—Can I ask a weird question? Is this place haunted?
She came in with a big wedding party. They’re all near the back of the bar by the photobooth, three tables pushed together, laughing drinking, and taking pictures. She wanders up to the bar by herself, steps out of sparkling high heals, leaving them on the floor by the server’s station, and plops down on a barstool. She stares off into a distance somewhere past the liquor bottles, storage room, to the empty lot past the long-shuttered currency exchange.
She twirls an unlit cigarette between her fingers while sipping at her drink. She asks about ghosts again.
—No, I’ve never seen any. But this has been a bar a hundred years, so unhappy spirits hanging around wouldn’t be a big surprise.
I make a lame joke about the only spirits here being trapped in bottles which doesn’t register with her at all. She says it’s a thirteen year old boy and points at several spots around the room where she sees him. She begins to get upset that neither Brian the doorman or I sees what she’s seeing. We both try to reassure her that we’re not questioning the veracity of her statements to no avail.
She asks my name and says hers is Ellroy. I don’t ask if her parents named her after the writer of The Big Nowhere and LA Confidential. She asks where I grew and when I tell her she gives me a knowing look.
—Honest answer? I used to be a sex worker in Vermont. I went to Waltham, Brockton, Burlington all the time.
She tries repeatedly to maintain eye contact, gauging what effect her revelations are having. When I come back she’s guessed Brian’s astrological sign. She nods slowly and reveals that he has a troubled relationship with his grandmother. He plays along, wanting to hear more about the thirteen year old ghost haunting our bar.
Next time I return, she looks deep into my eyes and asks how I’m doing. When I say I’m doing fine she doesn’t believe me. She orders an old-fashioned.
—But don’t make it too sweet. I want it extra bitter. With Bulleit Rye.
Then she asks Brian if he can score her some coke. She says we’re disrespecting the ghost by not acknowledging it.
—What’s the best shot? Ok, give me a whiskey.
She takes a sip, then pushes it toward Brian and wanders outside to smoke. She wants another round of shots fifteen minutes later but I tell her the time for shots has passed. She badgers Brian about cocaine some more.
Soon her fellow wedding revelers leave and she follows. Brian is disappointed when I tell him she was a prostitute. He thought when she said he was cute she was being sincere. After I close the bar I notice the sparkly heels still sitting on the floor by the server’s station.
I leave a note for tomorrow’s crew about Cinderella leaving her slippers Sunday night. Maybe she’ll come back for them. In the meantime her thirteen year old ghost can watch over them until they’re safely back on her feet.
p.s. There’s a nice thing about me on the Inprnt blog. They’re the good people in Florida who make prints for me.