Jerome, a bald man, stomped out his cigarette and shook his head outside the red-painted bar. The bastard stole my chick, he thought to himself, staring in through the window at the girl, who moments earlier had touched his chest.
Inside, a blonde girl was making noise and everyone was watching.
“You better not fucking kill me,” she said to a man beside her. She wore a green hat, and shook her little fist in a show of strength that was bigger than her petite body, but entirely believable.
“Look at me,” the man said. He wore blue jeans, a darker-blue linen jacket. His pocketed eyes looked to be about 40, the rest of him, 28.
“You’ve got a lot better chance with me than that big oaf over there.”
The sad-eyed man gestured toward the bar man, a towering ball of muscle, thick as concrete. The bar man shrugged foolishly, not understanding what was said. He didn’t speak English.
Her phone rang. She answered it.
“Hullloh…” she said, sounding as if she had no idea who it was. She knew the man beside her was watching. She spoke up.
“You don’t want to know where I am. Someplace you really don’t want to have any idea about.”
Somewhere on the other side of Montmartre, a man in a white-collar shirt, the sleeves messily rolled up to his elbows, was yelling into a phone. He had a big brass ring on, and hairy arms. On the kitchen counter was a glass of whiskey. The ice had melted almost all the way.
“What the hell are you thinking. You’ll wind up dead somewhere,” said the man, dropping the “h” in hell with his French accent.
“Don’t worry. I can take care of myself,” she said.
“You’re drunk. You don’t know what you’re doing.”
“I can take care of myself, just like I did before you, just like I’ll do now,” she said. The man in the blue jacket at the bar listened intently as he puffed on an electronic pipe.
“Where the hell you going to go, then eh? What the hell are you thinking?”
“What am I thinking? I’m thinking how the fuck you couldn’t give me the key to my apartment tonight. I’m thinking now I got to find a fucking couch because I couldn’t get into my own goddamn apartment.”
“I told you, why. I was worried about you. I am worried about you.“
“?—?Look, I’m gonna go.”
“I’m just trying to make sure you don’t do anything crazy.”
“I’ll take care of myself.”
She put her gold-cased iPhone back into her purse. She asked the bar man for a piece of paper. She wrote out a few lines on it. She called over the bar man, she said: “Écoute,” pulling out the last “e” sound, “Écoute. If this guy over here kills me tonight you tell the cops this is me, OK?”
The bar man looked confused.
“So you’re going with him?”
* * *
Jacques, the French Man in the white-collar shirt, heard the phone go dead and continued to listen to the void. His eyes focused on the melting ice in his whiskey glass. But all he could see was Meredith, dressed in the tight white shirt, the leather pants, the hat, her tits showing, Meredith drunk and careless and out for the night, who knows where.
But you idiot, this is what you wanted. He thought of the other, Angela, and it made no difference.
He couldn’t settle his rage. Immediately he texted her. Then texted her again. Fast texts, written like a Glenn Gould phrase, two soaring thumbs eliminating the space between air and phone in trillibous, maniacal slashes.
The messages received but no movement on the other end. No little cloud of ellipsis appearing to settle his frustration.
The girl gone and certainly ignoring him. After three, maybe four more attempts, to call, to text, he put down his phone, grabbed the whiskey and slumped into the living room sofa. He would look at the photos on the wall of the blonde and not understand why her smile mattered so much to him now, when not hours earlier she was only an obstacle, only a thing in the way of his deepest desires and idea of purpose. Of his cock, of his faded youth.
His phone rang. In two or three quick leaps he found himself at the kitchen bar. His heart skipped. And then just as quickly, when he saw who was calling, his heart stopped all together. He nearly crushed the phone in his grip.
Nestled in a boat-sized room with no bathroom, no kitchen, just a wall of classic English literature, a girl with a great tan, long legs and Hollywood-sized lips spoke into the phone while staring at herself in the make up mirror.
“Baby, baby, baby. Oh my baby. Why haven’t you texted yet?”
“Look, not a good time.”
“Did you do it?” The girl looked at herself. She bit her lip.
He paused, then hiccupped up a measly affirmative.
“Well that’s great, isn’t it? It’s great. How did she take it? Isn’t she dying? What happened? Oh poor, thing, I hope she didn’t take it all too bad. What did she say?”
“Look,” the man said. “She’s?—?I don’t know where she is. She took off. She was talking about going to your apartment?—?“
“Oh god,” the girl said, staring away from her reflection a half second. “She isn’t?—?but I’m not supposed to be in Paris.”
“Well don’t worry. She didn’t get the keys.”
The man was staring at his wedding ring. He had forgotten who he was speaking to, as his head was still swimming in the images of his wife, now full of hatred, alone and fueled for vengeance in Paris.
“I just hope she doesn’t fuck some weirdo.”
Angela, the girl on the phone, cleared her throat.
“Well what does it matter, now, handsome? She’s gonna do whatever she does. It’s you and me now, isn’t it honey?”
Jacques told her quietly he had to go and hung up before the girl could enter her objection. As he began to text, again, and for the first of many more times that sleepless evening, the girl with the big lips in a boat-sized room nearly shattered the make up mirror.
“That bitch,” she thought to herself. “Will I ever win?”