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What Are You Drinking?
By Cesar A. Rico

"What are you drinking?" said Katie.
Pat looked down at his beer, "Um, Killians. It's two dollar imports tonight."
"Good choice then, huh?"
Pat wiped sweat from his face. It was hot and humid in the bar. A white fan swayed from side to side throughout the small area, giving relief in small doses.
"It's kind of hot, but it's ok. How was your birthday? Last month right?"
"Yea, it was fine. Sam and Jamey took me out. We had a good time" she said.

Pat continued to stare at the suds in his dark beer. He couldn't think of anything to say. He never could. Behind their booth, two guys in pastel polos were playing pool. Pat noticed their sweat stains, they must be hot too, he thought. The waitress, in her tight pink t-shirt, red hair and black shorts was miserable, or tired, or both. Pat tried not to stare at her. He wasn't there to stare. That was for another night. He tried to distract himself by ripping the edges of the square napkin his beer was on.

"Don't stare Pat. She looks like trash," said Katie.
"I wasn't staring...I was just..."
Pat's eyebrows crashed down towards the center of his nose. He flushed in a crimson color. His shoulders drooped as he deeply took a drink of his beer. The napkin was shredded.
"I have to tell you something," said Katie.
His large cheeks puffed, and his lips pressed together in a pouting manner, "Yea, what?"
"Pat, promise you'll listen to the whole thing. Promise you won't freak out. Remember last time?"

He was quick to respond, "I KNOW. It's not like that anymore. Damn."
"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. You're not ready yet. I'm sorry Pat. I didn't mean to drag you out here," said Katie as she rose from the burgundy booth.
"NO, wait. Hold on. Look I'm sorry. It's's just been a while, that's all. Look, really, sit down and tell me what you were going to say."

Katie sat back down, hesitantly. She studied his eyes. They were tired. Dark puffy shades hung from his brown eyes. They used to be hazel. He looked pale, mal-nourished. His shirt, the blue flannel she gave him for his birthday last year, was wrinkled and now looked faded on him. There was no easy way to talk to Pat. There never was, and now, it was even worse than before. He was different and she didn't like it. She felt pity. She took a deep breath. Her beer on the perfectly square white napkin was never touched.
"Pat, are you sure you're ok, really?"
"Look, I said I was fine. Really! Just...stop asking, ok? I had a long day at work, that's all."
"No you didn't," she said.

Pat looked up and saw her for the first time since she walked through the brown doors of the smoke filled bar. He looked at her eyes. There were green lakes in them. They weren't there before. For some reason, he always thought her eyes were an eternal ocean of blue. They were dazzling and this unfamiliarity confused him. Three years and I thought they were blue. I'm an idiot, thought Pat.

"You never said before you were fine. That's why I asked," Katie said.
Not knowing how to respond, Pat moved his head back down and stared at the light brown table. It was lighter than his beer, and his eyes stared at the two, comparing the difference in shades of color.
"What the hell does it matter what I said or didn't say anyway? Is this why you brought me here? To argue, cause I can think of better things to argue about?" he said.
She looked away, stared at the two tall guys, laughing, playing darts in the dark right corner opposite the bar side. She glanced at the tight faded jeans of the one in the left. Katie bit her bottom lip, revealing two small lustrous teeth. Her eyes became glazed and distracted.

"Maybe I shouldn't have come," she said.
"I don't know. Maybe you shouldn't have. It was your idea to come here."
Pat looked at her look away. He still found her very beautiful. The bangs of her dark hair sloped down on the right part of her white face. He wanted his job back. The one requiring him to lightly brush the hair back into its place while she smiled at him in gratitude.
"Wait, hold on, I don't mean it..." Pat said.
"I know you don't Pat. You never mean anything by it, remember?" she said.
Pat was angry with himself, "You don't have to bring any of that up. I told you, things are different now. I've changed. I'm not even drinking much anymore. You know? Maybe a beer here and there with the guys, but that's it."

Katie turned her head towards him. She glanced at his dark beer. It was almost gone. She turned towards her own and realized it was completely full. She didn't like the taste of beer, especially dark beer, she never did. She wished she had a Cosmopolitan instead.

"Look Pat, I'm only doing this out of courtesy. I though that...well, it be better if you heard it first from me. I don't want you to get hurt anymore Pat. I really don't," she said.

