SHE WALKED TO HER ‘ONE ON ONE’ MEETING, spotting two children playing with a small dog in Susan’s office. Having never seen the boy, girl or dog before, Mag entered slowly, “Hi Susan. Is this still a good time for us to meet?”
She hoped Susan’s response would be… ‘No, let’s reschedule.’ Susan looked up, “It’s fine. Come in.” Mag squeezed past the older boy and younger girl while they played with the dog. They spoke in a language she assumed was Korean as she guesstimated the children’s ages at seven and five years old respectively. The dog, a fluffy white-haired Bolognese, seemed slightly older than a pup. Sitting in front of Susan’s desk, Mag expected an introduction, but instead watched Susan stare at her computer screen for thirty seconds, typing.
Mag perplexed… looks like she’s not gonna introduce me?
Opening her laptop. The dog stepped close to her leg and Mag leaned down, cupping the animals face in her palms. She spoke in a high pitch, child-like voice, “Hi. You’re a little cutie, aren’t you? What’s your name?”
“Monshi,” said Susan’s son. He pointed at the dog. “Oh, that’s a nice name. Hi, Monshi.” Mag glanced at Susan, “I didn’t know you had a dog. Is he a Bolognese?”
Susan spoke with a strong accent. Imperfect English,
“Yes. And she girl. Not boy.”
Her children cackled with laughter, making Mag wonder… are they laughing because I guessed the wrong gender? She focused attention on the dog, “Oh. I’m sorry. You’re not a little boy. You’re a little girl. One day you should meet Popper.” She looked at Susan, “She’s very friendly. I think she smells my dog on me.”
“She always nice to everyone. She purebred.”
What does that have to do with anything?… Mag shook the question from her head before replying, “Same as Popper.” Susan turned slowly from her screen, “Oh. I thought your dog is mix?”
“No. Popper’s purebred.”
She glanced at her dog with a smile. “Monshi only like other purebred dog. When she meet mutt, she bark like crazy.” Susan grinned, revealing crooked smoker stained teeth behind narrowly absent lips. She pointed at Monshi, snickering, “It so funny! She racist against mix breed.”
Mag was unsure how to respond and shuffled her feet. Glancing at Susan’s children, she wondered… how can she smile after saying something so bigoted?
But the children continued playing with Monshi. They seemed unaware, or unphased by their mother’s comment. Susan grinned and gazed at Mag, “Isn’t it funny she racist?” Feeling pressured to respond, Mag questioned herself… we’re only talking about dogs, right? Not people? She responded dryly. “Yeah, that-is pretty strange.”
“It so funny!” Susan laughed aloud and Mag acknowledged… this is the first time you’ve ever smiled in my presence. She wanted to partake in the moment.
But it felt wrong.
Regardless, Susan was in a good mood and Mag considered the remainder of her meeting a success. She had fallen behind on two out of three projects, but Susan didn’t seem to mind. Instead, prompting Mag to break down her tasks into smaller chunks and immediately communicate potential roadblocks.
Afterward, Mag returned to her desk and instant messaged Rebecca.
<Mag> I just finished my 'one on one.' <Rebecca> How did it go? <Mag> Surprisingly well. Susan’s in a good mood. Maybe because her kids and dog are here? <Rebecca> Yeah, I saw them earlier. I didn’t know she had a dog! <Mag> Me neither! <Mag> Wanna get coffee? <Rebecca> Sure.
Like prairie dogs emerging from ground holes, they stood. Heads popping above the wall separating their work-spaces. Glancing at each other, they smirked at the coincidental timing, then Mag pursed her lips, “Let’s go.”
TAKING THE SHUTTLE HOME, SHE SHOWERED and prepared for the finance team event. Mag had already informed Drew, who departed to a sports bar to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins game. Though she initially intended to ignore her group’s outing, she felt good about bumping into Monica earlier and rode high from her positive one-on-one meeting with Susan.
Monica’s email to the group provided the evening’s bar-hopping itinerary. They planned on visiting five distinct bars; each location within walking distance of each other. Any party-goers remaining after 11 p.m. (whom Monica dubbed true warriors) would end the night at a dance club. She explained, the group would travel like Marines and leave no woman behind. Adhering to the following schedule.
6 - 7 p.m. = Kingman’s Bar (8th & Market) 7 - 8 p.m. = The Black Cat (9th & Mission) 9 - 10 p.m. = Lucky 7’s (Grace & Mission) 10 - 11 p.m. = Royale Lounge (11th & Howard) 11 - ? = Club Asia (11th & Harrison)
Mag estimated it had been over a year since she attended a girl’s night out… long overdue. But with such short notice, she had no time to visit a salon.
