(black.stilettos Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House – New Orleans, LA. 2010)

The Rest of the Story

            Late July.  The city is simply overrun with twenty- and thirty-year olds, drinks in hand, floating from party to party like Gatsby’s cohort.  It’s Tales of the Cocktail, supposedly the largest and most important festival of the spirits industry, an annual tradition in New Orleans to lift the low tide of summer.  All week, I’ve been Uber-driving bartenders and liquor reps, promoters and owners, as they flit from one alcohol-soaked event to the next, taking turns working and partying in one continuous sleepless rotation.

            Two especially young attendees jump in my car, leaving a sponsored big-name party, headed for one of the grand old bars of Bourbon Street, the Old Absinthe House.  They barely pay attention to me as I try to confirm their name.  They are wrapped in a conversation already in progress.

            “So then what did you do?”

            “You are never going to believe it.  I mean, really, when I get to the end, you’re not going to believe this whole story!”

            “Well hurry it up, then!  What happened next?”

            “So he’s been sitting at the bar all night, right?  Talking about this other girl he likes and how she rejected him but he thinks that she really likes him, but she’s just playing hard to get, so he keeps asking.  I mean, really, keeps asking and asking.  Like fifty times in a year or something.  Which does not really sound like hard-to-get to me?  It’s just like not-getting-it, you know?”

            “Yeah, I feel like hard-to-get is just an excuse we make up to keep trying.”

            “Right?!  Exactly.  And he’s doing some really over-the-top stuff too.  I mean, you know, like those prom-posals that kids do in high school nowadays?  Like they do more to ask someone out to the dance than they would for a wedding proposal.  That kind of thing.  Like hiding by her work and surprising her or sending flowers every hour on the hour, that sort of stuff.  Incredible.  And you know, she’s going to really impressive lengths to make it seem like she is not interested.  At least, that’s what it seems to me.  Maybe I’m just reading between the lines.”

            “How so?”

            “I mean, like, when I hear the words ‘restraining order,’ I take that seriously.  Right?  Don’t you?”

            “Uh, yeah.”

            “Okay, then.  In your experience, is there ever really a way to make a joke out of restraining orders?”

            “Like, maybe if you say it once, right?  Or maybe twice in the same conversation.  Like you can raise your eyebrows on a date and go ‘gosh, you want to spend so much time with me, I might have to get a restraining order.’  Wink wink, nudge nudge, that kind of a thing.  But that’s different than three or four times in a row, for different incidents.  Right?  Don’t you think?”

            “Yes.  Yes, definitely.  How are you still friends with this guy?”

            “Well I haven’t gotten to the good part yet!  Just wait.  And I did like him for a while?”

            “Do you still?”

            “I don’t… know?  It’s complicated!  Just wait till the end of the story, okay?  Jeez.  Let me tell it.”

            “Well if it didn’t take you so long.”

            “If you didn’t interrupt so much!”

            They both laugh and he brushes at her shoulder, playfully.

            “So she’s talking about restraining order, blah blah blah, cops, blah blah blah…”

            “Like you do.”

            “Exactly, yes, like you do.  And he’s starting to get just a little bit worried that she might mean it.  Like he’s trying to pull back, only call every other day or something, play it real cool.  And he hopes that’ll work, that she’ll see he’s giving her space and making an effort.”

            “Right, right.”

            “And then, he just runs into her at a coffee shop.  Totally innocent, her day off, like actually just runs into her out of the blue.”

            “So he says.”

            “No, really, you should see the look on his face when he’s saying this.  Like he was thinking about his next text while he was there and then she’s like two people in front of him in line.  And he’s having to figure out how to try to get away from the scene or if he can without attracting attention.  And then…”

            We have arrived and I’ve pulled up to the curb just shy of Bourbon Street and they’ve left my car and I sit there, only just realizing that I am of the car and not of their conversation and will never get to hear the rest of the story.  Their loud bubbly voices, exclamatory and bright, slowly fade as they bound up the sidewalk and into the bar.

Storey Clayton @StoreyClayton is a current MFA candidate in Creative Writing at West Virginia University. He’s worked as a youth counselor, debate coach, strategic analyst, development director, rideshare driver, and poker player. His work is forthcoming in Typehouse Literary Magazine, The Bookends Review, and Barely South Review and recently appeared in Blood & Bourbon, Riggwelter, Pilcrow & Dagger, Spitfire, Eunoia Review, and Montana Mouthful. You can learn more about Storey at his personal website, The Blue Pyramid (bluepyramid.org).