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The New Regular

Old memories pave new roads

By Tattoos & TarotPublished 13 days ago 9 min read
The New Regular
Photo by Oliver Frsh on Unsplash

Marcus steps out of the exceptionally cold fall night and into the warm, low lit bar. The weather would be quite comfortable if the wind didn’t bite through all his layers. He’s new to town and visiting different eateries and bars to find his new favorite. Wherever he goes, he picks one place to become a regular. He enjoys being known, even in the superfluous way waitstaff come to know him. It makes him feel less like a wandering ghost.

He spots a woman at a stool far from the tendrils of the wind coming through the open door. She’s the type of woman you can’t get an immediate read on. Her face is all sharp angles with strong features that give her a striking appearance. She wears a serious expression, and he catches sight of a tattoo snaking up her arm when she reaches for her drink. She drinks slowly and methodically, as if savoring every moment. She, most likely deliberately, gives an air of unapproachability, yet curiosity gets the better of him.

Suddenly aware that he’s just standing there, he quickly shuts the door and takes off his worn leather gloves. He slides into the seat next to her and says hello, which is returned with a polite, soft smile and a nod. The universal signal for “I’ll be polite but don’t talk to me, I’m not interested”. Fair, but he’s far too intrigued.

“You’re very intimidating”, he blurts out skipping the pleasantries hoping to catch her off guard. He imagines it worked because an amused smile stretches the corners of her mouth, which she tries to hide by taking a sip of her drink. She sets it down and looks him dead in the eyes. Yes, he feels very intimidated now.

“So I’ve heard”, she cooly replies.

He can feel her studying him, as if trying to discern exactly who he is. He can’t blame her; he was doing the same to her moments ago but without her knowledge. She turns back to face forward as the bartender comes to take his order. He waits until she returns with his gin and tonic before he says anything else. He supposes the most natural thing to do next is simply introduce himself.

“Marcus,” he states, with his hand outstretched. She considers and hesitates a moment, but she takes his hand with a firm grasp, and they shake only once.

“Allie”. She replies.

“Is Allie short for something or is it just Allie?”

“When my wife is angry with me, it’s Alessandra”, she responds as she places her left hand with a diamond ring onto the bar top.

And there it is – he understands her slight abrasiveness now. That was a clever way to slip her devotion into the conversation, he notes. Even though he knows he has no chance with her, she’s still too interesting, and so he re-approaches with, “Well, since I am not your wife, I will call you Allie then”.

“Okay, Marcus, well played”, she replies with a small laugh. She looks at him again with a new curiosity. He has shown her respect in a way that men usually don’t have when they are rejected by a woman. He is an attractive man – trimmed facial hair frames his strong jawline, cocoa-colored eyes and dark skin, and a deep voice that threatens to lull you into a trance – but he’s not her type, for obvious reasons.

“Come here often?”, he inquires.

“Every so often. On bad days when I need a moment to gather myself before seeing my family. I don’t bring my work home with me.”

“I respect that”, he says, and he means it, but he pushes a little further.

“What made today a bad day?”

“Ah”, she says dismissively. “I’m a lawyer, I learned new information today that might bust my case. I just need to sit with it awhile”. She pauses before asking, “Bad day for you as well?”.

“Nah, I’m new to town. I’m trying different places, seeing what I like to become a regular somewhere”.

“Really? I don’t get a “regular” impression from you”, she replies with air quotes around “regular”.

“I enjoy it!”, he says enthusiastically. “I like feeling like I’m known, even in a non-substantial way”.

She turns her head slightly and considers his very different perspective on anonymity, or lack there of.

“Personally, I don’t agree. I like to remain anonymous, like a shadow”

“That was unnecessarily poetic”.

Allie laughs, a real one this time, and her smile brings life to her face. Her already sky-high cheekbones lift and her barely visible crow’s feet stretch. She only wears mascara and a touch of eyeliner, so her stern, young appearance now shows her age. She has smile lines, which means she likes to laugh, he notes observantly. Marcus motions to her nearly empty drink.

“Can I buy you a platonic drink?”, he asks.

Normally, she only has one drink, but she finds that she doesn’t want to leave quite yet. She feels an intellectual connection to this bold man that was only minutes ago trying to hit on her.

“I would like that”, she admits. “I just need to text my wife and tell her I’ll be late”.

“I completely understand”, he states, and he does. He was married once and now knows that honest communication is pivotal to a marriage. He also knows that she will tell her wife about this encounter. He motions for the bartender, and she returns. He looks toward Allie, and she says, “Another of the same, please.”

The bartender leaves to fix the drink and there‘s a moment of silence while Allie considers what to say.

“So, Marcus, what brings you into town to be a new regular?”

“I needed a fresh start away from bad memories”

She considers this. It was a very blunt statement so she considers her options - express her condolences and move on with small talk, or ask him to expand. She’d rather do without small talk, and she just let the man buy her a drink. If she asks him, he’ll likely ask her, and she’ll have to reveal her own bad memories. Somehow, she doesn’t mind.

