The location of Graham Central Station made it a popular nightspot for the local college kids as well as business travelers. Most of the business people down here are affiliated with the oil field. Every now and then we get visitors from other industries. I chose it because it wasn’t exactly in my backyard. A nugget of wisdom my father shared with me long ago in one of his drunken states: If you’re going to play, never do it in your backyard. Of course, I was quite young at the time and had no idea what he was talking about. My young mind pictured a swing-set and a sandbox. Why would the neighbors care if I were playing outside on such equipment?
It’s funny the things that stick with you. The older I got the more I understood what he was talking about. And the sicker it made me. Because at one time he was one of those traveling businessmen for the oil industry. What he did in other people’s backyards, I’ll never know. Nor do I want to.
So I walk in to Graham’s on a Saturday night. It’s a huge place, broken up into several different areas. There’s the dance area for the kids dripping with hormones and alcohol; a lethal combination. I paused and watched the courting and mating rituals for a few moments. Some things never change. Then there’s the gay area. Out of curiosity I wandered over for a few moments, just to see what was going on. Not my scene at all. Next we have the country and western area. It’s filled with overweight drugstore cowboys complete with the hat and boots. I scanned the area quickly to see if anyone I knew happened to be there. Not tonight. Okay. So I make my way to my target area. It’s more relaxed, the music is a bit softer, and people my age hang out there. I’m not sure what area to label it…maybe the ‘aging and leftover rockers’ area. I pull myself up to the bar and order straight up 7 up. I really feel like drinking, but, since I’m out of designated drivers tonight, I decide to keep it clean.
The bartender had barely enough cloth on her body to call it clothes. She was ultra-sweet and overly-friendly with enough makeup on for four women. She could have been my kid. When did bartenders get to be so young? I pulled out a Marlboro and nursed on my virgin drink for a while, brooding.
I don’t know how much time passed. I became unaware of my surroundings, so when he lightly tapped me on the shoulder I nearly fell off my barstool.
“I’m so sorry,” he said while slipping on to the barstool next to me. “I really didn’t mean to startle you so.”
His voice was deep and as smooth as oil on glass. He was fairly good looking, dark, graying hair cropped closely, a small, neatly trimmed mustache and dark green eyes. He had on an expensive dark brown suit complete with a richly colorful tie. He looked to be in his mid-forties. The chain around his neck and the diamond on his right hand told me he had a bit of pocket change.
I’d decided I wasn’t really in the mood for company. Especially male company, given what I’d just gone through. He seemed pleasant enough and certainly was pleasing to the eyes. Tonight, however, just wasn’t my night for the flirting game. Besides, I was in a long-term marriage. However rocky it was at this time, I still made those vows.
“No problem.” I granted him a small smile and turned back to my 7 up, giving off the ‘leave me alone’ vibes.
He didn’t take the hint. Or wouldn’t take no.
“You know, those cigarettes will kill you,” he offered in a polite conversational tone.
I turned back to him. “Yeah. And so can talking to strangers in bars.” There. Maybe he’d leave me alone now.
No chance. “True. But I hardly think a friendly little conversation with a pretty lady is going to get me killed.”
I rolled my eyes. Why can’t guys come up with something original?
When I didn’t answer him he leaned over a bit closer. Not enough to invade my personal space, but he was getting mighty close. “Are you solo tonight?”
I noticed a slight Texan accent in his voice. I knew he was some sort of businessman, now I had his number pegged.
“Yes, thank you. And I’m aiming to keep it that way.” This time I didn’t smile.
“That’s going to be difficult for you.”
He got my interest. I turned around to inquire “Why?”
“Because those jeans and that blouse really show off your assets. You’re quite lovely.”
I drew a deep breath. “You’re going to have to come up with something better than that if you’re on a fishing expedition.”
He seemed disappointed. “Oh. Not working for you?”
The expression on my face answered his question.
“I’m new at this, it’s been a while…” his voice trailed off.
“Let me guess. You’ve just divorced your wife, you have a couple of kids you miss dearly, and you’re feeling lonely at the moment,” I offered.
He seemed genuinely surprised. So much so that I actually began to feel sorry for him. “Wow.” He grabbed his drink and took a deep sip. “I…uh…”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard it all before. Now…uh…”
“Terry. Why don’t you be a good little business boy and run along now. I’m sure there’s some female in here who would love your company.” I thought for sure that would run him off.
He made no move to leave. I seemed to have really shaken him with my quick analysis. Damn. I really wanted to be by myself tonight so that if I felt like drinking myself into oblivion no one else would witness how pitiful I would get.
I watched as he ordered another drink. A Shuddering Orgasm, with Amaretto, Kahlua, and Bailey’s Irish Cream. Interesting choice. He took a few sips and again looked my way.
“You still here?”
“What can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment. Can I order you a drink?”
“Thanks. But I can get my own drinks.” I wasn’t about to inform him that alcohol had yet to pass my lips this evening. I studied him even further. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but very out of place and uncomfortable. “Why are you still here?”
“You interest me. I’d like to know your name, if you’re willing to give that to me.”
I thought about it. What harm would it do? Besides, if we were going to continue this conversation, it was probably for the best. I decided to give him my nickname. “My friends call me Randi.”
“Can I be your friend, Randi?”
I shook my head and rolled my eyes. I couldn’t help but laugh. “We don’t even know each other!”
Terry smiled at that. “I am really rotten at this. You are correct about the divorce and the kids. I haven’t been out in twenty years. All I’m looking for is some decent conversation, and you have been able to provide that so far. Your eyes are a bonus…so beautiful.”
