Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure Part 6, The Girl in the Guy Bar

*Author’s note: This is part 6 of 13 parts, to better understand the contents it is suggested that you scroll back to the Prelude.

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With that, Papa faded from view. I felt nauseated. I feebly tried to turn the knob on the door in order to exit but a cold sweat permeated my body. I slumped to the floor and trembled. No one had ever told me I might be murdered before, I struggled with the concept. Who or why would anyone want to kill me? I decided to head back to my room and lay low. I’d make my day in court the next day, not talk to anyone in the meantime, then hang out down at the Key West Bight until the departure of the Key West Express.

Papa had only confirmed I might be killed. I convinced myself that I might be hit by a bus, too, but it wasn’t likely. This whole thing seemed more and more bizarre as time went on. I wondered if I was just the victim of some cruel joke being put on me by these restless spirits who had nothing but time on their hands.

I left the library and walked up Fleming St. then turned left on Duval St. After a few more steps I saw a bar named the Golden Earring and figured I could use a stiff drink. It was later in the afternoon. Traffic was crowding the streets, people were off work and heading home. It felt odd being a week-day tourist.

I entered the Golden Earring and immediately sensed I made a wrong turn. My friend Keith had jokingly referred to Fleming St. as flaming street because of all the ‘flaming homosexuals’ who are supposedly in the area past Fleming as you headed north. I never gave it much thought or actually saw any such activity. Until now. Other friends have told me that gays can spot a straight man a mile off. I don’t consider myself that naive but as I stood there trying to adjust my eyes to the dimming light, I felt uneasy. Determined not to let my homophobia get the better of me, I stepped up to the nearest barstool and ordered a blush wine. (which seemed appropriate)

I had sat with several seats between me and the next couple of men who were engrossed in conversation. They had noticed me with little interest at first, but after I received my drink one of them asked where I was from. Within a few minutes the conversation between the three of us grew more friendly. Half way through my drink I felt more at ease (possibly because I am not accustomed to drinking) and was sure I wasn’t going to be accosted. By the time my second drink arrived I was warm and secure, enjoying the company of my new friends.

Then the door to the bar opened again and a woman walked in. The bartender recognized her, as well as did the men at the bar. The joint livened up noticeably. It was almost like the entire establishment was just waiting for her to arrive. I watched her glide up to the bar, lean over, peck the bartender on the cheek with a kiss then sit down between me and the fruits I had been speaking to. I don’t know why, but my machismo seemed threatened. I didn’t want her to think I was gay.

She was willowy and elegant, obviously a professional and carried a confidence usually attributed to a man. But she was all woman and I found myself in awe of her. She smiled politely in my direction then turned to speak to the two men on her opposite side. There were two seats separating her from me, one seat between her and Adam ‘n’ Steve. The fact that she even noticed my existence had me enthralled. I had to speak to her. I mentally rifled through my dusty past of pick-up lines, desperately wanting to say something to gain her attention. I waited until there was a break in their conversation and then I pounced.

“Thank goodness you’ve arrived, I was about to lose hope!”

She turned to face me, amused… like my approach was inevitable, predictable… and laughable.

“And why is that?”

“You’ve restored my faith in beauty. I had just about lost it.”

She crossed her legs, partially twisting herself around to give me a side ways look at her bosom. “Now how did I do that?”

I smiled my best, I was out of practice by several years but I knew this line was perfect.

“Oh I don’t know, you just showed up, I guess. The rest just kinda took care of itself.” She had played right into it.

She smiled at me again, a beguiling, knowing smile that told me she was impressed with my bold maneuver.

“So what happens now?” Hook, line and sinker. It was easy, almost like falling off a bicycle. I was impressed with my own suavity and self assurance.

“I buy you a drink. We talk about my conversion and new found faith. Tomorrow, I might go to confession.”

But then, the unexpected…

“I’m sorry, but I’m just here for friendship. So unless you are gay like your friends, I’m afraid your wasting your time.”

She shook her head and turned back to the two men who had also been joined by the bartender. They looked at me like I’d just been blasted out of the sky. I was nothing but feathers, my Daffy Duck bill left laying on the bar. Dejectedly I left the Golden Earring and headed back to my room.

It was still early by the time I went to bed, but I didn’t care. I figured I couldn’t get myself into too much trouble while sleeping. I tossed and turned thinking about what Papa had told me. I couldn’t see how there was any danger of my life being threatened. In less than 24 hours I would be heading back to Ft. Myers and this whole ugly business would be behind me. Finally convincing myself of that, I fell asleep…

I dreamed I was looking at the picture of Officer Jordan, the one hanging at the Key West Police Dept. Wall of Honor. The next instant I was in the picture, like I was the one taking the photograph and I was talking…

“Hold still, Rookie… let me get this set right. Okay, cheese! Okay, great! got it!”

“Get one of us both together!” Robert is saying, holding his bicycle up with one hand and grasping his helmet under his other arm.

“Aw… no, Bobby! I’m not dressed right… we’ll do that later!”

“C’mon… snap one! You know you’re beautiful, get over here!”

“Bobby! This is your day! Besides… no fraternizing within the department!”

Robert Jordan had that easy smile. “C’mon, Rachel! I’m not going anywhere until you do!”

“You’re going to make us late!”

“Nope… you are!” And he stood there poised beside his bicycle. “Not moving… set the camera… hm, hm, hmm… la, dee, da!”

“Oh… you!”

Then a woman came around and stood beside him, hugging him proudly while kissing his cheek as I snapped the picture. She stood gracefully, smiling confidently…

I recognized her as the femme fatale I had met earlier at the Golden Earring.

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