Bronze Iris, And Bubbly Abyss
It was a warm night. Each of them wore button downs. Every girl showed everything they had with skirts and no bras underneath their skirts and dresses and shorts. Four clouds of smoke surrounded the table, each of the four horsemen holding stogies. Tommy, hair parted, sat across from Josiah who wore seersucker suits all the time, and had a pocket watch. Henry sat across from Fischer. Women passed by and all of them nipped at the skirts and let out more smoke that went downward to the ceiling in an upside down scenery of a room—breasts and the fine legs, the white ones, the black ones, the Cuban ones. Tommy tapped his cigar ash and it fell to the ceiling and let out his teeth in a hard laugh. Chalk was the name of the bar, and it was full that night and Henry had the view of a room full of dots that his eyes just seemed to connect for fun. Fischer’s high-top fade was crisp as ever. Tumblers and beer bottles were the lot of the table. Henry licked his lips and sipped Jameson, chasing with beer.
“Henry never gets at any girls,” Tommy said.
Fischer and Tommy looked to Josiah for a rebuttal.
“Just doesn’t wanna talk to anyone,” Josiah said, lifting his hands.
“You right,” Fischer chimed in.
Henry was quiet. He sipped some of his beer and held his cigar without putting it to his lips. The others drew on theirs.
“These hoes are so easy. Smart ass, with those damned glasses. You could pull so many if you wanted.”
“Women, Fischer. Women,” Henry said.
“Oh here he goes with that respectful shit.”
“Do you call your mother a ho?”
“No. but I call her a bitch when I’m with y’all,” Tommy said, and he stroked his hair, making sure the part was intact.
They all laughed, tapped the ash roughly in ashtrays and raised their tumblers to their faces and grunted on the way down. Fischer’s grunt was mild while the other two were deeper and more guttural. Tommy winced and rubbed his throat.
“You probably ain’t even lookin’ at any of these girls in here.”
Henry sipped his beer again and put down his cigar for good. She told him she would be there. He didn’t know what he was going to do yet, he just knew he had to go. He didn’t know if she was for real, but he knew he needed to take the chance.
Henry looked at the entrance now and noticed a built model-type in a black skirt come through the door. He didn’t like to think of women in types, but she was unmistakable. He knew Iris. He could never get in close to her. He hadn’t known her long, and only they only talked to each other online or via text message. She had long, curly black hair. That and her beach bronze skin were her strength. Her friend had long glasses and long curly hair too, but brown. Cute, but not what Henry was looking for. Electronics weren’t enough. Tonight she would be ‘the model’, or ‘the girl in the black dress’. She took reluctant steps, but she was bold once she took them. It was the reach that was delicate. They got drinks and henry watched her lips.
“You know her?” Josiah asked.
Henry said nothing.
“You should go talk to her,” Josiah said.
Tommy and Fischer turned to yell at Josiah because Josiah and Henry seemed to have their own conversation going while they entertained. They all wanted to score. It was all a team effort. Fischer shook his head looking at Henry and then saying something inaudible to Tommy. Henry didn’t see them jawing. He watched the girl in the black skirt, and seeing she was coming over to him. She talked and laughed with her friend at the bar.
The sound was low in Henry’s head, something dissonant yet full like putting a large beach shell to the ear. It grew and it was of waves crashing. Gleaning water flowed through the doors and soaked the billiard tables. Things turned. Josiah had his watched out, tick…tick…soundless, then crash. Impact with still bodies in a lounge would snap vertebra. They all disappeared from view and were into washy abyss of bubbly ocean. Henry was underwater too and none of his friends were in sight. He still saw the dress, black, bronze skin, the hair—long and strong.
“You should go talk to her,” Josiah said.
Tommy and Fischer turned to yell at Josiah and Henry because they seemed to have their own conversation going while the other two entertained. Fischer and Tommy wanted to score. Tommy shook his head and Fischer said something inaudible while he looked Henry’s way. Henry didn’t see them jawing.
Henry’s eyes were open but he stared at nothing, and everything.
“You going to talk to any of them?” Josiah asked Henry.
Henry turned to Josiah, blinking and quickly shaking his head.
“Hey don’t be rude, whispering. We have guests.” Tommy said.
“I can’t talk to my brother?” Josiah said.
Tommy put his arm around the brunette’s waist that sat on his lap.
“I’m okay,” Henry said.
He pulled out his watch and Henry swore he could always hear it ticking even though the voices and laughs overpowered everything there. More people came in.
“You sure?” Josiah checked.
