I arrive in Seattle, check in at the Days Inn and I'm feeling restless. It's pretty late at night, but I'm not ready for sleep yet. What I'm ready for is a drink.
I step off the elevator, push the lobby door open to get out to the sidewalk and look across the street. I see a long, green building that's well lit. I notice the rotating sign on top of the roof to the right. The place looks a little dumpy, but I decide to have a drink at The Hurricane Café.
When I walk in, I see, dead center, an old fashioned diner — sort of looks like "Mel's Diner" in the situation comedy Alice. To the right is a smaller room. I see a darkly lit bar.
I hear punk rock music being played from a jukebox.
It's almost deserted. There's a girl sitting on a barstool next to a young guy with short, black hair and he's wearing a motorcycle jacket. She's kissing him hard on the lips. His left hand is down into the front of her jeans and his right hand is holding a bottle of Rolling Rock.
I look away quickly, feeling embarrassed. I take a pack of Camel Lights from my shirt pocket and quickly light a cigarette.
The bartender's a young woman with her back turned to me. She's wearing tight fitting jeans. She's busy cutting limes.
"When you get a chance could I get a — "
"You look like a rum and Coke, man."
"No, but how about a vodka & tonic?"
"Don't lie to me."
She turns around and faces me. Her eyes are blue, her nose is small and she has short, dyed blonde hair. She's thin and she's wearing a plain blue shirt that's only buttoned halfway up.
"If you insist on a vodka and tonic, I guess I don't have any choice, do I?" she says without smiling.
I watch her fix the drink and, as she does, she eyeballs the girl and the guy making out a few barstools down from me.
"I guess I should stop them," she says as she puts the drink in front of me. "But I don't care if you don't."
"They seem to be having a good time," I say, trying to be funny.
"She loves him, I know that, but it's no good, ya know? Once he gets to fuck her a few times, he'll be gone."
She looks at me and finally smiles. "You're all such liars. It's all about fucking, isn't it?"
Startled by her remark, I say, "I'm just gonna finish my drink and cigarette and leave, all right?"
"I'm sorry," she says. She leans over from the bar and kisses me on the forehead. I can't help but notice her open shirt and her breasts that are starting to fall out of it.
"I'm a total bitch tonight. The next drink is on me."
I have that next drink and a few more after that. She's not charging me for any of them. She fixes herself one, too, and I watch her go up and down the bar, cleaning out dirty ashtrays and inspecting the rows of hard liquor on shelves above the endless variety of glasses that seem to glimmer in the bar's darkness. Occasionally she looks at me and drinks from her glass. Her eyes seem to be searching me in a way that I don't understand.
The girl and the guy with the motorcycle jacket leave and we're the only two left in this place that's open all night. She fixes us both another drink, gives me mine and smiles.
"What are we doing here?" she says.
We begin to talk. Maybe it's the lateness of the hour. Maybe I've had too many vodka and tonics or maybe I'm hoping to get lucky with this young girl who has to be in her early 20s. I don't think that's the case, but I find myself smitten with her.
"My name's Jessica," she says while drinking her third rum and Coke.
"I'm Larry," I say on my fourth vodka and tonic.
"Where you from?"
"Never been to Cincinnati, never been to the Midwest at all."
"Are you from Seattle?"
"I don't consider myself from anywhere really. I've been all over the west, hung out in LA for awhile, then Portland for awhile, now I'm here. I'd like to stay for a couple years, but we'll see. I get restless and move on."
Jessica talks to me about her life in bits and pieces. She draws back when she catches herself saying too much. She's a painter — abstract — and she talks about her love for art. She says she makes just enough money to starve. That's why she bartends. She's 25 years old and had an abortion when she was 18. She hasn't talked to her parents in years.
We talk about my divorce, more than a decade ago. I tell her about my twin brother and how he spent the last five years of his life in Seattle and about how I'm drawn to come back every so often. We talk about his death. She smiles when I show excitement about the collection of short stories I'm working on.
Jessica's listening to me, really listening to me — not just waiting for me to stop talking.
"You should come back in the morning," she says as she steals yet another Camel from my pack. "We have awesome omelets, 12-egg omelets."
"12-egg omelets? I've never heard of such a thing."
"They're good, really good. We serve them with hash browns on this huge platter. Come in, I'll share one with you. I'll still be here. I'm always here."
Jessica has more rum and Cokes. I have a couple more vodka and tonics. I'm feeling drunk, but she seems fine.
She comes around from the bar and sits down on the stool to my right. She runs her fingers through my hair. I start to laugh.
"What's so funny?" she says, again kissing me on the forehead.
"I'm twice your age. I have a daughter that's only a little younger than you."
"That's what I like; maybe that's what I need," she says. "Maybe I don't need another kid to tell me things he thinks I want to here."
She suddenly seems to notice that most of her shirt is undone. She gives me a sly smile and takes my hands, leading them to her shirt so I can button it.
"You're not a young guy. Maybe I don't want a young guy, but maybe I don't want you either. But I think you're different. You seem different to me, anyway. You seem nice and unassuming. Are you a liar?
"If I have sex with you, will you tell me lies afterwards about how beautiful I am and how lucky you were to find me in this shit hole of a bar and that you'll want to be with me and take care of me forever?"
"I don't know if they would be lies. I don't know why you would want to be with me. You're young, I'm not."
"You put too much importance on something that really doesn't matter," she says, looking sad. "I'm going to lock the door for awhile."
But she doesn't lock the door. It seems like only a second after she says that, a group of people come in, several in fact, hoping to get some drinks before the clock strikes 2 a.m. bar time.
Jessica kisses me on the lips and hurries back to the bar. I go to the bathroom located in the diner section that's still deserted. I take a piss. I feel scared — scared of how I'm feeling about this young barmaid, but I want to get back to her quickly.
I go back to the bar, which is now suddenly crowded. Jessica's busy taking drink orders and making small talk with the customers. I catch her eye and she gives me a small smile. Feeling drunk and thinking that the moment has passed, I head back to the Days Inn across the street.
I catch a few hours' sleep and get up around 6. I shower and go back over to The Hurricane Café.
I don't see Jessica anywhere, but the girl who was making out with the guy in the motorcycle jacket the night before is my waitress in the dining section. I order a pot of coffee and a three-egg omelet, not a 12. It doesn't taste bad, but I'm pretty hung over.
When I go to pay my bill, I ask the young waitress if she knows when Jessica's coming back. She gives me a long stare and finally says, "Who's that?"
I go back a few more times during my stay, but I never see Jessica again.
On my last afternoon there, I take a picture of The Hurricane Café, think about my first night in Seattle and start writing this story.
But don't ask me what the point is or what lesson has been learned from all this, because I don't really know. I still find myself thinking about Jessica, wonder how she is and what she's doing. We were like two ships pasting in the night and I know it's better to just leave it at that and not imagine that we would've become friends or perhaps even something more. It's silly for me to think that somehow I could have made things better for her, that I could bring some trust into her life.
Maybe I'm an old fool. Maybe I'm dreaming. Or maybe I'm just a liar like Jessica thinks most men are.