Mila and Maurice

Mila and Maurice

A Story by AE
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Two folks talking in a bar.

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“All right now, what’ll it be?” A tall dark man looms over Mila. He asks again, “Hey, what’ll it be tonight?”

            “Wha-what,” she asks as she picks her head up off the counter. There’s a groove running across the width of her forehead from the zipper on her jacket sleeve. The man raises his eyebrows, but he doesn’t comment on it. It takes a minute for her vision to adjust, but she’s surprised to see that the man sports a floppy curly afro and has red eyes. She grins a little. The look still gets her.

            “Yeah, what do you want? Drink? Food? Something new maybe?”

            “Uh no, just some water.”  Even with his unnerving eyes, he manages to appear briefly heartbroken. Reluctant, she continues. “From the tap? And maybe one of those mini corn dogs.”

            “The corndogs come in pairs.” He says the ‘r’ in “pairs” hard.

“Okay.”

            “Three,” he says. She digs in her right pocket and pulls out three coffee stained singles. She swallows hard as she reaches over the counter to hand the money over. Those were her last ones.

“So, what’s with you,” asks the man as he walks over to a sink behind the counter and pours water into her cup.

“What do you mean, what’s with me?”

“I mean you come in here and never order a drink, nothing flavored at least. You sit at the bar eating crackers. You maybe order one mini corndog, knowing good ‘n well the dish includes two mini corndogs, and then you just sit there saying nothing to nobody all night. You sit just like that, fiddling with that bear on your keys, staring at a warm cup of water with no ice, and it’s just sad.”

She is speechless. He’s never said this much to her before. At first, she’s surprised he noticed all this about her, though there are only ever a grand total of about five customers who regularly walk into this bar. It’s been nearly a month since she started coming here and she’s never engaged in any real conversation.

“Corndogs!” The big lady at the other end of the counter slides a plate with two mini corndogs over to Mila’s side. The corndogs are steaming, dripping with oil. She sets a napkin on the plate and places the corndogs on top.

“So, what’s with you,” the man asks again. “Do you even drink?”

She takes a deep breath. “No, I don’t drink.”

“Then why do you come?”

She takes a sip of her water. It is warm.

“You don’t come for the food,” says the man. “The grease is dirty. You’ll get more bang for your buck at a McDonalds honestly.”

“Don’t you want customers,” she asks.

“Yeah, but I like having my questions answered too. You’re a bit of mystery, you know? I know every customer here pretty well except for you. This bar’s more of a family bar than a city bar if you know what I mean.”

She knows what he means. “I just want to be invisible.”

“Usually, someone would go to a bigger place with lots of faceless people to do that.”

“I suppose I don’t like big places with lots of faceless people. I like little places where all the people have faces and the faces have names.”

“Do you have a name?”

She forgot. She hasn’t told anyone here her name.

“I’m Mila.”

“I’m"” He points to his name tag. It reads “Maurice.”

“Hi Maurice.”

“Hello Mila.”

Something hangs between them as if the air chooses to hold still only in that spot. Between the noise from the football game showing on the small box TV sitting on the shelf of the bar, the heated whispers between an elderly couple in the far corner of the room, and the grizzled laughs of two beer guzzling bikers by the main entrance, there should be a soft buzz floating everywhere. She is about to zone out again before Maurice revives the conversation.

“You live in your van, right?” he asks. A look of surprise flashes across Mila’s face.

“What? How would you know that?”

“It’s parked in that lot across the street all day and night, plus I saw you get in it once when I was out on a smoke break.”

“Oh,” says Mila.

“Are you a student? It looks crammed with dorm stuff.”

“I was a student.”

“Was? Did you graduate already?” asks Maurice.

“No, I dropped out.”

“What, but why?”

Mila doesn’t answer. She fiddles with her keys, attached to a loop on her right jacket sleeve. Maurice’s attention is drawn to the small brown bear with bright green gimp string tied around its neck"tight"like a noose.

“That’s a cute bear,” says Maurice.

She looks at the bear for a second and squeezes it hard. Maurice furrows his brows.

“Are you angry,” asks Maurice.

“No,” says Mila. “You’re cool. You just remind me of someone.”

“And who would that be?”

“A friend I had a long time ago.”

“Oh, so you’ve had friends before.” Maurice leans in, propping his elbow up on the counter.

“Yes. She gave me this little one before she moved away. We named it Brownie.” She flashes a grin.

“Brownie as in the color or the sweet?”

“Both.”

“So, was the gimp your idea or your friends?”

“Mine.”

Maurice’s eyes widen and a smile creeps across his face. He begins to snicker a little. Frazzled, Mila looks down shakes her head for a moment.

“Your eyes are creepy, Maurice. Why do you wear contacts like that?”

Maurice chuckles as he pushes himself off the counter. He puts his hands on his hips and backs up, almost into the shelves behind him. His eyes catch light strangely.

“They make me stand out. People usually choose to avoid me, but they make it easier to identify the people who actually want to talk to me. In a funny way, they make it easier to make friends.”

“I don’t know if I buy that,” says Mila.

“Well, your tactic isn’t working.”

Mila c***s her head to the side and glares at him for a second.

“You’re right, but I still don’t buy it.”

“Maybe I do something else that attracts people.”

“And what would that be, Maurice?” Mila leans in, furrowing her eyebrows.

“I talk. I open up. I try to connect. You know, say hi.”

“Hi.”

Maurice sighs and shakes his head. His hands are still on his hips. He stares at her as if trying to piece her together, but he is missing so much. He looks a little sad. Mila crosses her arms and looks at her corndogs. They are cold now, but that’s just the way she likes them.

“Expecting more?” she asks. Maurice draws his lips together in a humorous frown and hesitantly nods his head. Mila smirks she picks up one corndog and takes a bite. She can feel Maurice’s eyes all over her.

“You are right. I don’t come here for the food. This corndog sucks.”

 


© 2018 AE



Author's Note

AE
Thank you for reading this. I would appreciate it if you left some things I did well and some things I must improve on. Thanks again.

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Added on January 10, 2018
Last Updated on January 10, 2018
Tags: woman, man, stranger, school, bar, people, college

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AE
AE

A castle in, CT



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