Afraid To Say

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“Excuse me?”

He turned his head and faced her.

“Is there any chance you have a little screwdriver?”

“No, I’m sorry I don’t. Maybe ask the bartender?”

“I did. Thanks.” She turned back toward the bar and leaked a small sigh.

“See this is one of those moments in my life when I wish I had been a better boy scout, you know, so I’d have a Swiss Army Knife at the ready or be a TV guy so I could instantly remember how MacGyver would have solved this.”

She looked at him with a mixture of contempt and sympathy.

“Let me remind you, you spoke to me first.” He turned back to the bar.

“I didn’t watch it either.”

“I don’t think we missed anything. What’s broken?”

“I just need to pry the back off this phone case.”

“Oh why didn’t you say so? I’m an expert at prying. Watch this. I’m Mark. What’s your name?”

“What?”

“Never mind. Here hand it to me. I have a divot tool on my keychain.” He pulled his keys from his pocket, located the tool, and popped off the back of her phone. “Here you are.”

“Now I’d say you had expert boy scout training because you were resourceful and did a good deed.”

“Oh my God, you’re hilarious.”

“Cassandra.”

“I’m Mark.”

“Yes, I got the prying joke.”

“I thought the hotel would be busier at lunch.”

“It has been. Are you staying here?”

“No. I had a meeting downtown. I was here once. I liked it. How about you?”

“I’m staying here for work.”

“What do you do?”

“You do pry.”

“You don’t have to answer.”

“I’m here for the boat show.”

He laughed. “You don’t look like a boat show kind of woman.”

“I think I’m insulted.”

“I don’t mean it that way. Wouldn’t it have been more insulting if I said, Oh boat show. Of course!”

She laughed. “True enough. My turn to pry. What do you do?”

“Professional golf caddie. Sort of explains the divot tool?”

“Really? I’ve never met a professional caddie!”

“You still haven’t. I’m just being an ass. I have the divot because my buddy gave it to me and I didn’t even know what it was. I’m a writer.”

“What kind of writing do you do?”

“Every kind. So Cassandra. What do you do at the boat show?”

“Well, I’ll tell you what I don’t do. I don’t hook up with strangers.”

“Well now this would be a first. Rejected and I hadn’t even pitched. Let me remind you, you spoke to me first.”

She laughed, “Apparently that’s an important point to you.”

“No.” He shook his head and blew air out of his lungs. “I’m just tired of women always thinking all guys are looking to hook up. You know I can actually have a conversation without sex being my plan.”

“Now you can’t deny you were flirting.” She picked up her glass, her purse, and moved down the bar and sat beside him.

“Okay. I don’t even want to have a conversation that doesn’t contain flirting.”

“Really?”

“Okay. Here’s the scoop. Flirting adds interest to any conversation. Flirting is the rhythm of it. I flirt with everyone I meet and it has nothing to do with sex at all.”

“I’ve never thought of it that way.”

“Well think about it. It’s like a good story. Who wants to hear a story that doesn’t contain at least hints of sex or violence? I don’t do dull.”

“So are you saying that you weren’t flirting with me you were just flirting and it had nothing to do with me?”

“No. That would be a lie. You can’t walk around with the kind of lips you have and not expect people to flirt. They sort of make flirting mandatory. Like a flag you stop to salute.”

She laughed. “I’m not hooking up with you.”

“I’m not asking you.”

“Okay.”

“Okay. Hey what’s that?” He nodded toward her drink.

“It’s a pear cosmopolitan.”

“Is it any good?”

“It is.”

“Did you already have lunch?”

“I did not.”

“I’m going to order lunch. We could eat together.”

“I’d like that.”

They ordered lunch and exchanged patter while they ate.

“Hey can I ask you something?”

“I don’t know. It depends of what it is.” She lifted the napkin from her lap and dabbed her mouth.

“Okay I don’t want to do,” he waved his left hand in front of his chest in a dismissive gesture, “meaningless conversation anymore. I just want to talk real for a moment. Okay?”

“Well. Ask me and I’ll see if I want to reply.”

“What are you afraid of?”

She sat straight. “Yeah, I don’t want to answer this. I don’t feel comfortable. It borders on creepy.”

He laughed. “Oh my God no.” He lifted his hand and wiped his face from forehead to chin. “This isn’t some creepy sex question. I’ve just been thinking about it lately. I’ve been thinking about Trump and our society and all the fear we seem to have now. It’s like everyone is afraid and everyone is afraid to say they’re afraid.”

She relaxed in her seat. “Oh. Okay. I don’t know. I’d have to think about it.”

He sat back on his stool. “I was just thinking. You know if everyone would just take a moment and turn to the person beside them and tell them what they’re so afraid of, I think we wouldn’t be so afraid. I think things would be so much better if we just started saying things aloud. And not yelling. Just talk. Watch. I want to try something.” He gestured toward the bartender. “Hey, can I ask you something?”

The bartender waited. “Sure.”

“Okay. You know what?” He looked directly into the bartender’s eyes. “You don’t know me and we’re probably never seeing each other again. I don’t get downtown that often. So. You know what my greatest fear is right now? I don’t know how I can take care of myself and take care of my parents. I’m afraid I’m out of time. What are you afraid of?”

The bartender looked at him, inhaled, exhaled, and stared. “I’m afraid I’ve lost my boy. I don’t think he’s going to turn out the way I hoped he would. And I don’t know what to do.”

He extended his hand, “Thanks bro.” They shook hands. He turned to her.

“I’m afraid everyone is full of hate.” She said, “People aren’t even kind to each other anymore.”

“Okay.”

The bartender looked at her. “Me too.”

She looked above the bartender’s head. “I’m afraid my husband doesn’t love me anymore.”

The men remained silent. Finally he said, “I’m sorry.”

The bartender looked at her. “Me too.”

He looked at his phone. “Hey I’ve gotta go. I’m sorry. I have to take my dad to have his ears cleaned. Can I have my tab?”

She looked at him, “Really?”

He reached for his wallet. “See I wasn’t trying to hook up.”

“I’m here through the weekend if you want to have dinner.”

“I’m sorry I can’t.” He waited for the bartender to return with his bill.

“Please let me buy your lunch.” She patted his hand. “I’ve had a wonderful time.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Thank you Cassandra. Don’t be afraid. We don’t all hate.” He put his wallet inside his coat and waved to her through the window from the sidewalk.

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