Beautiful and Sad
The beach boy is sitting in a bar on the island. It doesn’t matter which bar, which island. All that matters is that he is beautiful and fucked up and he is sitting on a stool by himself, waiting for no one. He has a Thomas the Train tattoo on his left forearm. He once read that the author wrote the stories to accompany the wooden toy train he’d made his son. The beach boy likes what this creation communicates: I will put my love for you on display. But he hates when people ask him what his tattoo means. I just like it, he says. And they go away.
He’s drinking a Landshark and a Miami Vice. He trades off so he doesn’t get a brain freeze from the frozen drink. Hey, aren’t you best friends with Lito? the bar patrons ask, pointing at the handsome bartender. The beach boy’s response changes depending on the night, on how tolerant he is of that which he cannot control.
Sometimes he says he doesn’t know Lito.
Other times he nods and grins at the bartender. He may or may not wink when he does this.
Sometimes he says, Yeah I am and he owes me a free drink, and Lito gives it to him without comment.
At times he is too sad to reply at all.
Lito never acknowledges the chatter about him, with the exception of serving the free drink, even though the bar is quite small and he can hear everything if he wishes to. Of course, he doesn’t always wish to and that is his prerogative. Sometimes Lito wants to forget who he is and serve his drinks mindlessly.
The beach boy considers Lito, his vascular forearms, his black wavy hair, his bat tattoo on his thigh — a thigh that is currently covered by baby blue board shorts. Lito thinks bats are elegant and amiable creatures, that their association with vampires is what gives them a bad rap. The beach boy watches Lito’s limber body dance around the bar, from bottle to tap, back to bottle, and wonders how the beach boy ended up here, on this stool, drinking these drinks, considering this boy, considering himself, considering this boy again. Some days the beach boy is okay with the secrecy; others he is clawing at the sky in search of a trap door that will lead elsewhere, anywhere.
Do you come here every night? asks a woman with full lips and dangly bracelets. She leans in closely and the beach boy can smell the cigarettes on her breath, in her skin. No, he says, because it’s the truth. He only comes when Lito is working. Let’s take tequila shots, the woman says and the beach boy nods, purses his lips. Lito delivers the shots with a side of limes and stands in front of the two, watching them grin at each other before licking the salt off their hands and slamming the tequila. He doesn’t like the way the beach boy’s eyes fail to smile along with his mouth. The beach boy feels Lito’s eyes on him — it’s a familiar warmth. He reaches his hand out on the bar — palm up, fingers grasping — and says, This is my favorite bartender. He’s the best. The beach boy says it in the woman’s direction, but looks at Lito out of the corner of his eyes. Lito wipes his hands on his shorts, clears his throat, then slaps the beach boy’s hand. Lito’s hands feel rougher than usual. The beach boy wonders if Lito has been climbing again. The beach boy would like to climb too. Somewhere secluded. Somewhere unlike this bar.
The beach boy notices that Lito is again wearing his ring on the only finger in which a ring has any significance. He’s my favorite, too, says the woman, also sticking out her hand. Lito slaps her hand and holds on for a beat too long, smirking. The beach boy taps the bar, clears his throat. Another round please. Coming right up, says Lito. The beach boy rubs his ringless finger then his Thomas the Train tattoo. He considers writing a note on a napkin and passing it to Lito, then refrains.
On his walk home he pays a man two dollars to take a photo of him knee-deep in the ocean. The beach boy examines the photo on his phone. In the darkness, the beach boy could be anyone. He likes this notion, rolls it around on his tongue until it becomes sharp enough to spit at Lito, forcing him to pay attention.
The beach boy’s mother wakes up at the sound of the front door and wanders into the kitchen, where she finds him sitting on the counter tracing the marble patterns. She makes him some tea with honey and asks if he found love tonight. Without looking up, he says No, Ma, and his voice sounds like static. One day, she tells him. They sit down on the couch and he lays his head in her lap. You’re too beautiful to be so sad, she says, running her hand through his hair, knowing all too well the emptiness of her words.
Marisa Crane is a lesbian fiction writer and poet. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pithead Chapel, Drunk Monkeys, X-R-A-Y Magazine, Okay Donkey, Cotton Xenomorph, Bending Genres, and elsewhere. She currently lives in San Diego with her wife. You can find her on Twitter @marisabcrane.
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