“Look, do you have anything going on tonight?”
It took me a second to register what was happening. This girl, no, this woman, was actually asking me out tonight. I couldn’t believe it.
“No…” I said cautiously. “What did you have in mind?”
“Well I thought we could get a drink and actually talk. My kids go to bed around 8:30, wanna meet me across the street at 9?”
“Sure, sounds great.” I’m sure I sounded like an idiot, because I still couldn’t really comprehend what was happening.
There was a little dive bar across the street from our condo that all of the tourists frequented. I guess some of the locals came here too, but it was mainly set up for people from out of town. They had overpriced fried seafood and overpriced drinks, but it was a good place to meet and just hang out so they kept the doors open easily.
I walked in at 9:03 and saw Erin already sitting at the bar with a drink, watching the TV on the back wall absentmindedly. She was wearing a seafoam green top that was strapless, showing off her shoulders, and a pair of short jean shorts. She looked incredible, and I immediately thought again that there was no way she had given birth to those children.
I sat down on the bar stool next to her and ordered a Miller Lite. She turned to me with a sly look on her face and said “Really, you’re just going to drink beer?”
Not really knowing what that meant, I responded with “I like beer. What are you drinking?”
Wordlessly, she pushed her glass towards me and I sipped it. Unmistakably a Red Bull-vodka. I had a friend in grad school, Neil, who drank them all the time. Neil would buy a pint of vodka and two Red Bulls and finish it all before we went to a football game. Sometimes he’d add a few beers to that. One time he even got kicked out before the game started. Anyway, I always thought about him when someone drank them or when I tasted one. I wonder what he’s up to now.
“Wow. You’re trying to turn up tonight.”
“Yeah, so are you going to drink your beer or are you actually going to try to keep up?” She had that same flirty tone of voice that she had had when she asked if I was enjoying the view on the beach.
I took a long pull from the bottle and looked at the bartender, who was smiling as she was listening to us. “Give me a double Jack and coke.”
Erin smiled, really smiled this time. “That’s more like it.”
We sat and talked for I don’t know how long, several hours. We had more than a couple of drinks/shots/beers in that time. We found out a lot of things about each other. She was 28, I was 24. It turns out the kids were actually hers, and she blushed when I told her that her body didn’t show it. I told her about college and grad school, and how one day after I’ve been practicing for awhile I want a lake house and a boat. I was getting bolder and I was getting drunker. So finally I got up the nerve to ask her the question that I had been brewing on since she had first walked up to me on the beach.
“Erin, are you married?”
She looked down at her drink. She took a sip and then looked down at the ring on her finger and started turning it back and forth with her thumb.
I didn’t say anything. I just waited. There was nothing else I needed to say, she knew what questions I needed answered and if she wanted to tell me then she’d tell me. We sat there in silence for at least five minutes, and I was starting to consider closing out my tab and going home when she spoke again.
“Yes, I’m married. But we don’t love each other anymore.”
I looked at her to show I was listening, but didn’t say anything.
“We got married too early. I got pregnant with Trey when I was 23 and we just thought it’s what we needed to do. It was good for a couple of years. Really good actually. Then we had Anna. It seems like everything went downhill from there.”
“I don’t really know the answer to that, Seth.” She was getting upset now, and I was almost sorry that I had brought it up. I had to though, I did have some sort of conscious even if I was a piece of shit.
“I mean what changed? Why did it start going downhill?”
“Danny never wanted to be a father. He wouldn’t tell you that, because I don’t think he even knows that. But he just always had himself as the first priority. He got really into his work. And he’s really successful at it. He does really well. We never lack for anything. Except actually having him around.”
“No, it’s okay. I want to get a divorce, but it’s just hard ya know?”
More silence. I got up and ordered another drink. As I turned to walk back to the table, she was there. She looked up at me and I really saw her for the first time. A mother, essentially a single mother, who did the best she could. At the same time, a young woman who didn’t deserve the responsibilities she had. She deserved to still have her own life. And tonight, that’s what she had.
As I looked down at her, she reached up and grabbed the back of my head gently. She stood on her tiptoes and I leaned down to kiss her, wrapping my arm around her waist and pulling her into my body.
“Do you want to come back with me tonight?”
Her eyes never left mine. “Yes.”