I try not to move. If she runs, I’m ready. A buried part of me walks me back into the calmness of open air. Three breaths, always, before reacting; three breaths before you pull a trigger. One. Two.
She exhales and speaks: “Tastes the same to me anywhere. But I’m sure my palate’s not as refined as the guy drinking the one-dollar specials.” She waves toward my collection of empty bottles and turns her neck slowly until her eyes settle on mine. She has tractor-beam eyes.
I laugh, an old, rapsy cackle that makes the frat boys glance over with worry. “I like to buy in bulk,” I say with a shrug. “But I can spare a few for your next drink.”
Her nose crumples, but she doesn’t look away.
“Or not,” I say, surrendering my hands to the air. “Just making conversation.”
The bartender drops her two glasses in front of her and moves toward the door behind the bar, too careless to watch whether the woman pays before she drinks. She throws down some cash, still looking my way, and lifts the glass of water. For a second I think she’s going to make a toast, but she tilts the glass and lets a splash drop into the scotch.
“I think you’re allowed to ask for ice in that one,” I say, still trying the drunken flirt routine.
“I like it better this way,” she says, and now she’s turned her shoulder my way, keeping her posture rigid so she towers over me with the distance. But she’s smiling like we’re old pals. “Do I know you?”