When I heard her laugh I fell in love. It was the laugh of a real woman, a no-holds-barred laugh, an I-don’t-give-a-fuck-what-the-world-thinks-of-me laugh. It came from deep within her stomach and exploded across the bar. It was the reason I first noticed her. It was the reason I fell so hard, so fast.
She leaned against the mahogany, legs crossed on the stool, foot tapping against the metal of the chair. But I was drawn to her face. It was . . . it’s hard to say. It was like hearing Bach for the first time. Or . . . what the hell is that song? You know that one. The one about the harbor and that girl. I wish I could remember how it went. It was a perfect little diddy. Explained exactly what it was like. Her face. It was just . . . angelic. Black hair fell gently across it and draped down her neck, and that dress, goddamn I wish you could see it now like I can. It’s there now, in my mind, years after she’s gone. She was perfect that night.
They huddled like hens around her, pecking, trying to get a piece of her. Of course they would. Talk to her, I thought. But she . . . my heart was pounding. I could not think straight. What was I saying? Yes, she was perfect. The dress was dark blue. I love that color. It reminds me of the ocean, the rolling waves, that dark blue you only get at night, when the wind’s blowing in off the warm water and the air tastes salty and metallic.
God, that laugh. There it was again, booming into the world. Her mouth spread open, white chiclet teeth dancing in the dark. I could see her soft pink tongue playing against them, moving quietly. I bet it was salty too, just like the ocean breeze.
How long have I been staring? No matter, those friends floated around her. They hovered, those hens, laughing along with her. Their fake dainty laughter. Not like hers, real and true. Glasses chinked. I couldn’t make out what they were saying. Those goddamn hens. I moved closer.
My head began to throb. Da-duh. Da-duh. Da-duh. It picked up steam as my chest tightened. He saw an angel and his heart burst. That’s what I’d put on my tombstone. I laughed out loud at that thought, laughed that same hearty laugh of hers. I bet she would think that’s funny too.
They looked at me. Those damn hens. My mouth was dry. That one. The hard looking one with the sideways smile and that fucking sneer. They all laughed again. Even her, with those pretty little chiclet teeth and that salty tongue.
Da-duh. That fucking throbbing. It never ended. Like a screw getting twisted into my skull. Da-duh. Da-duh. My vision blurred. I could feel it coming, the red.
She was laughing at me. They all were. Those hens. That bitch. Why did she have to do this to me? I pictured my fist bashing in that pretty face, teeth flying across the floor like a spilt container of tic tacs. Da-duh. Red closed in around me. Da-duh. Sitting here throbbing and she’s just laughing. I tried shouting, “Bitch!” but everything caught in my throat. I just garbled faintly and stood there.
“Huh, stranger?” she shouted over the music even though I was just a few feet away.
I took a breath, slowly. Color returned.
“You’re a strange one.” Then she laughed. There it was. My heart melted and rushed down inside me like ice turned to water. I bet everyone who had ever met this girl fell in love. The universe is like that sometimes. Destiny, or fate, or whatever the hell it was out there that made the world spin round. It was true though. She knew that too, I bet.
“Hi.” I smiled.
She smiled back. I’ll always remember that moment: that blue dress, the way she tipped her head down when she smiled. It was the last smile I’d ever see from her. It was the only word we’d ever get to share. But she knew. I know she knew. That smile was so goddamn beautiful. I only wished I’d seen her smile again.
But that damn RED, that RED that just seeps in from the edges and then . . . black. Nothing. Maybe she smiled during the RED, during that night, alone in her bedroom. I doubt it though. The moment was too precious. She probably wanted to savor it with me. That last smile she had in the bar, that was our moment. Wait . . . in the dark, wasn’t there a smile in her sleep? It’s so hard to remember sometimes. I think so . . . no, it was more of a smirk. Yes, I wanted to wake her, but she seemed so peaceful dreaming there in the dark. So perfect. I wonder if she was dreaming of the bar, dreaming of our smile. I wish I’d seen that smile again before she left this world.
After that all I remember is the RED. RED and that goddamn throbbing. Da-duh. Da-duh. It never ended. And those pretty chiclet teeth on the brown carpet. I remember that. It was like a bottle of spilt tic tacs. Now I remember. Her carpet was gray though. I think. It’s hard to remember over that damn throbbing. I do remember though. I remember the tic tacs. And that dress, and that laugh.
I wish I could tell her that, at least about the tic tacs. She would have laughed that booming laugh again, salty tongue dancing in the dark behind those chiclets. She would have smiled.
She was so good to me.