Grabbing seamless underwear and her favorite pair of black leggings, she combed and sprayed her hair. Touched up her nails and makeup, then topped herself with a fitted powder blue halter-top. She rarely wore high heels, and decided… tonight will be an exception. Digging through her closet, retrieving thigh-high zippered boots with two-inch heels, she stepped in front of a full-length mirror. Turning sideways, examining her butt and legs. I’m not in horrible shape… she thought. Angling further. She peered over her shoulder, cupping her lower buttocks. Pressed up… this is how my ass should look.
Letting it drop… not like this. I need to exercise again.
Slapping the back of her thighs. She rubbed up and down, sighing… oh well. This is the best I’ll get tonight.
Picking up her mobile, she scheduled an appointment with a taxi service. One glass of Pinot Noir later, her phone buzzed indicating her driver’s arrival. Mag gulped the final drop of wine, then grabbed her purse and flew downstairs where a double-parked black BMW with flashing emergency lights stood in front of her building. Its color matched the vehicle description communicated to her via the taxi service app, which also indicated her driver’s name, Doug. She approached the vehicle, “Are you Doug?”
“Yeah.” He climbed out of the car and opened the rear passenger door, “You going to Black Cat bar?”
Out of all the recent mobile application creations, the On-Demand Instant taxi Service (ODIS) remained Mag’s favorite. ODIS fees debited directly from her bank account. Tipping wasn’t mandatory, but she usually gave a few dollars as long as the driver remained quiet and their vehicle was clean. Doug hadn’t spoken a word during their ten-minute drive. Arriving at the bar, he stepped out and opened the rear door, “Have a wonderful evening.”
MAG STOOD AND FACED THE BLACK CAT BAR. Its facade informing her… yes. You are at a dive bar. Loiterers lingered, smoking and talking loudly as two motorcycle engines revved. The rumbling sound of their exhausts spewing pollutants into the air. The bar resided in an area where anyone could purchase a bevy of questionable drugs, evidenced by a pair of hell’s angel-ish looking bouncers. Sandwiching the pub’s entryway between beefy bodies, they stood guard as Mag’s nostrils inhaled a mixture of stale beer, vehicle smoke, and potent marijuana.
Luckily, there was no line.
She’d pinged Monica previously, who informed her of the team’s location near the rear of the bar. Upon entry, Mag spotted the group precisely where Monica indicated and approached, waving. Stopping in front of the table, another co-worker slid over, creating space at the edge of the booth. While Mag sat, Monica poured a pint of dark beer and slid it over, “Hey Mag! You like Guinness, right?”
“Good, cause that’s what we’re drinking!” Her voice bellowed and the group cheered aloud, making Mag realize… they’re already buzzed.
She small talked with two co-workers for twenty minutes and had nearly finished her pint when Monica stood, “It’s time to go!” Tapping her wrist, she pointed at a non-existent watch and squeezed her way out the booth. Encouraging everyone, “C’mon ladies! Drink up! We got a schedule to keep!”
Shelly, seated next to Mag, commented, “Monica loves this stuff. She’s like a herd wrangler.”
Next to Shelly sat Helen, “Yeah. I feel like we’re cattle.” She mimicked cow sounds, “Moo. Moo. Moooove your butt over so we can go to the next bar!”
All three burst laughing as Mag coughed and choked on half swallowed ale. She prevented beer from blasting out her mouth. But it bubbled up her nostrils. Burning through her nose before oozing out. She hacked uncontrollably.
“Are you okay?!” Helen patted her on the back. “Did beer just come out your nose?” She laughed aloud. Mag’s throat barked. She nearly gagged, but managed to chuckle, “It hurts!” The trio laughed more, “Here, take these.” Shelly handed her napkins as Monica eyed the commotion, “Hey, Mag! You just got here, and already had too much to drink!? Don’t quit on us yet. It’s too early!” Mag dried her runny nose and watering eyes. Speaking softly, she grinned at Helen and Shelly. “I feel like this is gonna be a rough night.”
“Yeah, it is. You don’t have anything important to do tomorrow do you?” Helen glanced at Mag and Shelly as their heads shook… no.
For two hours… Mag, Helen, and Shelly hung together like musketeers. Following Monica’s emailed orders, they remained close to the team; traveling pub to pub. Leaving no one behind. As a rule, they’d agreed to limit their drinks to one per bar. It was a solid plan through the third drinkery, ‘Lucky 7’s.’ At the fourth stop (Royal Lounge) they consumed another pint and retained adequate control of abilities until Monica shouted,
“Let’s do tequila shots!”
