“Too soon?” Allie asked, looking at the paper she had just slid across the table.
It was more than just a number, it was his number. She wanted me to open Pandora’s Box after all these years.
“I can’t Allie. It’s just that so many years have passed and what if he…”
“What if he what? Doesn’t want to talk to you? Really, Sarah, I think it would be closure for the both of you. One conversation that’s all.”
“I will think about it.”
“Ok, good. Now can we do some shots?” Allie asked, looking for the waitress.
Now, that was the Allie that I knew and loved.
“I could take a shot right about now,” I said, grabbing the paper and stuffing it into my purse.
“Cheers to us! We came a long way from the hole in the wall Johnny’s!” Allie shouted, a little too loud.
The people next to us looked over. They probably thought it was way too early in the day for two middle-aged ladies to be blitzed.
And they were right.
There was no way I was driving back to the hotel in this condition.
As I stumbled into my Uber, I saw Allie’s husband pull-up to the curb. I’m sure he wasn’t too happy to be picking up his drunk wife in the middle of the day. Allie couldn’t be tamed though, she was a live-wire. I’m sure he already knew that though.
Three hours later I woke up in my hotel room with a splitting headache. Although drinking with Allie used to be an everyday event when we were younger, my alcohol tolerance these days was at an all-time low. The last time I had a drink was a few years ago at my cousin’s bachelorette party. I drank about a half of a long island iced tea and found myself asleep on the table. Literally. My brother had to come wake me up and take me home but not before he finished my drink.
As I jumped in the shower to wash my hangover away, I remembered I had the number in my purse.
Should I call him? What would I even say? What would he say?
I wrapped the towel around my head and draped the bathrobe over me.
I had to do it.
I grabbed my phone and started dialing. Just then my phone rang. It was Allie.
“Hey Sar, how ya feeling?”
“Like shit. You?”
“Like my head is going to fucking explode,” Allie moaned.
“I guess we aren’t 21 anymore.”
“Thank-God for that,” Ally scoffed. “So, what are you doing tomorrow?”
“I have a meeting with the SFPD at noon but after that, I’m free. What’s up?”
“I want to go for a little drive. We can check-out some of our hang-outs, maybe even swing by our old apartment, just for shits and giggles.”
There was one place I really wanted to go but that was one place I would visit alone.
“Yeah, that sounds great.”
“Allie, I’m scared he won’t talk to me. If he wanted to talk to me, he would have found me and talked to me. It’s clear that after all these years, he’s still angry. I don’t blame him. I took something aw—”
“Sarah, it’s okay. We don’t have to talk about it right now.”
One more week in this town, and I might lose my mind.
It’s one thing to deal with things from afar, but being dead center amid where everything fell apart, that’s a whole other story.
I hung up with Allie and began redialing his number.
“You have reached 408-555-6540, Please leave your message after the tone.”
Should I leave a message? Maybe just hang-up?
“Hi, this is Sarah. I’m in town for a while. My number is 360-555-2546.”
Now, I had to just wait.
For what, I wasn’t quite sure.
“I don’t know Allie, this place is fancy.”
We had a table that overlooked the bay. A view that I would never get tired of looking at.
“Don’t worry about it. Order what you want, I told you lunch is on me. Well, it’s on Johnny but we won’t tell him that.”
“Are you sure? A wedge salad alone is twelve dollars.”
I looked at the girl sitting across the table from me. Although we are close in age, it seemed as if years or experiences separated us.
“Sarah, this is a work lunch.”
As Sarah was looking over the menu, her face cringing after the turn of each page, I looked around. This was place was definitely different. From the looks of it, the clientele consisted of suburban housewives who decided to get sloshed on their monthly PTA meetups and the occasional businessman who was trying to snag the latest client. Hell, take them to a strip club, that is pretty much a guarantee of getting the job.
“Okay…and explain to me what kind of work lunch this is again?”
“Hello, welcome to The Bay, my name is David and I will be your server on this fine afternoon, may I take your order?”
I could not help but wonder how many times good ol David had to spout that same opening lines throughout his shift.
“I’ll have a glass of ice water and the house salad with thousand island dressing on the side, please.”
Of course, she will.
“And for you Miss?”
“I’ll have a scotch and soda, the prime rib, and go ahead and bring us the scallops as an appetizer. Oh and bring her a blue cheese margarita.”
“Oh, umm, thank you but I do not care for blue cheese.”
“David, why don’t you surprise us, bring her a margarita. Anything without blue cheese or olives.”
Unsure of himself, David walked away, leaving us with a fake smile plastered on his face.
“So the thing is, we need a new vendor. Once a month, Johnny and I usually find a new place, get a feel for their business, the menu, things like that, then if the opportunity arises, we find the vendor, who will usually be doing deliveries by the back door.”
“That sounds, complicated.”
