You will find me pulling taps for Bud Light and Coors—none of that fancy shit around here. You’ve had a bad day—you were just cut, or your team is on strike, or you gave up the lead, or you blew out your arm—and I can tell that by just looking at you.
I give you a beer. On the house, I say. You’re grateful, and you drink it while eyeing me over the glass.
My name? It doesn’t really matter because no one will remember it anyway. Yours is the last name on jerseys, on memorabilia. Yours is the name that will be on the wall of this sports bar one day. Or, it will if I have anything to say about it. Once I’m done with you, your name will be gold in these parts.
Hang tight, I tell you and squeeze your shoulder. I want to hear what’s got you down. But first, I have to throw out the drunk in the corner who’s making a fuss. He’s a regular, so I’m not really worried. I make a few clever quips and haul him up by his armpit. He’s had a tough go of it, and he apologizes as he trudges out of the bar. He’s a mirror, see? You could go down that path if you don’t straighten up.
You are impressed with my guts, with my strength. You’re starting to get it. I’m not like the other girls.
I wipe my forehead with the back of my hand. I’m working up a sweat in here, and you notice that I’m naturally lovely, with messy hair and almost invisible makeup. My face seems out of place here in this dark and sticky bar, but my body fits. I’m wearing a tank top with the bar name pulled tight across my breasts—Woody’s or Rick’s or Joey’s—and you can see the outline of my bra underneath. My style is unpretentious, unfussy. Like me. Do you want to save me yet?
I tell you I get off in 15 and you think about getting me off in 15. When I clock out, I untie my apron and put my hair in a ponytail. I drink beer, of course. Maybe whiskey. Maybe just take a shot without cringing.
We play darts. I beat you soundly, and you marvel at me. I am dry and I am witty and I do not bullshit you. I challenge you. This will cause problems later, when you’re at your breaking point and you tell me you’ve been through enough. I’m not worried – you’ll return when you’ve changed, when you’ve realized I was right; I was pushing you toward the right path all along, even when you didn’t want to hear it.
But we’re not there yet.
For now, you’re telling me about your day. You tell me why you’re down, stripping out the sports words so I understand.
Here’s where it gets good.
You don’t need to do that, I tell you. I love football. Or baseball or soccer or hockey, doesn’t matter.
At first you don’t believe me. It’s too good to be true, right? So you test me. I’m not mad. I’m used to this. You ask me the MVP in 1995. You ask me who won the championship, the world series, the cup. I know it all, and more.
Mo Vaughn (but Belle should have had it), the Heat (the last time the Finals used the 2-3-2 format), the Reds (Pete Rose was MVP), the Oilers (the first since they traded Gretzky).
You’ve never met a girl like me. No, a woman, you concede. How do I know all this? Well, my father was a famous baller. Or he owned the sports bar before his untimely death. Or I used to watch my brother play. Yes, this makes sense to you. I learned from some other man.
Before you leave, I give you my number. I’m forward like that. I won’t make you chase me.
I’ll just keep pushing you toward your goals. Me? My goals? I won’t inconvenience you with those. What matters here is your development, your moment of change, your awakening.
And I’m just the girl to get you there.
Madeline Anthes is the Assistant Editor of Lost Balloon. You can find her on Twitter at @maddieanthes, and find more of her work at madelineanthes.com.