by Grant Baciocco
Christopher checked in and made his way up to his hotel room. He hung up his shirts, moved things around in his hotel room to just the way he liked them and decided to see if he could strike out and get some dinner before it got too much later. His flight had arrived at 9:34PM and by the time the taxi had pulled up to the hotel, it was already closing in on an hour later.
He made sure his hotel key card was in his back right pocket, where he always kept it when he traveled, and he made sure the TV was on and to Do Not Disturb sign was hung on the door. He slipped out into the hallway.
Six floors later he was in the lobby. Barry, the night concierge, regretfully informed Christopher that as far as food went, it was only fast food places that were open nearby. Barry then suggested the hotel bar that would be serving a small selection of appetizers, but the kitchen was due to close in nine minutes at 11PM.
Christopher hated hotel bars. There was just something depressing about them. In big cities, they were sparsely populated by zombie-like business travelers like himself or, as in a small town like this, they were filled with noisy locals who thought the local hotel bar was the perfect setting for retirement parties, promotion celebrations or after work gossip sessions. Not having the stomach for fast food, he decided to take his chances with the bar.
The disheveled hostess, who was too busy erasing the Daily Special board to even look up at Christopher, told him he had to sit at the bar and order directly from the bartender, but he had to hurry. They were closing. Her disdain for his late arrival dripping from every utterance.
Christopher stepped down the three steps into the restaurant and crossed to the bar. The bartender was talking to the only other patron in the place, a man in his late twenties. Christopher figured he’d get faster service if he pulled up within a stool or two of the bartender, just to the left of the young man. The two were in deep conversation, but the bartender acknowledged Christopher and put a laminated menu and a cocktail napkin down in front of him.
Christopher quickly scanned the menu. It was the usual bar appetizer fare: mozzarella sticks, calamari, nachos. When a break in the conversation between the bartender and the young man arose, Christopher ordered a fruit and cheese plate and a water. He didn’t feel like eating fried food so close to bed and though fruit was not his favorite, it was the best he was going to do until morning.
The bartender nodded and punched his order into the computer, the bar was so small Christopher could hear the printer in the kitchen printing it out. The bartender placed the water down in front of Christopher and turned back to the young man.
“What’s her name?” the bartender asked.
“Jennifer.” the young man replied. A big smile crossing his lips.
They continued to talk. Christopher quickly deduced that Jennifer was this young man’s wife. Business had taken him from her for over a week now and he was a little maudlin to be far from her for so long.
Christopher pretended to busy himself with his phone while he listened as the young man spoke about how he had met her. They’d gone to college together and the young man’s best friend had initially pursued her, but a few months after their dates had fizzled out, the two met at a lecture about the art of Salvador Dali. They wound up going out a few nights later and the rest, as they say, was history.
He spoke about how their interests and desires lined up perfectly. She was beautiful, smart, sexy and she made him laugh.
“Laugh?” the bartender said.
“Yeah,” the kid smiled. Then, as if a light bulb had gone on over his head, he snapped his fingers and dug into his pants pocket. He pulled out his iPhone. He slid his thumb across it to unlock it and tapped in his passcode. He excitedly spoke as he thumbed through the apps on his phone.
“About a month or so ago, we’d gone out for dinner on a Saturday night with some friends. We got home about 11:30 or so and Saturday Night Live was on.” His giddiness was growing as his story progressed. “You know that guy Macklemore who sings Thrift Shop?”
The bartender nodded. Christopher didn’t know the name but he’d heard the song a time or two.
“Well he was the musical guest and, of course he plays Thrift Shop.” By this point the young guy could barely complete a sentence without a deep chuckle erupting from within him. He turned his phone to landscape mode and spun it so the bartender and Christopher, who was no longer hiding his interest in the story, could both see the screen. He hit the play arrow and the video began.
“The song comes on and she just starts dancing around the living room. She didn’t know I was recording her.”
There, on the tiny screen was Jennifer, in their living room, still dressed from the evening out and she is dancing carefree as can be around the living room, Thrift Shop blaring from the TV and into the bar via the phone’s tiny speaker. The three men watched the video closely and the young man just starts laughing loudly. He’s watching the screen as if it’s the first time he’s seen this woman. The first time he’s seen her be goofy. His whole face is lit up as he watched her dance about their tiny apartment, her long black hair swaying in front of her face, arms flailing. Lost in the music.
The bartender found it amusing. Christopher even cracked a smile. The young man was riveted, watching her every move, mimicking each move slightly, indicating he’d watched this video many times. Yet, each laugh was a new laugh as if he discovered something new and hilarious in every frame.
Christopher realized that the young man was no longer in the bar anymore. The young man was so in love with this woman, so amused by her every move, he was back at home on the couch watching her dance. Watching her dance and laughing. Laughing the deep laugh of true love.
Less than a minute later the video was over and, still snickering the young man slipped the phone back into his pocket. He then stood, paid his tab, said his good evenings to the bartender and turning, nodded at Christopher and left the bar leaving Christopher alone with his fruit plate and the bartender with his closing duties.
Christopher worked his way through the slices of melon, pineapple and the handful of grapes. He left the cheese. As he finished his water he stood and dug a ten dollar bill out of his wallet. He put it on the counter and with a nod to the bartender he walked up and out of the bar.
Six floors later he was at his door and once inside, he slipped off his shoes, hung his pants and shirt and put on his sweats. He brushed his teeth and his stomach gurgled. He’d have to get something more substantial food wise in the morning.
He lay down on the bed and clicked on the television, he flipped through the 30 channels of nothing and settled on an old black and white movie on TCM. He set the timer on the TV for 30 minutes and leaned back against the stack of pillows he’d piled up for himself.
As the black and white hues flickered in the room, he found himself not watching the movie, but thinking about the young man in the hotel bar. The young man and his laugh. The, incredibly beautiful, laugh of deep love he had for his Jennifer.
As Christopher drifted off to sleep, he wondered if he’d ever laugh that laugh.