The bar napkins read:
Horvendile and I had planned to meet at 7 at the Algonquin. I arrive at 7, then see his text: Be at the Blue Bar at 7:15. Well all right then. The greeter at the Algonquin lobby wonders, what did we do before cell phones? I say something like, we agreed ahead of time on a place and time, and kept to it. Or near it.
I’ve been thinking about a Rob Roy since 6:15, so I settle in at the Blue Bar and ask for one. The bartender says, “Sweet or dry?” “Sweet,” I answer. We smile.
The bar itself is not merely blue. It’s like a mood ring, little chips within it change from rose to yellow to green to blue. Tiny blue lights shine on white rings around a chandelier, and the back wall is a pale, pale blue that one might expect to turn into a waterfall any moment. A few minutes go by, and a different bartender says, “Rob Roy?” Yes, thank you. I sniff it. Luscious, warm, tart. I sip. Perfection. My perfectly nice dress is suddenly out of place and I feel underdressed. Not in comparison to other patrons. In comparison to my own desire.
I’d put on a little make-up before I left the office to compensate for the nice dress I feared was too ordinary. On the way over, I saw the lipstick stain on my Starbucks cup lid. When I was a teenager acting the sophisticated lady — onstage only, in school plays — I contemplated that lipstick just would not come off. Unfortunately I contemplated that aloud, which gave boys ideas. I eventually learned to keep my mouth shut. About lipstick, anyway. Nowadays I’m sure lipstick is made differently, of different stuff, because the color won’t survive a humid stroll across town.
“I work so I can pay for my own drink, thanks.” This runs through my mind, unreasonably, as no one had offered. I’d never thought of it when the offers came in the past. But a Rob Roy in a classy joint costs more than a pint in a dive.
Olympic soccer is on the silent television. Soccer is so colorful. The socks with horizontal stripes, apron-like tunics with vertical stripes, primary colors within teams and opposing them — it all makes me think of Dr. Seuss.
Yes, even the classy Blue Bar has a television, but its sound is off, and some good old jazz is the undercurrent beneath the chatter. I text Horvendile: "This Rob Roy is delicious." When he arrives, he orders one — dry. We spend an hour or so, talking of words, soccer, people. I think, I’m supposed to give him a hug from Elizabeth. But I don’t want to interrupt. Eventually the thought flutters out of my mind. Je suis desolé.
– Dry or sweet?
– Sweet. please
– I’m sure you don’t need it.
– You certainly don’t.
The imaginary conversation floats through my head as I carefully grasp the banister on the way down the twisting marble steps to the Ladies’ Room. They make me think of a building on 105th Street that I haven’t been to in twenty years. We ladies attending the ladies’ room agree that it was designed by a woman: The stall doors swing out.
Horvendile and I move on, south for him, northeast for me. It’s an early night, stormy, but no tornadoes despite what the radio says. The Blue Bar continues on quietly, classic cocktails pleasing those who come and go.
~ Molly Matera, signing off, looking up the lyrics of “Long John”