From “Old Town”

I found this fiery, laughing woman at the pub in Old Town Alexandria. She was thumping her foot in time with some Irish jig being played by a man who looks like your grandfather, if you’re Irish. The songs that came before and after the one that was playing when I noticed this woman sounded the same to me, but everyone else in the darkened basement pub seemed able to differentiate. Maybe the decent Virginian diners upstairs on the restaurant floor couldn’t, but the people down there could. They knew when to pound their beer steins on the knotted and polished wood table tops, when to holler out Daddy-O.  She saw me watching her and tugged the left corner of her mouth up slightly, as if to forgive me for not being from a place like this. People played silverware on their limbs and sang the songs inherited through genetics or environment or circumstances unknown to me.

She turned her face in profile to me, her rusty hair shaking from the bouncing of her foot. I waited through the next song, thinking what kind of beer she would want. I almost settled on a Murphy’s stout, but then decided it was too obvious, so I asked the bartender for two Sam Summer draughts. In the time it took him to pull hot glasses from the dishwasher spouting out steam and chemicals, I had reconsidered the whole plan. I should just drink both beers and go back to the hotel. Kate and her cucumber or avocado or something else green and gross mask got in my head. She was obsessed with staying young and it made me feel old. I had an early flight in the morning and midnight was coming fast. But the fire maiden had different plans for me.

As the bartender set down the drinks, barely looking at me around his bulbous nose, she squeezed between me and the man on the next stool.

“What are you doing here in that suit, Mister Dickey Dazzler?” she asked, picking up the glass closest to her and tapping it against the other before taking a long drink.

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