“Bad memories?”

He wasn’t expecting this - people usually blow off his uncomfortable comment. He takes a deep breath. How much is he willing to divulge to this beautiful stranger? He thinks, what does it matter? She can’t use it against him…she’s not even interested in him romantically. Fuck it, he decides.

“My wife, my baby girl, and I were in an accident six years ago. Baby didn’t make it, and my marriage didn’t last long after that. There was a lot of unnecessary blame and harsh words. I decided after a lot of therapy that I needed to find hope and joy in the little things in life, that I needed to move on. So, I’ve been moving on for years since then. Running away if you will. This town is my newest attempt to stay focused, to be present in my own life, to find love again, to start over”. He takes a shaky breath and takes a long, hard drink.

She’s stunned into silence. It took all of her self-control to keep her jaw from dropping to the floor. She didn’t expect this much honesty from a total stranger, but then again, she did ask for it. This guy has probably heard “I’m sorry” and “They’re in a better place” more times than she’d like to hear herself. Instead of those hollow words she just replies, “I can’t imagine your pain.”

Marcus suddenly reddens and looks down. Something about Allie makes him feel safe…known and understood somehow…but he still shouldn’t have laid that burden on her. He chuckles, embarrassed, and apologizes.

“I just rambled, and trauma dumped on you. I’m so sorry”. He holds his glass in both hands staring into it as if he could escape this moment all together.

Allie bites her lip because she can feel her own admission about to come tumbling out. She has no idea why she wants to share – she has absolutely no obligation to, and he hasn‘t asked yet. But somehow it feels fair, given the gravity of his truth. She takes a drink and decides to give him the short version.

She starts, “My parents immigrated from Colombia, and I was born in the states. I grew up hard and we moved a lot to dodge trouble. My dad was mixed up in something that went all wrong. It caught up to all of us in the end. We were separated – me to foster care and them to wherever the hell the government decided to stash them. Thank God I have no siblings…I thank God that more of my family wasn’t ripped away from me and had to go through what I did.”

She stops because she has started raising her voice. She takes another drink to regain her composure and continues. “I later learned my mother died in a containment facility and my father died of substance abuse back in Colombia after he learned the news.”

Allie’s passionate monologue has tossed her caramel tinted brown curls out of her carefully tied bun. She puts a strand behind her ears and picks up her glass with shaking hands.

“Scholarships and loans put me through school and I became a lawyer to understand the legality of what happened to me and how to help kids in my position. The case I’m working - its a kid in my same position - and I’m losing my grip on my ability to help her. I have to get it right.”

Marcus carefully cradles his drink in dark hands. He stares at the lemons in his glass wishing they could both just float nonchalantly like that – like a contained lazy river. But here they are, stuck reliving their pasts in the company of another sufferer. He knows it took a lot for her to say it aloud because he feels the same. An even playing field rests between them after the exchange of hardship and traumas. He very carefully considers his next words.

“Yet here we are alive, and despite what everyone else says, thriving!”, he exclaims with a sarcastic emphasis on that last word.

Allie looks at him for a moment, as if she didn’t hear him. And then she laughs - a real throaty laugh with her head thrown back. His comment was stupid and cheesy and cut through the sad tension like he had hoped. He’s tired of feeling this way and he wants to make Allie laugh. They both deserve it.

They talk a bit longer about random things - Allie’s children, Marcus’s new job, the best coffee around here, the turning weather. Allie finishes her drink and they look at each other a moment. There is so much emotional understanding between them that it’s almost intimate. Suddenly, he wants to be alone.

Marcus breaks eye contact first and says into his glass as he takes his last sip, “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I hope to see you here again someday, Alessandra.”

She doesn’t correct him for using her full name. It only feels right, now that he knows at least a portion of her story. She stands to grab her long leather trench coat hung behind her chair. She pulls it on, cinches it tight, and says to him, “It was a pleasure meeting you. I also hope to see you again someday, Marcus.”

She pulls a pair of black fabric gloves onto her hands, gives him a soft smile, and walks back into the now frigid night. The cold from the open door reaches inside his sweater and sends a chill through him, despite the warmth Allie left him with. He really, truly hopes to see her again, even just passing by. He’ll remember her distance when she spoke about her past and her radiance when she mentioned her wife. She was shaped by her trauma and isn’t afraid of who she became. He wants so badly to reach the strength and control that she exudes. Although, she likely has had more practice. Maybe he should try group therapy instead of sharing his trauma with beautifully broken women in bars. The emotional intimacy of sharing hardship has left him feeling more intoxicated than any amount of drink. He places a twenty-dollar bill on the bar top – enough to cover their drinks with tip – slips back into his own coat, and retreats back into the night. He knows he’ll be back every night until he sees Allie again. He has found his new spot as a “regular”.

PsychologicalShort Story

About the Creator

Tattoos & Tarot

About T&T:

I’m newbie writer posting my thoughts and stories, and I’m always happy for any support and feedback! The name ”Tattoos & Tarot” embodies who I am - edgy, and a little bit witchy ✨

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