Pat looked for a new piece of paper to shred. There was none and he had to do with the tiny pieces already in front of him. He pouted like a scolded child.

"I know you care Katie. I've been thinking a lot about know, lately. I just thought that...well, know, we can get a drink sometime or have some dinner or something. You know, to work things out or something," he said.

Katie breathed in deeply and prepared herself.
"Oh Pat, we've been through all of that already. Too many times actually. Besides we already have," she said.

Pat looked away and noticed the same waitress. She was very attractive, but tired, exhausted even. He quickly shifted his head back down.
"You really have to stop staring Pat, it's getting pitiful," she said.
"What are you talking about? I wasn't...look...anyway. I just...I just don't remember having talked about it or giving it a shot, like you said we already have," he said.

She squinted slightly at him with those new green eyes of hers. She didn't have to say anything. Pat knew the stare; he was used to it, even after all this time. It was Katie's cynical stare, telling Pat, "How stupid are you really?"

"I was referring to the drink Pat. You said, 'let's have a drink sometime,' and we're already having one right now," she said.

Way to go Pat, I'm such an Idiot, he thought.
"Yea well, I just thought that we could talk sometime. That's all."
"We're talking now Pat," she said.
"Well, you told me to come here, and I still don't know why."

There's no easy way to talk to Pat. He's just so self-absorbed and narrow minded, she thought.

"You're right Pat. I did ask you to come here and there is something I need to tell you, but it's not about us. You know it can never be about us again," she said.

Pat became flustered, "Look, I just don't get it. We were good? We were really good? Weren't we? I mean...why can't we try again Katie? I've changed and you've changed. We can make it work...I know we can," he said.

Katie let out a deep sigh, preparing herself, "Pat, you're not listening to me. You haven't been listening to me. It won't work...not again."

Sweat continued down the sides of his pale face. He stared at his empty beer not knowing anything useful to say, "You remember that John Cusack movie? The 80's one. I think it was Cameron something who made it."
"No Pat. I never liked the 80's," she said.
"Anyway, He's got this one line at the end of the movie. It goes something like, 'Everyone doesn't think it will work out between us...but that's the beginning of every successful story.'"

Pat smiled. He was proud of his comment. He knew that he didn't get the words right, but it didn't matter. It made sense to him, and it was clever. He raised his head to her.

"Pat, what the hell does that even mean? If by 'everyone' you mean our friends, well, you're right. They never thought we would make it, and you know what? THEY were right too. We never had a successful story Pat. I wish you'd see that."

The pieces of torn white napkin in front of Pat were even smaller now, and scattered. Pat just stared at them, thinking that maybe he should have explained why that line was said at the end of the movie. He wanted to tell Katie how the man...left with the woman he loves on a plane to England despite what any obstacles lay behind them or in front of them. He wanted to tell Katie that with love, anything and everything is possible.

Instead, he managed a meager reply, "Yea, alright...just never was stupid."

Katie stopped feeling sorry for Pat months ago. She wanted to move on. She came here to tell Pat the news. She was moving on.

"Listen Pat. I don't want to hurt you anymore. So just listen to me very carefully, ok? Can you do that Pat, just for a minute," she said.

"Why do you do that? Huh? Why do you have to treat me like I'm some damn little...kid, that you have to feel sorry for or something. I don't need this Katie. You brought me here, remember? I was doing just fine getting over you. No wait. I over you. I don't even know why I'm here!"

"Is that what you think? That I just brought you here to make you feel bad? Or that I get a kick out of watching you suffer? You know, I hate to break it to you Pat, but I've got a life, and a damn good one. I'm happy with myself. Can you really say the same about yourself?"

He always lost. He never understood why he bothered fighting with Katie. He never won and never came close. She was smart, and that's what made her so attractive.

The same waitress with the fiery hair was cleaning the beer stained table next to their booth. She had dark rings under her eyes and rich crimson lips that complemented her freckles. Pat tried not to stare.

"And damn it Pat...can you please stop looking at the trash in here? Can't you see I'm trying to tell you something?"

The waitress heard the comment, never changed her tired expression, and walked away with the empty beer mugs and cleaning rag.

"The hell with you," said Pat slowly as he got up from his side of the booth and walked over to the stool at the bar. He never looked back at Katie.

