The Towne Tavern
I grabbed Katie's hand as we headed into the Towne Tavern. The immense, wooden door swung open slowly, as if we were being introduced to the room. The bar was full of a variety of characters, the dimmed lighting softening each face's features. We grinned at each other before sauntering up to the bar. I tucked my skirt underneath as we sat down on the the tall chairs, towering over the wax sheen of the counter, over the beer stains, over 21 years of age. The worn, vintage green of the stool clashed against my yellow dress, but I couldn't mind. I flashed my hand out, already a pro. The middle aged bartender glanced over, then did a double take. “We look good.” Katie laughed into my ear. I knew we did. Tonight was my night.
He finally came over and I flashed my card-me-please smile. “What can I get you girls?” He asked, leaning over the mahogany bar.
“Just a gin and tonic, please.” Katie answered.
“A margarita.” I let the word slip out out of my mouth like a line in a play. And the bartender knew exactly what his part was.
“Can I see your ladies' I.D.s?”
I took my time slipping my hand into my purse, searching for my wallet, then pulling it into view. I let my french manicured fingers play with the zipper and reveal my I.D. I handed it over. He had already check Katie's. She had been 21 for almost two months now. The process had lost its glam. But I relished the fact that I didn't have to stress if a fake would work, or rely only on pre-gaming to go out.
“Happy birthday.” The bartender said as he passed it back to me.
“Thank you very much.” I responded.
After we got our drinks, Katie proposed a toast. “To the nights we don't remember, with the people we'll never forget. Legally!” I laughed, then sipped on my drink. First there was the slight nip of lime, then the full bite of tequila. My throat felt a current of warmth race down to my stomach; I sighed with mature delight in the drink. I looked over at Katie; she had already finished her drink.
“Refill!” She called down the bar.
“Take it easy, Katie.” I laughed as she started in on her second.
“It's your birthday! I just wanna get drunk!” I kept laughing; it was going to be a good night.
Even as I unwrapped my hand from the mug, I could feel its shape molded into my hand. I smacked the bar to get the Phil's attention. The ancient, filthy bar shook under my hand but Phil didn't even glance over. He was too wrapped up with two girls down the bar to be concerned with a regular like me. The girls didn't look like they could be day over 21. I overheard him say “Happy birthday.” How did I know.
The truth was I always knew. I had seen all types come through the Towne Tavern. The over worked business men, the 18 year old football boys thinking they were so cool getting a beer, the beautiful woman going home with a mistake of a man. I had seen countless bartenders pass through, watched the bar change owners, tasted each beer that had gone on the tap.
Finally Phil made his way down to me, a refill already in hand. “You got one more, Jerry. You know how I feel about trying to close and your head's in the toilet.” I grabbed the mug and ignored the comment. Phil sighed then moved back down to other customers. I took a long swig from the glass, but the Bud just tasted like water. As I left my hand go back intro proper position, curved around the glass, I heard the entrance bells ring.
It was another Towne regular, Larry. He spotted me, curved around the end of the bar. To anyone else, I would have been invisible. But he had seen me in that pose for 15 plus years.
“How's it going, bud?” Larry said as he slipped into the stool beside me.
“Doing well, Larry. Doing well.” My answer was of no consequence to him; he was already honing in on Phil and the prospect of his beer.
“How's Nancy?” I continued after Larry had gotten his Sam Adams.
“Oh she's good, as always. Got the girls over tonight for whatever the hell 50 year old women do when they're together. How's Mary?”
I paused, staring down into the thin layer of foam coating the bottom of my glass. I thought over the fight, the daily fight, the grab of a jacket, the drive to Towne Tavern.
“I'm doing well, Larry. Doing well.” And I motioned to Phil for my last refill of the night.