Shelly snuck outside and arranged an ODIS ride home. By the time Mag and Helen noticed her departure, Monica held three tequila shots in front of them, “Where’s Shelly?” she asked. “I think you scared her away with the shots,” said Mag.
“You’re kidding? Did she seriously leave? She didn’t even say goodbye.” Monica’s voice grew somber, “That’s so sad. You guys wouldn’t do that, would you?” Mag and Helen glanced at each other, non-verbally communicating… yeah, we totally would. “Here.” Monica gave them a shot glass each and kept the third in her hand., “I’m gonna drink this on behalf of Shelly, our fallen comrade.” Placing her hand on Helen’s shoulder, she imitated a thick Irish accent, “Alas, Shelly will be sorely missed. For she was a fine friend, and a more loving soul we may never encounter in this world.” Her gaze ping-ponged between the pair. “But thanks to the mindfulness of the good lord above. We still have each other.” She winked, then raised her tequila shot overhead. All three glasses clinked, “To Shelly!”
Fearing the aftereffects of tequila, Mag and Helen ordered chicken fingers and mini burgers from the lounge kitchen. Upon completing their meals, they stood at the bar conspiring to leave, “Where do you live? Maybe we can share an ODIS ride home?”
MAG NOTICED MONICA APPROACHING and guesstimated the woman had already consumed four beers, and two tequila shots. She wondered… how does she look sober? Monica addressed them both, “You’re coming to Club Asia, right?”
“Probably not me,” said Helen, “I’m pretty buzzed right now.”
Monica retorted, “We’re all buzzed! When was the last time you went dancing?”
“Oh, geez. It’s been crazy long.” She looked at Mag, “How ‘bout you Mag?”
“I’m pretty buzzed too. I should prob…”
“No-no.” Monica frowned, “When was the last time you went dancing?” Mag blushed, “Oh! It’s been forever! I can’t remember when.”
“You know the best way to get sober after a pub crawl?” It seemed a rhetorical question, but Monica paused as if expecting a response. She answered, “You have to dance and drink lots of water to sweat the alcohol out. You guys know that, right?”
A popular dance song played over the lounge sound system and Monica tilted her head. Swaying hips. Side-to-side. Her narrow waist and wide thighs latched on to the rhythm, “Oh! This is a cool song!” Arms dangling like thick rubber ropes waving in a gentle breeze. Her body slithered-in-air as she spoke, “I can tell… you guys know how to dance. Don’t you?” Mag and Helen surveyed her movement. Feet planted firmly on the ground, she swam. Wiggling. Mermaid-like. Recognizing their appreciation, Monica smiled with consumed admiration.
“Sure. I can dance,” said Helen. Curling her lip, “But not like what you’re doing.”
Monica stopped. Her expression turned serious, “I don’t believe that. You probably dance better than me.” She pointed toward two co-workers at the end of the bar, “Janet and Miriam said they’re gonna come.” Mag followed the direction of Monica’s finger and recognized both team members, but hadn’t spoken to them all night. Monica positioned herself between Helen and Mag, “If both of you come, then we have five total.” Upon uttering the word ‘five’ she opened her hand, fanning all digits. “It’s the exact number we need.”
Mag and Helen didn’t respond. Sensing their trepidation, Monica realized she needed enticement to win them over, “We’ll probably just stay for an hour.” She slowed her speech. Softening her tone as if chit-chatting, “I reserved a VIP booth with bottle service. It’s in the balcony of the club. It’s sitting there. Waiting for us.”
“Really?” Mag’s eyes widened. She’d seen images of party-goers, enjoying VIP booths and bottle service in music videos, and always wondered… is it really that cool?
“I’ve never had a VIP booth or bottle service.”
Monica stared at her sideways, “You never had VIP bottle service!?” Her raised brow and stink eye insinuating… were you raised by wolves? “How is that possible?” Inadequacy rose in Mag. Shrugging shoulders, she interrogated herself… why haven’t I had VIP service? Monica eyed Helen, “You had VIP bottle service before, right?”
“Yeah. It’s pretty cool…” Helen grinned and Monica nodded in agreement. Pointing at Helen, she pressured Mag with her eyes, “See! That’s what I’m talkin about! Everyone should try it at least once. It’s like flying first class.” Recognizing she had them on the ropes, she applied a thin layer of guilt to seal the deal, “If you guys don’t come, we won’t have enough people. I’ll have to cancel the booth and service. You should come.”
She positioned her hands, praying, “C’mon! Say you’ll come!”
Glancing at each other, Mag and Helen smiled and nodded in agreement, then Monica grabbed them by the shoulders,
“Let’s go to Club Asia!”