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The Barmaid Blog™: Life for a 30-something Manhattan Barmaid


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It's late afternoon Sunday, and I'm on my way to the Bar for a 6-to-2 shift when the sky seems to get nine shades darker in about two minutes. There was no rain in the forecast, I think to myself, and then I think, I didn't actually look at the forecast. I was eating bagels, drinking mimosas, and watching the first few innings of the Yankees-Reds game with my roommates Cassie and Jill, and it had been a few weeks since our last Sunday brunch together, so we were having a blast catching up and laughing. It got late enough that I just grabbed my bag and headed out.

I just grabbed my bag. Shit. I did laundry yesterday. I unzip the bag, and I've got everything I'm supposed to - two granola bars, a bottle of water, tampons, condoms, spare phone charger, makeup... everything, that is, except the extra shirt I always bring with me to every single shift. And right at the same moment I realize I'm already two-thirds of the way to the Bar and I'll be late if I turn back to go home, the rain starts.

The rain doesn't have the courtesy to start slowly - no, it's one of those bizarre summer sunshowers that behaves as if a Forest Service firefighting plane has passed overhead and dumped a whole lake, water-skiers and all, right on Manhattan. I start running, and within a couple of blocks I start to wish I've been getting more exercise. Plus my sandals are absorbing water even faster than my clothing, and soon it's like running in snowshoes. I round a corner, sidestep to dodge an enormous golf umbrella in my path, and lose my footing.

I'm face-down on the sidewalk, there's water and hair in my eyes, and - and I can't breathe. Somebody helps me sit up, and I see he's wearing one of those royal blue Ready, Willing and Able shirts - the ex-convicts and post-rehab guys who make a living doing most of the basic, street-level trash collection in the city. He's soaking wet, like me, but I'm the only one who can't breathe. I grab his arm and squeeze.

"Easy, girl, you got the wind knocked out of you. Don't panic, it'll come back in a second. Think about something happy." I can't breathe. I know my lungs are still there. Something happy... I'm moving in with my girlfriend. I'm going to save a lot of money, get a lot more sleep, and have a lot more sex. Jason Giambi still looks ridiculous with a moustache. I gasp, breathe in about seventeen gallons of air, and start coughing all over the sidewalk. My benefactor smiles, and his wet skin shines where his cheeks turn up. "There you go," he says, and helps me up. He seems eight feet tall, and when I hug him, I nearly disappear.

"Thank you," I say, and start back on my way, at a walk this time. I'm already soaked, so there's no point in trying to outrun it anymore.

"Thank you, ma'am," he says.

I arrive at the Bar soaking wet, and the air conditioning hits me like I've climbed into a meat freezer. It's wonderful, but I know it won't be for long, so I head straight for the ladies' room, where I do my best to dry myself off. My hair, face, and arms are easy enough, but there's not much to be done about my clothing. I wring out my tank top as much as I can, but after I put it back on, I look in the mirror, and it hasn't helped much. Between the wet bra and tank, and the air conditioning, I'm just probably going to look - well, perky - for the rest of the evening. Even worse, the tank is kind of dirty, though I have a little hope that the Bar's lighting will help me get away with that. I sigh, and head out toward the front to join Cindy and Vince for some work.

The first half hour is exactly as I expected - constant staring, winks, and at least three separate customers making some version of the "it's really nipply in here" comment. True to form, Vince stays out of it, but Cindy can't help but laugh. It's not that she's enjoying my pain so much as it is she's probably glad to have the heat (or rather, the cold) off her as a side-effect of the focus being on me, and I can't blame her for that. I'm the one who forgot an umbrella and face-planted. But I can tell it's going to be a long night of eye-rolling.

The Yankees are just starting up again from their rain delay when I hear Bill shout, "Hey!" I turn just in time to see my ex-boyfriend Warren walk in with his friend Former B-List Actor. I haven't seen Warren since we broke up a year and a half ago, but if I have to see him without warning, I definitely want to look like a drowned rat.

Warren looks good. I'd forgotten how tall he is. He and I lean over the bar toward each other (well, it's mostly him doing the leaning) for a quick kiss on the cheek, and then FBA (who's much shorter) opts for a fist-bump with me instead. I draw a Weihenstephaner for Warren and mix a Jack Daniels Manhattan for FBA, and they toast me before they drink.

"Debra," Warren starts, "you look great. But listen, I, um..." He's still looking in my eyes, though with obvious effort.

"Yeah, I know. I got caught in the quick downpour, and kind of fell down a little."

Warren smiles, takes another sip, then sets his glass down and starts unbuttoning his shirt.

"No, Warren, you shouldn't do that," I say, not meaning it even a little. FBA sits there just shaking his head and laughing as his friend removes a light blue button-down to reveal a v-neck undershirt, and hands the first one to me over the bar. I slip it on and button it up about two-thirds of the way, which is just enough to make me presentable if any small children should wander in. "Thanks, that was sweet."

"I'm just surprised nobody else beat me to it." You would be, I think.

We all spend a while catching up whenever it's slow enough. FBA has been spending less time in New York and more time on the radio. Warren has mostly just been busy, but he's also been staying away because he wasn't sure how I'd feel about him coming in to drink. We didn't break up because we didn't care about each other, we just wanted different things. I assure him that he's welcome anytime, and then of course I tell him about Jenny.

"Do you think it would be weird if we all got to be friends?" Warren asks me, as Mariano Rivera is shoveling dirt on the Reds' coffin.

I take a deep breath through my nose, and I smell Warren on me. He'll always be a very sexy man, but what I feel right now as I inhale him is comfort and affection, and I smile as I start to warm up in my ex-boyfriend's shirt. "I don't think that would be weird at all."

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