The Bar Louie Connected to the Hamilton Place Mall in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Originally performed with Solo Crowd You Only Live Once More vol. 8, May 2017, The Frontier
Name of former colleague redacted.
If you’ve ever had a corporate job, you’ll have survived the Team Building Day. (sit down, take off shoes) You know—the annual meeting where we all sing kumbaya, practice trust falls, and pretend like things will get better this year. Each power point presentation is fueled by grocery store danishes, stale coffee, and dedication to the cause.
When we get to the presentation about corporate culture, I busy myself with stacking the used paper plates and cups to keep from biting my tongue so hard it bleeds.
(Take off clothes and put on flip-flops. Put hair up.)
I remember the look on his face when he saw my tattoos for the first time. In hindsight, I think the tattoos are what gave me away. I usually just keep them covered up at work to avoid eyes and questions, but after three days in a conference room with 7 salesmen in suit jackets in the Tennessee August, it inevitably gets too hot. I choose comfort over discretion, so I guess I asked for this.
(Fill the glass up. Put in cocktail parasol)
His name is *redacted*. He’s a sales rep based in *Redacted*, Florida. *Redacted* has a boat and often makes sales calls from his lanai. I did not know what a lanai was before I met *redacted*.
He 6 foot 3 and has Don Draper hair. Probably about age 50 or so, kids in college. He is broad shouldered and kind of buff underneath his blue suit. He always buttons his shirt at the top and never loosens his tie in public.
His inflection is always sloping downward and reminds me of the college boys that wear pastel polo shirts, plaid shorts, and boat shoes.
(Put on rain poncho.)
The place is Bar Louie. The Bar Louie connected to the Hamilton Place mall in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to be more precise.
I was there for some work happy hour thing where they make you pay for your own check, but you’re still obligated to go. It’s late when I look around and realize it’s just *redacted* and me left waiting to pay our tabs. I bury my face in the screen of my phone, but he walks over to me anyway.
(Pick up the glass and start flicking water at the audience.)
He’s had one perhaps two glasses of Dark Horse cabernet. His blue suit jacket, starched white button-down, and gray tie are still in the same place they were at 7:30 this morning. He is not sweating, but his glass full of ice water is. And dripping all over the floor. Somehow missing his shining black shoes.
No matter how manically I slide my thumb up the screen, I can’t wish the server to bring the check any faster. You see—earlier that day, I had bled through my pants for the first time since I was a kid.
I just got an IUD and was more unprepared than usual—even after 15 years of being a menstruating human. I was feeling the same squish that left a mark on the conference room seat earlier that day and I was privately panicking. The kind of panic tween girls have.
*Redacted’s* dripping glass of ice water is nearly melted- just a thin layer meandering on the surface, so thin the sheets would melt away as soon as they hit your tongue. He planned this before he came over here. In hindsight, I guess this means he must have already quietly blessed the ice water to himself.
And then he asks me what church I go to. I don’t. Why? Because I’m not Christian. Not even when you were a kid? No. My parents aren’t really Christian either.
He kind of winces. Like maybe he needs to use the bathroom too?
What if I could baptize you right now?
He must sense my bewilderment that’s lightly simmering into hostility, so he has this analogy to offer me:
“Kayla–what if I knew a storm was coming. A storm is coming and I want to give you a raincoat. You can’t see the storm yet, but I know it is coming. Wouldn’t you just take the raincoat?”
If I were seeking some baptismal insurance, what makes him think I want to do it in the Bar Louie connected to the Hamilton Place mall in Chattanooga, Tennessee with a glass of ice water? Or that he—someone I barely know—is the right person to do it? Doesn’t he need some kind of certification?
But the afterlife is so comforting to him—so comforting he has to impose it on me in the Bar Louie connected to the Hamilton Place mall in Chattanooga Tennessee.
Blood is starting to leak outside of the wing of my pad and harden against my thigh. But I can’t look away from him.
*Redacted* genuinely cares if I go to heaven or hell when I die. No one has ever looked at me this way—with simultaneous pity and concern—The way someone would look at a three-legged dog that doesn’t realize he’s any different from the others.
I start to cry a little. So I hold my breath because I don’t want him to get the wrong idea.
Then he asks me to pray with him. I don’t say anything. I hold my breath harder. And he begins.
As soon as his eyes close I can’t hold it anymore so I scoot between his blue suit coat and the varnished chair—but too fast. I stumble and the sweating glass spills over and bounces on the carpet.
But I don’t look back. I don’t stop to apologize. I don’t stop in the bathroom to address the pad that’s now fused to my thigh. I squish as quickly and quietly as possible out the door and across the parking lot that is still holding on to the afternoon’s heat.
My pad overflows over when I sit down and start my car, but I don’t stop until I am home.