A place where everyone knows your name.
In a dark, hip bar she sat against the window on a red bar stool. The naked lightbulbs hung trendily above her, illuminating her face with a soft yellow glow. The place had an atmosphere of poetry, art and intellect. Her thick dark hair braided over her head like a German milkmaid fit this high image in a measured, ironic way. She was drinking a glass of chardonnay, wooded, in a tumbler that looked like it was stolen from the set of Downton Abbey. She loved the way the tumbler fit in her hand, cooling her fingertips before the rich liquid flowed icily down her throat. She never understood why some bars insist on serving wine in tumblers instead of elegant long-stems, but she didn’t really care either, she loved how it made her look.
She was wearing a black lace blouse that clung tightly against her throat in the heat of summer. She wanted to be a modern-day Jane Austen. Or at least look like one. Drops of sweat casually sneaked past her skin onto the lace. But she felt cool, almost as cool as the crisp chardonnay in her hand. She looked at the people around her and thought smugly as she crossed her faded and torn jeans whilst taking in another drop of wine, "I must be the coolest person here".
It was the birthday of a friend, a playwright, the reason they were gathered in this dark bar on a hot night. He was making a variety of speeches about his latest projects while bursting in and out of laughter at his own jokes. He was making his rounds between the different groups of friends consisting of poets, actors and writers. He might as well have spoken different languages to each group as no one mixed with anyone they didn’t know. She especially didn’t want to soil her thoughts with small talk with the poets. She recently read an inspirational quote on one of her many social media sites that small talk is for intellectually inferior, real people talk of exciting things. She desperately wanted to be one of the latter but couldn't think of anything exciting enough to say, so she continued sipping at her tumbler in a cool silence.
She graduated from drama school a year before with big dreams of movies and theatre. She held her body model for countless “photoshoots” which were basically two girls frolicking in woods looking serious and dramatic. The photos were always heavily edited to be highly saturated and turned to black and white. She posted them all on Facebook and garnered hundreds of likes and comments. Instead of a life of glamour, she tried starting a craft yoghurt business and started using a brand new lexicon that consisted of words such as “business trip”, “meeting”, “my business partner” but it quickly died out when she realised that she was just playing another failed role.
Tonight she took up a new role, one of the ever-optimistic actress, one who’d say yes to anything and walk into auditions without giving a damn what casting agents think of her. She would not worry that her nose was too big, her hair to frizzy or her hips too wide. She set aside her dreams of the femme fatale, to be honest she was too short anyway. She set her sights on being the next Jennifer Lawrence. She would be the epitome of the cool girl, the one who got all the roles, the boys, the accolades by giving the world the middle finger and being “herself” with one hand full of wine and the other full of yoghurt.
“Oh you’re talking about suits and dresses from Top Shop?” she jumped into the conversation, “you know that’s the only place where I can buy pants that understand my hips, you know. I am a curvy girl and it is just a travesty that it is so difficult to find the right fit! I personally think the ingrained Westernised patriarchal system so predominant in today’s pop culture is at fault.” The conversation turned to clothes and fits and sizes and she felt very satisfied with herself for the comment, not only did it reflect on her confident body image, but also added a hint of feminism to drive a high quality discussion.
“So you’ve seen that short film I recently did for the student showcase?” she decided to take a stab at the discussion again, “What you think of it?” she decided to put her peers on the spot, she felt like she was on fire. “You didn’t get the relationship between the characters? Well, almost no one does, which is what I like about it. It transposes the gender normative stereotype into a vacuum of oblivion where the limits of love and friendship become void. You know we didn’t even have a script right? We had beats. So everything you see is matter that we made up on the spot. It was such a free and liberating acting experience. I mean the scene where we were lying on the bed, we were actually taking a break and having a nap! Oh and you know because we made it all up on spot, it’s quite difficult to get your words out right, I mean I used the word “fester” as a noun, a noun! Oh my god and it was put in the film, I could just die. When I watched it and heard ‘this is a fester’, the first thing my sister did was to point it out to me. Fester. Fester!”
When she found herself again, her monologue trailed off into an obsession about the word “fester”. The conversation moved from the proper use of verbs and nouns towards the new James Bond film and everyone’s take of Daniel Craig’s performance. She needed to get out, away from the red bar stool that felt like a bloody wound with all the sweat that dripped from her legs making her bum feel moist on the seat.
She needed air and she needed a cigarette. Walking out of the bar that was getting slightly more crowded with more friends she didn’t want to know, she smiled thinking of the irony of wanting air but inhaling smoke. She was the only one outside taking a smoke and she was slightly excited by the thought of it. She took a seat on a small chair by a small round table, the stereotypical French cafe set, and made a conscious decision to sit facing the bar. She didn’t want to look sullen, she wanted to be fabulous, a beautiful and independent woman taking a smoke by herself and she wanted to be seen doing it.
She sat as far back on the chair as it would allow, but sure to show a sterling posture at the same time. She wanted to be Elizabeth Taylor, staring deep into the abyss of the meaning of life. She inhaled deeply, and stared down the quiet cobblestoned road arching her neck to get a more elegant profile. She wanted James Dean to walk past, to see her and wonder what was going on in her beautifully braided head. She was Aphrodite and she needed Achilles, a dark and brooding hero to sweep her up from her intoxicating suburban life.
Her cigarette burnt out and she slowly put out the bud in a nearby flowerpot filled with basil to muster its musty smell. Her hero didn’t walk past. Yet again no one saved her. She took in one breath of clean air and moved back into the dark bar to her still vacant red stool, still festering in sweat with an almost empty tumbler of chardonnay waiting for her. Maybe she’ll tell them about her revelations about herself that she was going to become a fearless and confident actress. Maybe the playwright will be so inspired by her speech that he’ll write an award winning play about her life and even cast her as the lead. Maybe her inspirational story would even attract the attention of the bearded and broody barman who she was sure who looked too deeply into her eyes.
Maybe. Maybe this was her night. She began talking to an audience that was thinking about new projects, movies, clothes and their auditions tomorrow. A bar full of people having discussions with themselves.
This would not be her night. Tonight she'll stay on a festering red stool looking for something exciting to say alongside her empty tumbler of Chardonnay.