Wednesday, November 14, 2018

U-Turn on Lonely Street

By Tim Smith

It was one lonely evening in Toronto, Canada. I had crossed the border to take a break from some problems, and see different scenery than what I stared at every day. I had already hit the casino, lost my limit, dined at a so-so cafe that the locals raved about, and now I was walking the city streets, seeing what else there was to this tourist mecca.

The foot traffic was light, mostly locals and a few out-of-towners like myself seeking liquid refreshment and whatever nightlife the city had to offer. It was a pleasant June evening, with a light breeze blowing in from Lake Superior to keep the temperature tolerable.

I saw her approaching from the opposite direction and froze in my tracks. I was instantly taken in by the young woman with long brown hair, wearing cute wire-rimmed glasses perched above a button nose, with a curvy figure encased in tight jeans and a stylish short-sleeved top that was just snug enough to give me ideas.

She kept her gaze focused forward, her face giving a non-committal look that seemed to radiate an air of confidence, one that was reflected in her stride. I slowly did a U-turn as she passed and watched her walk down the street. Suddenly I was on auto-pilot as I followed her, not close enough to intrude but near enough to appreciate the sway of her shapely hips.

She quickly crossed the street at the next intersection just as the light turned red. I resisted the urge to sprint after her but stood at the curb, watching her. Halfway down the block she entered a restaurant situated on the ground floor of an elegant old hotel. I had passed it on my way up that same street but decided against checking it out. Now I changed my mind.

After the traffic signal gave me permission to cross, I slowed my pace as I approached the door she had passed through and stood on the sidewalk, peering inside. The dining section of the restaurant was nearly vacant. She sat at the cherry bar, alone, sipping a glass of wine and watching the TV mounted overhead.

I went inside and took a stool four away from hers. When my drink arrived, I sipped it while stealing glances at her in the mirror behind the neatly-arranged bottles. She seemed to be absorbed in watching the wrestling match on the TV. I was intrigued. It wasn’t in my nature to approach strange women in bars, but I remembered an old saying—no guts, no glory. I moved closer, keeping one bar stool between us so she wouldn’t think I was invading her personal space. My mind tried to come up with something witty to say before deciding on a simple approach.

“Do you think it’s real?” I asked.

She looked at me in surprise, realizing she wasn’t alone. She flashed a pleasant smile. “Is what real?”

I gestured at the TV. “The wrestling. Do you think those guys are really beating each other silly, or are they just making it look good for the audience?” 

“I’m not sure. What do you think?”

I took a small sip. “Completely phony. They’re just giving the customers what they want to see—senseless violence disguised as entertainment.”

She laughed. It was a soft lyrical laugh, very soothing. “That’s an interesting observation. Are you always so cynical?”

“It helps me navigate the rapids known as life.”

She turned slightly to look me full in the eye. Hers were hazel, with just a hint of eyeliner to accent their natural glow. If I wasn’t careful, I could lose myself in those eyes. We exchanged first names and she asked me what it was I did that gave me such a cryptic outlook on life. I challenged her to guess.

“Hmm. Are you a philosopher?”

I shook my head.

Her look turned playful. “A fortune teller?”

“Wrong again, but you’re getting warm. I’m a writer.”

“That’s interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever met an actual writer before, at least not one that owned up to it.”

That was good for a laugh from me. “We’re a rare breed. And what do you do?”

“I’m in aesthetics.”

Now I was confused. “What is that?”

“Hair styling, facials, make-overs, things like that.”

I nodded. “In the States, you’d be called a cosmetologist.”

“It’s the same thing.” Her eyes and expression took on a bit more interest. “What do you write?”

We spent the next hour exchanging life stories and shared interests, accompanied by another round of drinks. Since things had progressed from awkward introductions to sitting next to each other, sharing laughs with her hand resting on mine, I felt it was time to take the next obvious step.

“Would you like to continue this over dinner?” I asked.

She kneaded my hand and peered into my eyes. Hers communicated a hint of sadness. “I’m sorry, but I can’t stay. I just stopped in here for a drink to unwind after work.” She hesitated. “But I’m really glad I met you.”

“The pleasure was all mine.”

We exchanged e-mail addresses then she took her leave, after giving me a firm hug and a kiss to remember her by.

I was glad I made that U-turn.       


  1. How frustrating!

    Very atmospheric, though. Even though your protagonist is a writer, he has echoes of your hard-boiled PIs.

  2. Thank you, Lisabet. I've found that most of my characters have some of those traits, especially when I write the "lonely guy" types, the ones trying to get over someone. Maybe I watched too many Bogart movies when I was growing up?


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