I relaxed. That was the first honest thing Terry said. Now I had to figure out whether or not I wanted to continue this…whatever we were doing…was it a real conversation? I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and offered my right hand to him. “Nice to meet you, Terry. What part of Texas are you from?”
He raised his eyebrows in surprise and accepted my handshake. “Wow. I thought I’d ditched the accent long ago. That’s what gave me away, isn’t it?”
“Terry, your whole self gave you away.”
This made him laugh. “I’m from Deer Park, right outside of Houston.” His face suddenly seemed quite sad.
“Is that where the wife and kids are?”
“Ex. And yes. Nine and fourteen.”
“Ah. Boys, girls, mixture?”
“That’s tough. You must miss them terribly.”
“I get to seem them twice a week when I’m home.”
“Which sounds like is not too often.”
“Right. I do a lot of traveling for my company. All over the world, in fact.”
I fired up another Marlboro, took a deep drag, then put it down and finished my drink. “Interesting.” I didn’t even bother to look at him again. My thoughts were on my keys. As to whether or not I should use them to get myself back to my home. My safety haven.
“You have kids, Randi?” That smooth voice again. No wonder he was a salesman.
“Three. All girls. Teen-agers.” This time I turned to look at him again. He was looking at my hand. My left hand. “Two years divorced.” He didn’t need to know about the silver band sitting in the glove compartment in my truck. The one I’d taken off six months ago. The one I never wanted to wear again, given what my husband had done to me.
“Ah. Boy. I’m really that obvious, aren’t I?”
I stubbed out my cigarette and grabbed my purse. “Look, Terry, you seem to be a nice enough guy. But I’m just not in the mood for company tonight.”
He stood up. All six feet four inches of him. He was handsome. “Randi, you’re the first decent conversationalist I’ve met since…since…”
“The last time you went out drinking?” I smiled. “Can you really say we’re having much of a conversation?”
“No. I realize you’re trying to shake me off. You’re just…so interesting…and your eyes. I see much sadness there. I also see a lot of fierceness and beauty. You are one interesting woman.”
I’d had enough. Where in hell had this guy gotten his pickup lines? I thought about offering him some crackers for all the cheese he was dishing out, but kept my mouth shut. “Nice to meet you, Terry. Maybe we’ll bump into each other again sometime.”
“Wait!” He pulled a business card and an expensive ink pen out of his breast pocket. I watched as he jotted a number down on the back of the card. “I’ll be in town for four days.”
“Oh. That LAGCOE conference at the Cajun Dome?” I made no move to accept the card.
“Yeah. I’m staying at the Hilton. Just in case you want to talk again.” He offered me the card.
I thought about it. What was to stop me from accepting it then dumping it in the garbage can outside? He’d never know. I reached for it.
“I hope it doesn’t end up in the garbage can outside.”
It was my turn to look up at him in surprise. “Uhmm…”
“You sure you don’t want another drink?”
Ok. So this time he had my interest. Genuine interest. I put my purse back on the bar and sat on the stool again. “Why not? I’ve got some time.” I signaled the bartender for another.
A six pack of 7up later Terry and I were trading stories and laughing like we were old friends. I kept telling myself the entire time to leave, get out, go before something happens. He was getting to be a little too interesting to me. The way his eyes twinkled when he smiled, the way he threw back his head when he laughed from the belly, the way that suit hugged his well formed body, the loosened tie around his neck…the entire package was becoming very enticing.
Alcohol had yet to touch my lips, but my thoughts were going straight to the naughty side. It had been a while for me, too. The last time was…that night…the night I so desperately wanted to burn out of my memory…the night that stayed with me every moment of every day since. I became annoyed with my body. My reactions were irritating me; I didn’t like where my thoughts were leading. I actually listened to Terry…for the most part, anyway. He had some interesting and funny stories about his travels. I shared very little about myself…hell…I didn’t need to. He was doing most of the talking.
I stubbed out yet another Marlboro and he reached for my hand. I wasn’t expecting the contact and nearly jumped out of my skin. Terry withdrew his hand as if he’d touched a hot coal. “I’m so sorry, Randi. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Mildly annoyed, I told him “Give me fair warning next time.”
“Agreed. You’ve been hurt. I can see it all over you.”
“What are you, my psyc doc now?”
“No. Just someone who’s been around the block a few times, and knows when someone’s been hurt. What did he do?”
Ok. That was way too close. To the bone, in fact. Anger flared in my eyes as I faced him. “Not that it’s any of your business.” I left it hanging.
He returned my gaze. Dark emerald green eyes, so soft, so understanding, so…deep. My anger faded as we remained locked in the stare.
“It’s okay, Terry. It’s not you.”
He leaned his head slightly to the left, unwilling to break eye contact with me. He picked up his hands, brought them within my range of vision, and then turned his palms up. I brought my hands up to meet his. He smiled softly. “Randi, you’re beautiful. And I would never hurt you.”
I rolled my eyes and smiled. “This coming from a guy I’ve known for..oh…two hours now? What if you’re some sort of serial killer, or rapist, or…” my voice trailed off.
“I have no way to prove to you that I’m not. You are not a trusting person, which is good in this day and age. All I can do is tell you I’ve been completely honest. And I hope we will meet again.”
I raised my left eyebrow. “Okay. You’ve got to leave?”
“I have to be at a meeting for 6 in the morning.”
I glanced at my watch and saw it was 1 am. “You don’t have a lot of time.”
He pulled my right hand to his lips and kissed it gently. “I hope to see you again before I leave.”
With that…he was gone.