Henry nodded, and watched the thick legs of the friend walk by. Josiah looked too, and Fischer had a look. The friend smiled a wide smile with square front teeth. The girl in the black dress didn’t smile at anyone in the group. She wore awkwardness like a cloak that kept a spell over her, and her aura was strange and oblivious, maybe nervous. Henry couldn’t tell. No one could tell. Henry kept a straight face, and wondered if the others noticed her. If they hooted and hollered about her looks, he wouldn’t hear them in the noise. He couldn’t smile her way, or risk being found out. He wanted to say hello. They would ask him a ton of questions and say they were sleeping together, or at least ask, and Henry liked his own awkwardness, and the cloak of quietness seemingly tailored for him. She sipped her drink with pursed lips but didn’t flex at any bitterness from the drink. She made looking good look easy. She didn’t look at any guys. Henry looked at her black dress, or skirt. He wasn’t sure. Josiah watched his brother’s eyes focus on one woman.
“You really should go talk to her.”
“I can distract them. They won’t even know you’re gone, and over there.”
“Go ahead, man.”
“You know, I never talk to someone when I’m pressured.”
“I’m just trying to give you some encouragement.”
“I don’t need any.”
“Yea, you do.”
Henry huffed and fidgeted, looking around the room. The errant stares were easily noticed.
“You don’t know anyone in here,” Fischer said.
“And you don’t want to know anyone in here,” Tommy burped.
“Would you please just go talk to the girl?” Josiah pleaded.
Henry didn’t respond. And then he got up, noticing Fischer’s face nestled between the breasts of a giggling girl and Tommy whispering in the ear of another that sat on his lap. Henry walked over to a dark corner, darker than any in the room. They could all be seen. It took a lot of guts to walk over the way he was, but he darted across the room to the corner where the Iris stood. There was no more thinking of her as the girl in the black dress. She was so womanly, and thick-legged, and strong in her looks and everything henry could think of as powerful and beautiful in a woman was there, stocked up into one flesh—curvaceous and eye-opening. Her friend was free and they were talking, and he slowed down, arrived, and looked at the floor first.
“Hey,” Iris said.
Her smile was full of teeth, but it was her lips that stood out the most—full and with dark lipstick. He remembered those lips, and wished they were on him, and that he could have her without anyone really knowing, and then make her his girlfriend.
“You’re here,” Henry said.
“I told you I would come.”
“I don’t like to lie. I like to keep my word.”
“So—how are you?”
It was with this awkwardness that they both tugged at, seeing who would tip the balance of suave and inept, but neither of them wavered.
“You look nice.”
“And so do you. If I could say how nice you look, I would say you were gorgeous. Yea, that’s the word I would use—gorgeous.”
“Thank you,” she smiled.
She seemed to never stop smiling, and Henry smiled nonstop too. He wasn’t darting around the room and fidgeting anymore, but he was focused now—focused on one person. Iris got all of his attention and he didn’t have to worry anymore about what the boys thought. He would deal with them later and work on that later. Impressing friends was too much for one man and he would never be a man to himself or anyone in the group. The friend paid no attention to them. She just smiled and looked for the nearest guy to keep her company while her friend enjoyed her own.
“So how long were you going to sit over there and not say hi to me?”
“What do you mean?”
She giggled and he looked at the floor again, stealing glances at her body again. Everything on her was statuesque.
“You took a while to come over here.”
“It’s just not that easy for me.”
“It seems like it is when we’re on campus.”
“We don’t talk around campus.”
“How is that? We’ve bumped into one another so many times.”
She was still smiling and Henry was smiling too. Water crashed into the doors again and toppled the both of them, and he watched her under the water, bubbly and clearer this time, wondering what was going on and why it was happening again. There was no answer. He could feel the cold ocean and taste the salt on the sides of his tongue. His lungs felt tight and with little left in them—he felt they would explode soon, that is, until blackness was all that was left, and black had taken over all thought and reason in a conversation he thought he would never have.
The room was lit, and smoke was in the air. Tumblers were filled with whiskey, and smiles were all about, but Henry’s face was straight and unreadable as he stared at floor space much too far away from his group of friends.
“You okay?” Josiah asked.
There was no answer, and Fischer and Tommy had girls on their laps and they both laughed. Tommy took his eyes off his girl and blew smoke as he yelled at the two talking.
“Henry, you okay over there?” Josiah asked again.
Henry blinked twice, maybe it was three times, and finally moved his neck as if reality had gripped his brain again, and he turned to his brother.
“I can’t seem to ever get to her.”
“Her,” and Henry pointed to a woman in a black dress in a corner across the room. Josiah’s eyes went wide. “Yea…her.”