Let’s Lie Together
With nothing in sight, one December night, the wind still warps noisily,
The sound of ocean waves a block away, meeting weather in this chasm of the Jersey shore.
I walk slowly toward the the entrance to the bar, cautious and cold.
There is room enough inside, the place built for August crowds,
Hosting only a dozen winter spelunkers tonight. But, like expanding gas, a sadness fills the place.
The night folks introduce themselves, all vividly named; “Broom”, “Froggy”, “Tall Benny”, “Alley Cat”.
They sit, elbow to elbow, talk in short muttering bursts without moving their heads left or right,
Except for the casual glance at the hockey game on television.
Brenda Lee is singing softly in the background, then Tedeschi Trucks.
The friendly tender whistles, indifferent to the tunes coming through the speakers.
Alley Cat moves her jacket and her bottle of beer and napkin to sit next to me. She wants to talk.
“I remember you! You played guitar at the winery last month, right? You guys were GOOD!”
Her green eyes are crimped, but eager, the rest of her burdened and wounded.
I cannot disappoint her, so I nod and grasp the Rolling Rock bottle, my chalice.
She talks more about the winery, the songs played, what her friends say about each song.
Her phone rings, an oblique answer to my prayer for privacy.
She tells her friend how lucky she is tonight. “Remember the band from the winery?”
“Yeah, the old guys playing all that Tom Petty? I’m sitting next to one of them!”
She insists her friend come over and the call is done.
Someone across the bar is taking a picture of his companion holding a beer and they laugh.
Alley Cat asks, “Where are you playing these days?”
“No where before Christmas.” The best lie is always the smallest one.
She is relentless in her questions. I get up to go, to leave her with a smile and a final lie.
“Sorry, practice early tomorrow.” And now you know the lie, so you are part of it and I am relieved.
You have relieved me. The shared lie carries the least shame. Thank you.