“I TOOK A QUIZ the other day,” my friend Anita commented, as we sat at our favorite bar, each of us lost in our own thoughts. When she spoke, her intrinsic low voice always made me smile. I was slowly swirling the mini plastic skewer in my drink, while Anita mindlessly folded her paper cocktail napkin, making tiny accordion folds.
We had met after work that autumn evening, catching up after not seeing each other for well over a year. The time and separation didn’t matter. We picked right back up where we left off. It was as though we were still co-workers, from years back when we worked side by side five days a week, churning out the work as legal assistants.
We sat together each enjoying our drinks, listening to the small jazz ensemble, provided with no cover charge at the downtown bar we haunted years earlier. Tonight, we chose it again for old times’ sake – that and for its proximity between our workplaces. The prices were kept low, leading to a tavern with poor lighting and mediocre booze. The grunge was authentic – brought on by years of neglect, with a steady patronage of drinkers who appreciated its understated qualities, which included attentive barkeepers and cheap drinks.
Anita and I didn’t mind one bit. At least the restrooms were kept clean, and we were always guaranteed there’d be available seating. That was all we needed.
“A quiz?” I repeated back to my pal, watching her reflection in the mirror behind the bottles of liquor at the bar. “Tell me,” I begged. “What was that all about?”
She turned towards me, and I saw what I always knew: Anita added class to the joint. Her classic curves lent beauty to the otherwise worn-out establishment. The place had been a fine lounge at one time, evidenced by its corner banquettes covered in worn midnight-blue velvet, while the small wooden stage in the corner was decorated with the names of musicians from years past, as they autographed the walls with their names, eventually covering other old, faded signatures.
Still, it remained a place where we liked to meet for a drink after work, especially since the bartender, Spiro, kept an eye on us, ensuring we were never hassled by overzealous patrons. Of course, Spiro’s manly physique wasn’t lost on the two of us either. The proverbial tall, dark and handsome gentleman appeared in both my and Anita’s daydreams more than once.
All that, and as a pro, our barkeeper knew exactly when to make a joke, when to mind his own business, and when to replenish our glasses. What’s not to love?
I looked around the room, and saw the usual favorable glances from gentlemen, as they admired my friend next to me. Always, always, always, Anita stole the show, her dancer’s legs seductively crossed as she leaned back into the bar stool. Still, she paused before answering my question.
“So, go on,” I goaded her. “I’d like to hear this.” I tipped my glass to my lips, draining the last of its contents.
Anita picked up her drink and carelessly shrugged. “Well” she began. “The quiz was titled called ‘Ten Ways to Tell If You’re a Goddess.” Letting out a coy sigh, she shrugged her shoulders and used one hand to flip her long hair back behind her shoulders. She looked around the room, scanning to see if any new faces had arrived, while also waiting for my reaction.
“A goddess?” I said with a small laugh. “Go on, I want to hear this,” I urged, as I kept one eye on Spiro, watching him carefully squeeze cut limes into two tall glasses of tonic water.
“Well, it turns out that I checked all ten items,” Anita went on, matter-of-factly. She shrugged her shoulders, hesitating continuing. “So,” she paused, “I guess that makes me a goddess.”
As she admitted this, her lips curved upward, growing into a smug smile. A modest blush shown in her cheeks.
My friend’s smile grew, evidencing her self satisfaction. She let her eyes move around the lounge area, taking in the old memories we had of the place. It was clear she was pleased with the results of the game.
Heck, she had every right to be.
I immediately chuckled, something I did often while in her presence. “Yep, I’ll grant you that one,” I answered her, nodding my head in agreement.
Looking back at my long-time chum, I admired her self-confidence, style and charm. As always, she looked irresistible, her allure never fading. Besides the glamorous exterior, though, was a woman who was genuine.
She’s devoted to her family, her work, and her passion for dance. Anita always remained truthful with me, telling me exactly what I needed to hear – whether I liked it or not. Years before, we worked together and vacationed together, She stood up as my maid of honor for my first wedding. She was always there for me, letting me lean on her shoulder if need be.
She’s a stunning gem -- inside and out.
I looked my companion straight in the eye then. I needed to let her know exactly what I thought. “You know very well you didn’t need to take some silly magazine survey to tell you you’re a goddess,” I started. “You see, Anita, I’ve known that about you all along.”
I tipped my glass to hers in mid-air, offering a toast to my long-time friend. Our glasses kissed one another, signaling an understood commemoration between the two of us.
We each emptied our glasses, as we enjoyed the scene before up. Our handsome bartender was putting the finishing touches on a couple of martinis. His professional fingers quickly twisted the lemon peels into curls before placing one on each glass. He picked them up by their stems and set them down before me and my friend.
“These are compliments of the gentleman at the other end,” Spiro winked, tipping his head toward the left.
Anita and I both paused, caught off guard by the unexpected drinks. Then, in unison, we reached for the cocktails and raised our glasses in the direction of the generous patron. The kind stranger tipped his glass back toward the two of us, as we smiled our practiced feminine smiles, demonstrating our appreciation.
Suddenly, we felt a burst of fresh air rush in, uncharacteristically upsetting the mustiness of our favorite watering hole. Looking toward the front door, we each took a sip of our fresh martinis, watching as a small group of eager hipsters entered the lounge, their eyes eagerly taking in the genuine, no-frills aura of our saloon.
In search of their own festive libations.
Celebrating their own friendships.
Or possibly exposing and commandeering our authentic hideaway.
On a cool October evening.
THANK YOU FOR READING — PIZZA FOR BREAKFAST