It’s late and I’m one of the last five or six customers so the manager steps out from the kitchen and comes up to the bar and points at one of the two bar tenders and asks if she wants to go home. She says sure so he tells her goodnight and disappears back into the kitchen. She spends the next fifteen minutes or so going about her sidework while I scribble scribble in my notebook and when she’s finally done, clocked out, she comes ’round and sits with me, sighing. She piles her apron onto the bar and orders a beer, something bright and orange and bubbly. It comes in a snifter.
She nudges my shoulder with hers. “What are you writing?”
I tell her what I’m writing and ask about her job. “How long have you been here?”
She says she’s worked here a little over a year but that she’s worked at her other job for two years.
“What’s your other job?”
She does a thing with her shoulders and sips her beer and says, “Let’s talk about yours.”
“Is it that bad?”
“Nooo,” she’s recoiling a little, brow perked, contrite. “I love that job. That job’s like my calling.”
I nod. “OK.” Sip my beer.
There’s a silence and she sips her own.
“…cuz you did a thing there with your shoulders like you didn’t like it.”
“Yeah,” she nods, then shakes her head, “that’s not what I meant.”
“That’s cool,” I shrug. “We don’t have to talk about it.”
She sways on her stool, winces. “Some people just…feel really strongly about it.”
“About your other job?”
She nods, drinking.
I think for a minute. “Is it a sex thing?”
She balks. “NO.”
I nod. “Do you do abortions?”
She leans away, laughing, tossing her hair. “Lookitchur little imagination go.”
“I’m just tryna think: what’s a job people might judge you for–“
“I’m not a prostitute or an abortion doctor, no.”
I raise my glass, “Not to disparage those who are.”
“Any other guesses?”
“Um.” I’m thinking, sipping, then lower my glass and say, “IRS? Big tobacco…?”
She’s shaking her head, laughing, looks up at the TV and brings the snifter up to like her chin like she’s about to take a sip but then doesn’t. “I do wanna talk my other job, incidentally–“
“Ya don’t say!”
“–I’m just afraid, though, that you won’t wanna talk to me once I tell you what it is.”
“You wanna ask me some stuff, then? See if I’m the kinda person who’d be offended?”
Now she drops her smile. “OK. Sure.” Squints at me. “Do you have, like, causes?”
“Like do you have anything that you’d go out and protest, or sign a petition…”
I think about it. “Legalizing weed?”
She shakes her head. “Something anti, something you’re against.”
I think some more. Take a long sip.
She does the same, watching me.
I set my glass down carefully in the little ring of moisture. “Do you work for a Trump thing?”
She cocks a brow. “What, you don’t like Trump?”
“No come on, really, you’ve gotta have some kinda cause.”
“I don’t have any kinda cause.”
“OK maybe ‘cause‘ is a strong word but there’s gotta be something you get, like, argumentative about. Animal rights or something. Something you’re an activist about.”
I’m shaking my head, looking into my glass. Thinking. Then shrugging. “If there was a second Prohibition, yeah, I’d march, but right now?”
She acts like she doesn’t believe me but obviously this is all just a dance, and I figure she notices I’m drinking kinda urgently and nearing the bottom of my glass, so eventually she rolls her eyes and drops her shoulders. “Fine.” She flags the bar tender and points at my pint for a refill. Flicks her wrist to say it’s on the house.
She looks at me. Earnest.
“You sure you won’t get mad?”
I’m watching my free pint get poured and my energy spikes. “Yeah no lemme hear it.”
She takes another bracing sigh. Puts a hand on my wrist.
“I train dolphins at Sea World.”