“Oh, it is, one time I had to sleep with the vendor to get him to come over to us.”
You would have thought this girl had seen a ghost, wide eyes, full of innocence.
“You had to do what?!?”
“Relax Sarah, I’m kidding.”
I was on my second scotch and soda. Sarah had barely touched her chocolate infused margarita. Naturally.
Between drinks and lunch, conversation flowed with both a natural and awkward flow.
“So what’s your story? You moved here from Iowa? Idaho? One of those small towns, you met whats-his-face online right?”
“Eric. I did, we met on a dating site, corresponded for some time. He wanted me to move out here, and to be honest, there really wasn’t anything keeping me at home.”
“No family or anything? That’s quite a change.”
“Well, I never knew my dad, and my mom passed away a year ago. I was trying to maintain the house, and it just got to be too much. I had to sell. It was time for a change.”
David brought us the check. I whipped out Johnny’s debit card and left the vinyl folder on the side of the table.
“You doing okay out here? Things going well for you?”
Sarah was gathering her purse, she stood up, taking her hands while wiping away the invisible wrinkles on her skirt.
“Oh yeah, it’s great. I love Fishermans Wharf, it’s my favorite place to escape. The bar is great, I bring in some pretty decent tips, and…”
Slowly we made our way to the exit.
“Yeah, how about Eric, you guys good? I can imagine the transition from an online relationship to a here and now relationship takes some adjustment.”
As we walked passed the bar, I noticed a tall, somewhat attractive, big, like wide receiver big, guy at the bar. He looked to be late twenties. Hell if I know, you know what they say “black don’t crack” or whatever ridiculousness saying it is. He was looking for a job or something. As soon as Sarah and I made it outside, I had a thought and pulled her to the side.
“What are you doing?”
“We are waiting, so go ahead, you were telling me about Eric.”
“Who are we waiting for? I sort of need to get home before my shift starts. Eric is great. He loves me, he treats me good. He is kind of controlling but that never last long. I need to bring him around more, you guys would really like him. Well, you would, I do not think Johnny likes anyone, but…”
Just then the stranger from the bar, the wide receiver look-alike came out the entrance.
“Hold that thought!”
I left a bewildered Sarah as I called out to the stranger.
“Excuse me. Hey….excuse me, you, black guy, hello!”
Slowly he turns around with a quizzical look on his face. I turn back to motion to Sarah “one second.” Sarah looks mortified.
“Hey, my name is Allie, I could not help but overhear you are looking for a job?”
“Did you just call me “black guy?”
“Yeah, I did, after I said “excuse me” and all. So, I am Allie and like I said…”
“You don’t think hollering “black guy” could be misconstrued as maybe racist?”
“Racist? No, why? Did you?”
“Let me say this, the only other time in my life I was called out as “hey black guy” was when I was in the seventh grade and got jumped on my way home from school.”
Oh, Jesus Christ, this is not going as planned. I reached into my purse for a smoke.
“Well, you are black and you are a guy so I was just trying to get your attention, that’s all.”
“What did you say your name was? Ashley, Amanda, whatever, do you really have to smoke here?”
“Allie. My name is Allie. Damn you’re a hard-ass.”
“Not really, but okay.”
At this point, Sarah was making her way towards me and this black guy, who was built like a wide receiver and I only say that for visual purposes.
“Allie, what’s going on?”
“Are you with her?”
The stranger gives me a look. A look of annoyance. While Sarah has a look of confusion on her face.
“I am with her, is there a problem?”
“She was trying to get my attention and did so by calling me a black guy.”
“Allie! Did you really do that?!”
“Jesus fucking Christ, what did I do wrong, he is a black and he is a guy and he ignored me when I said excuse me.”
“Are you for real right now?!”
“I am sorry sir, I apologize for my friend, she had one too many drinks at lunch and…”
What the hell is happening now?
“I had two drinks, two!”
The stranger gives me a once over, looks at Sarah.
“I hope you are driving her home.”
Oh for god sakes.
“Look you two, I did not mean anything by it. I overheard you at the bar needing a job, I work at a bar, and our bar needs some sort of bouncer so I thought I could get your attention and snag you before this place does. We do not pay much but our tips are good, Jesus that’s all I was trying to do. Way to overreact.”
The black stranger looks at Sarah.
“Is she telling the truth?”
Sarah hesitates. I could see she was slowly putting two and two together.
“She is telling the truth, although her delivery could have been better. Hi, I am Sarah, nice to meet you.”
The stranger looks at me, he looks back at Sarah, he takes ones last look at me as if he is sizing me up or something.
“She does not own the place does she?”
Sarah gives me a look. As if she was pleading with her eyes for me to not say another word.
“No, she does not own the place.”
The stranger reaches his hand out to Sarah while turning his back to me.
“I’m DeAndre. Nice to meet you. I don’t know about her, but yeah, nice to meet you.”