It was after midnight on a winter evening.
A woman sat alone at a bar; nursing a drink with a pensive, melancholic air. She sat alone because it’s far easier to describe someone if they’re sitting alone in a bar, nursing a drink with a pensive melancholic air. Imagine if she had been with a group of friends – the entire setting would have been run over by a bunch of gaggling sorority students giggling and making half-guarded glances at the barman’s pants. No, she was sitting alone. It was pensive and melancholic and just a little moody.
She sighed, and a lock of hair hung languidly over her cheek. She was formally dressed, in nice clothes that were expensive but looked far cheaper. Her face was pockmarked, owing to a juvenile bout of acne which had decided to make a rather hasty retreat after college, but still left the scars of a prolonged battle. It had been covered with a delicate slathering of make-up. She looked quite pretty when all was said and done.
She finished the remainder of her drink, and called for another one; an oleous, swirling bourbon which glinted warmly in the bar-light, because no one drinks UDL’s in a story. Her eyes glittered also as she stared; a warm touch of ebony and topaz which mirrored her drink and which were made pretty more from a trick of the light than any inherent pulchritude.
“How long are you going to stand there, throwing out descriptions to ignore the fact you have no idea where this story is going?” she called directly out of the page.
I was taken aback. Fictional entities don’t generally speak to me.
“Oh come, now. Stop looking so surprised, and come and have a drink,” she beckoned to an empty barstool beside her and waved her hand impatiently.
Dumbfounded, I took up my place, writing in an incorporeal, spectral presence to the chair which seemed to fit the omniscient presence someone should have in a story of their own creation.
She looked mildly piqued.
“No. Real. Full body and everything. And all of that fog and ethereal light just looks silly.”
Deeply blushing I appeared beside her, feeling very abashed and silly.
She looked on incredulously. “You couldn’t have made more of an effort? Written in a square jaw, or broad shoulders? Eyes a piercing blue like an iceberg overlooking an arctic sea? A longer hairline – larger muscles and a tan?”
I looked down in my chair, embarrassed.
“At the very least you could have chosen some better clothes. What are you wearing – it looks like a bag draped over a skinny tree. And those colours – awful. Do you ever even wash it? And that aftershave – it’s nauseating.”
I couldn’t say a word. She peered on again, exasperated.
“You’ve actually missed a spot shaving. And where you didn’t, it’s covered with tiny cuts. What are you, twelve?”
I mumbled that I hadn’t expected to be going anywhere tonight.
“I certainly hope not!” She exploded, incredulously. “Come on, at the least you can buy me a drink. It’s on you by the way.”
I bought myself a scotch, fumbling in my pockets for loose change. It tasted insipid, which I suppose is to be expected for an entirely fictionalised drink. It had the desired effect however, and we started talking.
It turned out that she was some part of my subconscious that I had inexplicably included writing. Some recollection, a relationship’s reflection - the moral turpitude of my psyche and id, and a surprising amount to do with a downed cup of coffee. I thought it was all rubbish, but she was very drunk by that point.
We stumbled out of the bar around two o’clock. The night air hung with the stillness of summer. Crickets chirped contentedly; the world stumbled with a thick, lumbering gait. The stars came in and out of focus uncertainly, and the moon was bigger and brighter than any moon had a right to be.
We hung off each other laughing exuberantly. Her skin was pale and soft and flawless, her waist firm and hard and warm. A sudden breeze whipped her dress into the air. She slapped me.
“Don’t be fresh!” she exclaimed, her mouth a perfect ‘o’ of shock and lascivious modesty.
We came upon her house. I asked her if she would like me to come inside, and she hesitated.
“No,” she said. “I don’t think that would be a very good idea.” Her skin was flawless porcelain, her eyes indescribably beautiful. “But you should come by if you’re ever in the area, figuratively.”
She kissed me on the cheek, but it travelled quite by its own reckoning to my lips, where it lingered, warm and mournful.
She entered the house, closing the door with a short little glance behind her.
I put down the pen, and woke up with a hangover.