of sock. 

Reaching me, you drape your arms around my shoulders and having forgot how tall you stood, I find mine resting at your waist. I press my face into your chest breathing in the smell of redwood stir with the lingering cologne hanging out your worn denim jacket. I can feel the weight of your head rest atop mine and I note how well our bodies fold together. For a while, neither you or I say anything. 

I tilt my head away from your chest, lifting my face towards yours. I notice you look younger with your hair pulled back and the contrast of the cold on your cheeks and nose against the warmth of your hands. Time is slow as we watch the trees catch falling snowflakes on their tongues. With your firm build and wild spirit, I think you belong with the trees. 

My hand holds your arm as we meander back through from once I came. The woods are quiet and listen alongside me to the stories you share of your life in the midwest. The moon hangs high above the trees and I can see the stars in your eyes.