She found out that he was responsible for the medley of tunes of near impossible variety of genre and sound and era – that pumped through the speakers. Quite a number of songs she had rarely heard anyone else listen to. She had to put forth a concerted effort to not be one of those cliche music snobs who abhor anything that hints of mainstream and looks down on anyone whose tastes adhere to non-indie radio. You know the kind – who bemoan their favorite band’s burgeoning popularity and accuse them of selling out the minute they become moderately successful. He seemed to have no such problem, though, singing abashedly to Britney Spears and more obscure gems from the likes of Neutral Milk Hotel and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, along with raw Chicago punk and techno-esqe tracks that weren’t so techno so as to be annoying.
She watched him play intense rounds of scrabble with regulars when it was slow. When not scrabble-ing he’d don knee-weakening glasses and read fat falling apart novels, and even though she thought books were sexy as fuck she always forgot to ask what he was reading because she was wholly distracted by the beautiful tattoos scrawled all over his arms as he leaned towards her across the bar. And even though she wanted to know from what lyrics or literature the inky quotes had originated she never retained what he told her because she was wholly distracted by the way he kept looking at her. They had come to birth a toe-tingling tradition of banter but sometimes watching him regard her made it hard to keep up her end of the ambrosia-esque conversation.
One day, on a slow night, in a unicorn moment of ease and abandon not induced by substance abuse, she made him choke on his laughter, reflexively teasing him for eating spaghetti all sloppy like a child, which she actually thought was endearing but apparently making handsome Puerto Rican men laugh beats out sincerity. Along with delighted, he always looked surprised to be laughing when she made him laugh. After that came the free drinks.
Soon, at least twice a week, she became included in the 2-3 friends Max would keep around after last call which served to turn her nondescript overcast Wednesdays and Thursdays into swaths of time that were shiney and worthwhile. And once the doors were locked they’d all wipe tables while chorusing in time to Disney songs and then drink free Heineken and laugh until dawn. Far too many times each week for her to be able to even pretend she was going to try and go to class. She was a realistic drunk. Besides, making desperate promises to yourself about how your drinking isn’t going to destroy your life is cliche. She was determined to be tragically unique.
When he finally kissed her solidly in a dark recess behind the bar in an early morning hour, it felt like the perfect culmination. Unfortunately, a malevolent groupie was watching and working at her bar the next day she gradually clued into the fact that she was apparently involved in a scandal. Many of the regulars who once seemed perfectly friendly were now exuding rabid glee as they tried to get in on the drama. His groupies were pissed, all their time and energy and push-up bras for naught and his never once mentioned girlfriend was none too pleased. The whole neighborhood knew, neither bar was safe anymore and walking home she was was decidedly on edge waiting to be pounced on by a foaming-at-the-mouth, livid girlfriend out for blood… her alarm sounds.
She resurfaces in Tuscany and when she rolls into Pisa’s modestly sized station she easily picks out her painfully cliche tall, dark and handsome Italian fidanzato waiting for her on the platform. He could easily pass for Puerto Rican.