Three men sit at the bar at the famous Anemone. The waitress regards them like grandparents, with curiosity and quiet respect.
Having been drinking from breakfast the men are full on drunk. The whisky skins run alcoholic down the fat glasses. A pile of extinguished beers lay all around them.
“I´ll tell you a story”, says the First Man.
They are drunk enough to become slouched, loose, wise, dreamlike, heroic and they are drunk enough to tackle the question of love. First Man is speaking. He slurs and sways as he speaks.
“I´ll tell you a story about love”, says the First Man. “I´m in the Anemone, right? And the most beautiful woman you can imagine comes in. Plants herself beside me. I ain’t kiddin’. Me jaw hits the bar. I’m talking of angels here. Full on gift from above. Eve herself. Walking nature. Walking into my life.”
“Now I don’t ‘assle her right. At least not right away. I´m not into ‘assling and besides, women don’t like gettin’ ‘assaled. Right. But before I can even think what I’m going to say to her I can feel her nice brown eyes all over me neck. Up me back. Across me body. Running like ants, they are. Brown they are, like fresh beer. Gold like ‘oney”
With the talk of beer his brain kicks in and he orders three beers for his group. Meanwhile the waitress is trying desperately not to laugh. The beers are drunk quickly and are followed by three more beers in small smooth glasses.
Second man leans closer to First man, head swaying, shoulder to shoulder, and he says, “So? What happened?”
“Like I said, I give her time to get her seat warm. But I feel those eyes on me. And I cant resist. I feel that mag-nee-tism, right. Strong and plump and pulling in my chest. So I turn, face her. I see her and its like seeing for the very first time!”
The waitress giggles.
“Now, its dark in there but shes got this glow. She lights up the room. She is wearing these boots with a crazy patterned dress and shes as long and lean as a bean and her hair is wild and her nose straight and… And I lean over to her and I say, I say…you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my life!”
“And you know what she says? Whispers it straight in my ear hole. She tells me, ‘I´m yours for 60 pieces.’”
“60 pieces!” yells the Third Man who until then had been with his head on the sticky bar. “You could live for a month on 60 pieces! You have 60 pieces? Where the ‘ell are you getting 60 pieces from?”
“Of course I don’t have no 60 pieces!” First Man replies. “But for this Eve I’m gonna get it, ain’t I! So I tells her, right, to meet me in one week, one weeks time. Here, in the Anemone. And I’ll have her 60 pieces shiny and ready and hard working. “And? How’d you get them 60 pieces?”
“I worked for em’, that’s how! That same night Mario Garcia took me on as a Nightwatchman and in the day I gutted little silver fishes beside the green river for Pancho’s son. And together they paid me 7 pieces a day for the next 7 days!
Third Man, forever the pragmatist and maths genius, once again unpeels his clever forehead from the sticky bar and announces, “Why, that’s still only 49 pieces! Where the ‘ell did the rest come from, eh?”
“It is true. I was short of pieces and short of time and smelling of little silver fishes so one hour before I was to see that angel again I robbed a taxi driver and stole his pieces and felt rotten for it but love can make you do foolish and desperate things.” The men sat and thought about this in silence for a little while and nodded darkly.
“It can make you do foolish things” Third Man agreed.
“And?” This is Second Man interrupting. “Was it worth it?”
“Worth it!” yells First Man! “Hell, I would have given her 100 pieces!”
He stands up at the punchline, throws his hands into the air in celebration, wobbles and rests back down onto his stool. Composing himself, he holds up three fingers and three more beers are slid along the bar.
“I’ve felt love,” he reflects. “I’ve felt love. I’ve sat in the sunset parks and thought of women and have known that women are sitting somewhere and thinking of me. But I tell you this…never was it love like the love of the Anemone.”
The waitress, restraining herself until now, lets out a burst of pent-up laughter. She just cant hold it in anymore. It leaks out from the corners of her lips and spills out into the air and hits First Man’s ears hard.
“Whats so funny?” he snaps, his eyes glassy and mouth wet .
“Honey, its a sweet story, truly, but that ain’t love! You have felt what a lot of other men in The Anemone feel but it weren’t no love!
“And why not?” First Man demands. “I felt it. I worked for it. Hell, I stole for it.”
