* * *
Alicia took such a hard swallow of gin, she had a brief fear that she had maybe swallowed an ice cube. Jeff’s story was gruesome and intriguing and probably the wrong opening gambit for a date set up through an online network, but there it was and there was Jeff, and gee that was honest.
More honest was that Alicia’s fantasies took over and she started to daydream about her ex. What ways could she have killed him? Could she come up with something so that the murder could sneak past Jeff? Wait, wait, wait. Could she get Jeff to do it? Because he’d know how.
She kind of shook herself awake. Jeff’s words broke the cloud.
“That’s usually the movie people start thinking of when I tell them something like that,” Jeff said.
“Double Indemnity. The one with the dad from that TV show, My Three Sons, and he’s an insurance salesman who tries to kill his mistress’ husband because he thinks he knows all the angles.”
Alicia caught the bartender’s attention. When they made eye contact, she dipped her gaze to her empty glass. She was going to need another one.
“I’ve never seen it,” she said.
“You should. It’s good. And sorry. That was presumptuous. I shouldn’t assume my date is automatically thinking about murder because I started talking about murder.”
The drink came.
“That’s all right,” Alicia said. “I mean, if you get it a lot, you get it a lot. You know, I would probably spend the whole night waiting for you to ask about Mad Men.”
Jeff perked up, but it seemed only half serious. “Is that what it’s like in your office?”
“We smoke more.”
He laughed. “Brilliant.”
Enter the awkward pause. Alicia kind of hoped he had thought about asking her about Mad Men--it’s all anyone thought of when she said she worked in advertising--because she wouldn’t have to feel bad about immediately wondering if Jeff would be a hit man.
Not that she really wanted the ex dead. The relationship ending had just left her feeling powerless, like her feelings on any given subject carried no weight, and if she could snuff out his life and not get caught, that would be like having the ultimate power. There was nothing he could do about that. He’d be dead!
And there he was, inserting himself into the situation again. So much for leaving that bag at home.
“Dare I ask where you keep drifting off to?”
This told her Jeff must be kind. She must have been being obvious. He could have handled her distraction in far less classy ways.
“Nowhere,” she covered. “I’m just not always that good at thinking of the next thing to say.”
“Gotcha.” He finished the last of his drink, and by way of ordering the next, twirled his finger in the air, and then pointed down at his empty glass, making stabbing motions. Then he winked when he knew the bartender had gotten the message, making a loud click with his tongue. “I come here all the time,” he explained.
“I see. You have a code.”
“My last name is Morse, after all.”
“It is, isn’t it?”
“Dot dot dash.”
“Have you ever wondered if people truly do run out of things to say to one another?” she asked him.
“Like how so?”
“I mean, over time. Like couples. Do they ever really hit that point where they’ve said it all, and the years just become...awkward.”
“I don’t know. I see a lot of situations where maybe they needed to. Like maybe they needed to shut up. Evolution tries to help us out. You know, that whole thing of how we start to lose the frequency in our hearing attuned to the person we hear talking the most.”
“Is that true? Or is that some kind of marriage old wive’s tale? I’ve never known.”
“You mean like a bogey man warning for long-term spouses?”
“More like a promise that things will get better.” She giggled a little. “Saying that things might be awful right now, but eventually, you won’t even hear what the other person is saying, so peace can come.”
This time he laughed loud, throwing his head back, his mouth open wide. “That’s some dark stuff right there.”
“Your profile didn’t suggest you were a cynic.”
Alicia contemplated the way the ice cubs moved in her glass when she stirred the liquor. “I don’t think that I am,” she said. “Curious, more like. That was a legitimate question in search of a legitimate answer. I could be swayed that it means something else, that we have that happen.”
Jeff took a drink and cleared his throat. “Here’s where I reveal I’m the cynic, then. I think if you like each other’s company long enough to use the parts of your eardrum that hears the other person so much that those parts die, then life really is a mean joke. It’s a selfish older sibling that can’t stand any of its youngers having a good time, and so it takes the toys away.”
“Bartender, do you have a bell to ring? This gentleman wins!”
They both started laughing. A shared moment. The first real one.
* * *
Not sure if I will pick this up further. The last two days, my warm-up has actually been doing commissions. But conceivably I could keep writing these two bantering back and forth for a very long time.
Current Soundtrack: Best Coast, "Why I Cry;" Jay-Z and Kanye West, "Murder to Excellence"
(c) 2012 Jamie S. Rich