The bartender, a tall pale guy with dirty black hair and tattoos covering his entire right arm, looked at his new customer sit down and stare at the napkin in front of him.
"Whatcha need man?" said the bartender.
"Uh, I'll take a beer...and a shot," said Pat.
"What kind"
"Killians," said Pat.
"No, what kind of shot," replied the bartender.
"Whiskey's fine, cheapest kind you got."

Katie remained in the booth, shuffling in her purse for a pen. She found a blue one and began writing on her untouched napkin. Fine, if he doesn't want to listen to me, he can just go to hell, and read it here. I don't have to stay here and take this. I should of thought about writing him from the beginning, it would have been a lot easier, she thought.

Katie walked up to Pat, "When you quit being a jerk-off, you can get up and go to the booth. I wrote all I needed to tell you...and I certainly don't ever want to see you again, Pat. You hear me...ever." Katie walked in long strides out of the bar with her head high.

The same waitress was tired, or miserable, or both. She saw Katie leave, grabbed her cleaning rag, and walked up to the booth. She began cleaning the little pieces of paper everywhere. She picked up the empty glass, the full glass, and the white napkin with scribbling all over it. She stood frozen atop a blue lake, reading what was written in poor penmanship. She turned her head and glanced at Pat, then back down at the napkin.

She whispered, "What a bitch," as she put her rag down for a moment to crumble the napkin into a small boulder shape. The waitress then picked up the rest of the trash, her rag, and brought the mugs back into the kitchen for the Mexican dishwasher to clean.

Pat's face was red and bloated. The sweat stains on his navy shirt were becoming noticeable. He took his shot quickly and sipped his beer slowly. He wanted to read what Katie left. He wanted her back. He didn't know what he would say or what he would do, but he would find a way to say anything and get her back. He shifted his body to the left; his eyes stared at the sticky grey floor. He got up to go to the booth as he recognized the song being played on the red juke box next to the bar. It belonged in a John Hughes movie. He was sure Molly Ringwald was in it, but she was in pretty much all of them. Specifically, at the end of the movie, he thought. Don't you forget about me...don't, don't, don't, don't...

Pat smiled as he had an urge to raise a victorious fist in the air.
"Here you go," said the same waitress as she seemed to appear out of nowhere to give Pat a dry towel.
"What, um, what?"
"It get's hot in here. I thought you might need this, you got kind of a sweaty thing going," she said.
"Oh, thanks, yea, it is kind of hot."
"Yea well, I'm here almost every night so trust me, I know how hot it gets," she said.
"I love this song. It really brings me back you know," she said.
"Really? Umm, yea, I like 80's stuff. It'"
He shuffled his thoughts to find words that make sense, "So umm, can I buy you a drink, I mean, are you off or something? You know, like, are you even allowed to drink?"

She giggled, "Uh yea, I can drink, and I am off, now. And better yet, let me get you a drink. I kind of know the bartender, something about me working here gives me some pretty cool connections," said the off duty waitress.

Pat smiled and sat back down on a new barstool.
"Hey Mike, two Killians," she said.
"No problem Claire," replied the bartender.

"I love beer, and the darker the better. Although I don't mind the cheap stuff either, especially when you're entire college life is on a budget, right?"

"Yea, I know what you mean, and thanks, this is fine. I don't mind any kind of beer myself," said Pat.

She smiled at Pat. It was a warm smile, and he stopped sweating. She sat on the stool next to Pat, received her beer from Mike, and coolly drank the dark beer in refreshing gulps, "So you like 80's movies?"

"Yea, I do, they're c...I like the endings and the music. You can't find that kind of chemistry in movies these days," he said.

"Oh I know what you mean. Give me a Molly Ringwald, or John Cusack, or John Hughes movie anyday," she said.
"Definitely...Hey listen, I'm Pat by the way. I kind of forgot to introduce myself."
She smiled at him, "That's ok Pat. I'm Claire...and I forgot to introduce myself too."
"Claire, that's nice. I like you're name Claire," said Pat.
"Thanks...Pat's not so bad either," said Claire as she shyly smiled and looked down at her white napkin. The napkin was being torn apart in small unpredictable pieces. Pat noticed and smiled approvingly.

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Document last modified on: 12/03/2006

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