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Independence Day

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Independence Day

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When I come in a little early for my 8-to-close the Wednesday right before the long holiday weekend, Jack is sitting at one of the tables along the wall instead of at the bar, and he's not alone. When he sees me, he waves me over. "Debra, I want you to meet Heather. She and I went to college together." She's very pretty, I notice as I shake her hand, and she has one of those genuine smiles that's impossible to fake. Nice going, Jack, I think to myself.

"Nice to meet you, Heather. Are you in town on vacation?"

"No, I live here - I didn't for a while, but I moved back a few years ago."

"Oh, well, great! I hope we see more of you." She grins. "I have to go clock in, do you guys need anything?"

Jack shakes his head and holds up a nearly-full glass of red wine. "This is our last round, then we're going out for some dinner, but thanks." I wave and make my way through the crowd to the back room.

When I open the door, Maya and Todd are inside, in the middle of a hug. As far as I can tell that's all it is, but when they turn and see me, I still quickly drop my bag, excuse myself, and beat a path back to the bar. Maya's not on tonight, I remember, and then I put it out of my head.

I fist-bump Vince and high-five Simone, then I start taking orders. It's a pretty decent crowd for a summer Wednesday; probably a lot of people are hightailing it out of town tomorrow to make a four-day weekend out of the July 4th holiday, so Wednesday is this week's Friday for them. A couple of times I glance over to see how Jack and Heather are doing, and they seem to be having a great time. After a short while they finish their drinks, and he leads her to the front door. It's nice to see Jack happy, God knows he deserves it.

At one point Vince is washing glasses next to me when he asks, "Debra, you were an English major in college, right?"

"Yeah, after I gave up on psychology."

"Did New Hampshire offer a class on Marxism as literature?"

"Uh, not that I recall. Like, Marxism as literature instead of as economic or political theory?"

"Yeah," he nods. "It's one of the classes I'm thinking about taking this fall when I rev up to full-time. I'm just worried the material will be so boring that I'll start slipping little puns into my papers, like, 'Dialectic materialism? But I hardly know him!' and that'll be the end of Vince Goes Back to College."

I shake my head. "You are one of the strangest guys I know, Vince."

"Thanks a lot, Superstar, but all that tells me is that you should take a long, hard look at the other guys you know." He goes out to collect more glasses.

During a relatively slow moment, Simone and I are chatting with a couple of customers about about the upcoming All-Star baseball game, and how painful it is to have twice as many Red Sox as Yankees on the American League roster, when Maya saunters up with a bag on her shoulder and a strange little smile on her face. "I just wanted to say goodbye. I'm leaving the Bar."

Simone says, "What? Where are you going?"

"Back to Ohio, believe it or not. Samantha's father offered me a job out there. New York never really felt like home to me, and even less since Sam died, so -- I guess I'm going home."

I offer my hand, and she shakes it. "Good luck, Maya - we'll miss you around here."

She grins, and lets go. "Bullshit, Debra - you won't even think about me after I walk out that door. You've never tried to make me feel welcome here, and the other girls took their cues from you. I put up with all your superiority crap for almost two years." I'm speechless. She shakes Simone's hand, brushes past Vince on his way back behind the bar without a word, and walks away. She stops just before she reaches the front door, then comes back with tears in her eyes and leans over the bar for just a few seconds as we all watch.

"By the way, your book sucks," she says, her voice cracking. Then she turns and walks out of the Bar.

"That was totally uncalled for," says Simone.

I nod. "I think that was the point."

Vince shakes his head. "Hell, I didn't even know she knew how to read."

That gets us smiling again, and I pull down three lowballs and the bottle of Macallan 18, quickly pouring a finger for each of us. "To Samantha's father," I toast, and we drink.

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