Originally published in Instant City, Issue Five, 2007.
The T.A. from Metal Arts stood me up, so I suck on a martini and pretend to be alone on purpose.
Slayer’s on the juke, sounding tinny and operatic. Murio’s Trophy Room is a comfy Haight Street dive that always smells a little like old piss. The walls are Cadmium Red Deep and there are a couple of warped pool tables in the back. Caricatures of folks from the neighborhood wallpaper the ceiling. I frequented this bar when I was underage. I’m a grown woman, 24 to be precise. I have no business here.
A middle-aged man sits a few stools away, doodling on a napkin. He looks overused and overstuffed, like an old armchair. A skimpy ponytail drools down his back. I check him out because there is nothing else to see.
The doodler catches me watching and sets down his pen. A lock of hair slips forward into his pint glass and dances in the beer. He winks.
This is my cue to leave. As I pass, the doodler stretches a napkin towards me. I don’t want it, but take it anyway. It’s a portrait.
There, on the napkin, is my long neck, hawk nose and heavy eyebrows, in smooth strokes. My frizzy white hair pops in front of a black scribble background. The outgrown roots accentuate my natural trashiness.
“That’s wonderful,” I say.
I flip the napkin over and sketch his face on the other side, exaggerating the worry lines and the bags under his eyes. He frowns.
“I promise I’ll look younger after you have another martini,” he says.