Living Out Loud: : The Thunder Rolls

A writer's life

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I'm working on a story when I receive an e-mail from my daughter canceling lunch plans again. Feeling frustrated, I don't respond back.

At my writing desk, heavy rain, lighting and thunder make me restless to turn my computer off and be someplace else. The rain lets up a little, but the thunder rolls as I leave my Eighth and Main apartment downtown and head over to Seventh Street.

While I'm dodging rain bulle

ts, I think of my daughter's e-mail. In my head, I make a note to reply to it. I look at the sky. It's still black.

I walk into Madonna's, my escape. I like the reasonable drink prices, the feel of it being a neighborhood bar and the beautiful face and smile on bartender Laura.

It's usually quiet in the late afternoons, but not today. After Laura gives me that smile and my usual vodka and tonic, I hear a loud voice down at the other end of the bar.

"Fuck off."

"You don't respect me."

"Fuck off!"

This isn't what you normally get at Madonna's. I stand up to see who's disturbing the peace. I know it's a woman, but I can't make her out very well. The person she's screaming at is a young guy sitting next to her.

Laura brings me another drink. As she does, the girl and the guy go outside to smoke a cigarette. I don't recognize the guy, but I know the girl.

A writer's life brings encounters with many different kinds of people. I've met the girl once while interviewing another person, but I also know her from visiting bars in Northern Kentucky. She's a bar-fly and is usually spacey and drunk.

On this night, she's also angry and loud. So is the thunder.

It's pouring down rain again as the girl and the guy try to light their cigarettes under the Madonna's awning. I watch the wind and rain blow around them as the girl continues to scream and yell at the man.

Lighting flashes and, in an instant, I think of my daughter's e-mail and fret about it. I finish my vodka and tonic. Laura brings me another.

The girl walks back into the bar alone. The guy she was with got fed up with her anger and has left. She's sobbing loudly.

Laura walks down to my end of the bar. I mention to her that I know the girl, and we discuss the situation and the need for her to leave. I tell Laura I think I can help.

She loans the girl the bar phone and the girl makes a call walking toward me. I hear her sobbing into the phone. When she gets off, I approach her.

"Did you call a cab?" I ask.


"I hope you called a cab," I say. "You can't be staying here."

She looks at me harshly and yells, "Why are you messing with me?"

"I'm not," I reply, "but if you don't call a cab, I'm gonna have to call the police. You're being disorderly here."

She looks at me like she wants to kill me. I tell her we have met once before and I know she lives in Northern Kentucky. This prompts more sobbing.

"I moved to Florida for two weeks," she says choking back tears. "Got my stuff in storage."

"Do you have a place to stay?"

"Yeah," she replies.

"You need to go there."

The girl's anger returns.

"Why are you messing with me?" she screams again.

"I'm walking you out of here right now," I say.

But this doesn't happen. The girl puts down Madonna's bar phone, gets up and walks out the front door. I watch her from the window. She wildly flags down a cab coming up Seventh Street.

Laura buys me a drink, and I get a hug. Others pat me on the back. I finish my vodka and tonic, and I'm starting to feel tipsy as I leave Madonna's.

The thunder rolls around me as I make my way back home. I think of the girl so unhappy, drunk and loud in the bar. She's young ­ can't be any older than my daughter, whom I haven't seen in more than a month.

I again think of that e-mail she sent me, and my heart starts to hurt. Maybe it's my fault.

Sometimes a writer's life, my life, has led to putting her off at times. It seems like I'm always working, always busy, always looking for a story. I say I can't turn it off — but maybe I won't turn it off.

The heavy rain returns, and I duck into a vacant storefront. I pull out my cell phone.

"Fuck e-mailing her," I say out loud as I punch in my daughter's phone number.

CONTACT LARRY GROSS: [email protected] Living Out Loud runs every week at and the second and fourth issues of each month in the paper.

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