“And you paid for it too,” returned the Waitress. “Your Eve is a master of love. She knows the ways of men better than any of you.”
Second Man says, “She’s right! Maybe you loved her but she loved them 60 pieces more. That kind of love is the most bitter but that ain’t real man, it ain’t real love. Let me tell you a story about real love.”
He orders three beers and three more whiskeys and the Waitress behind the bar rolls her blue eyes and the group grow closer and drunker.
“Its a story about a woman from The City and a dog. That dog had gone bit that woman. But instead of having the mutt shot, you know what she did? Man, she adopted that street creature and took care of it. Showed it love. Treated it well. And the two became as close as finger and thumb!”
“And so what?” yells the ever practical Third Man. “I had a dog once! Followed me everywhere it did! But end of day all it wanted was the food off me plate!”
“But that ain’t it! That ain’t it at all, man. Because this weren’t ‘bout no damn food! The woman was walking the dog up by the old mine, through them woods just past The City. Well, every man born under the sun know them woods ain’t safe, ‘cept her. Man, land is real loose there, it caves on in under the lightest touch. And hell, she went fallin’ on down into a deep hole and no one come by to find her for seven long days!”
The waitress poured three glasses of beer. Each man took them happily and bowed their heads gently in thanks.
“So?” the waitress asks. “What happened to that woman and her dog up in the woods?”
“Well, she died,” continued Second Man. “Some guy found her there and she were nuffin but skin n’ bone. Worse yet, that dog was dead too. Had waited itself to death! That mutt weren't down no hole. Could have easily found its way back to The City. No man, it stayed with her. Never once left her side! And was God willin’ to die for her!”
A silence filled the bar. An odd silence. Something between quiet mourning and a lack of things to say. The men seemed to agree in their silence that this was real love. But a voice of rebellion came back from the Waitress.
“Honey, that sure is a sad story. But that ain’t love! Maybe that dog loved that woman but the love for an animal ain’t the same as the love between peoples.”
Excited by this interjection the Third Man, forever the pragmatist, quickly sides with the waitress.
“She’s right, you know! That’s a sad story but that woman no more loved that dog than that mans Eve loved them 60 pieces! Love, it gotta be pure. More than lust, more than loyal”.
Second man orders three beers and three whiskies and says, “And what the hell do you know about love?”
Third Man takes his drinks. Finishes off the whisky and sucks at the beer and pauses several seconds to feel the warmth and happiness and pain as it sinks.
“Let me tell you a real story of love!” he continues. “’Bout a husband and wife. They been married 20 years, got a daughter together, and one day, out of the blue, she tells him shes leaving him.”
“Hes angry. Fucking fuming. Packs her bag, chucks it out the window. Try’s doing the same to ‘er. Anyway, he leaves. They get a divorce and he don’t see her again for seven whole years.”
“But he never gets over her. As much as he tries, in all them years, nuffin can get ‘er off his mind. He tries drinking the pain away. Tries sleeping it off. But nuffin.”
“And then one day he sees ‘er. At a party in the square. ‘Cept it aint her. I mean it is but it aint her. Because now shes not a she. She’s a he. A bloke.”
“What you mean shes a bloke?” says First Man.
“I mean shes a man. Short hair, man clothes, operated and everything. A man. Now, he aint no bender. He aint gay, right. But he feels something for her still anyway. Something strong. Something he don’t understand and probably wont ever will.” “He sees her at the party in the square and he goes to her and they embrace with strong and loving arms and in front of the whole party, in front of the whole square, they kiss a kiss seven years in the waiting and he tells her he loves her.” “Now I’ve never felt that before. And I envy the hell out of anyone who has.”
A silence has found the drunk group once more. Their heads fall in contemplation. As no one speaks, each believing but not knowing if this was really a story of true love, their heads turn up to face the knowing waitress for answers.
“Well” says the Third Man. “What do you say? Is this story real love or not?”
And the waitress wipes the smile from her red lips and looks down on the three red faces of the three drunk men that look at her pleadingly. Her laugh escapes her mouth once more.
“What is it!” demands the First Man.
“Yeah! What’s so funny?” asks the Second.
The waitress pours three more beers. Slides them across the bar.
“Well how the hell do I know!” she says. But buy me a beer and I’ll tell you a true story about love”.