Thursday, March 23, 2023

“Perhaps Tonight”

Milford pushed open the door and was immediately assaulted by jukebox music and the smells and sounds of people drinking and and smoking, talking and shouting, and there at the bar was that guy Addison, looking straight at him, impossible to ignore, and now waving at him.

Milford went over and Addison patted the seat of the bar stool to his right, apparently the only vacant seat in the house.

“Milford, old man, so good to see you! Sit down.”

“I’m supposed to be meeting someone.”

“And is this person here?”

“No, I don’t see her.”


“Yes, a person of the female gender.”


“What is so extraordinary about it?”

“Well, let me ask you this, if I may – by the way, won’t you sit?”

“Oh, okay, since there doesn’t seem to be any other seats available.”
Milford climbed onto the empty stool.

“Let me ask you this,” said Addison again, “this member of the female persuasion – is she a friend, qua friend?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, a platonic friend?”

“Platonic? Why do you ask me such a question?”

“Only because I was under the impression that – and I am not judging, mind you, I am nothing if not broadminded – I was laboring under the supposition that you were what is in genteel circles termed a confirmed bachelor.”

“And what is that supposed to imply?”

“I thought that you were not, shall we say, ‘interested’ in females in a concupiscent way.”

“Are you trying to say that you think I am homosexual?”

“Again, I am not judging!”

“Why does everyone think that I’m a fairy? Even my own mother!”

“Wait, you mean you’re not?”

“No! I have no interest in men in the ‘concupiscent’ sense!”

“Meaning you do have an interest in females in that sense?”

“Yes, God damn it!”

“You know, old boy, I can sympathize, because I’ve been accused of being a bit light in the loafers myself.”

“Well, I’m not! I assure you my loafers are quite –”

Milford paused, seemingly searching for the word.

“Heavy?” suggested Addison.

“Yes, my loafers are quite heavy,” said Milford.

“So where is she?” said Addison.

“I suppose she’s on her way,” said Milford. “I’m early.”

“How early?”

“We’re supposed to meet at 7:30.”

Addison glanced at the clock over the bar.

“Five past,” he said. “You’ve still got twenty-five minutes. Gives us plenty of time for a manly old chin-wag.”

“Can I help you, sir?” said the bartender to Milford.

“Just a ginger ale,” said Milford, “and listen, would you tell the waiter I would like a table for two.”

“Of course, sir. It may be a bit of a wait. As you can see, we’re pretty busy.”

“Well, just put my name down then. ‘Milford.’”


“Yes. Milford.”

“So you two are dining together?” said the bartender, glancing at Addison. “You could eat at the bar if you don’t want to wait.”

“I am not dining with this gentleman,” said Milford. “I am meeting a lady.”

“A lady?”

“Yes, a lady. I’m meeting a lady and we would like a table for two for dinner.”

“My mistake,” said the bartender. “I’ll get your ginger ale.”

“Oh, and another scotch-and-soda for me, please,” said Addison.

“Right away, sir,” said the bartender, and he went away.

“Take your peacoat off, Milford,” said Addison. “Stay a while.”

“I’ll keep it on,” said Milford.

“So tell me about this female person.”

“Why do you want to know?”

“My dear Milford, I am, as you know, a novelist, and all human relations are of interest to me.”

“Her name is Polly, and she works at the automat over on Bedford Street.”

“Is she one of those mysterious ladies who puts slices of pies into the little windows?”

“No, she gives people nickels to put into the slots.”

“Hang on, she’s not that girl there who always has her nose in a book?”

“Yes, probably.”

“Always reading George Eliot or Sand.”

“Yes, I guess.”

“She’s not bad-looking!”

“She’s okay.”

“Well done, Milford! I’m impressed!”


“Yes. I mean, she may not be a glamor girl, but still, you know –”

“She’s a girl?”

“Well, yes, and not unattractive in a, shall we say, a bookish way.”

The bartender was there, with the ginger ale and the scotch-and-soda.

“A dime for the ginger ale, fifty cent for the scotch-and-soda.”

“Oh,” said Milford, “put it on a tab for me, will you?”

“Both?” said the bartender.

“Sure, why not?” said Milford.

“Thanks, Milford,” said Addison.

“You’re welcome,” said Milford. He took out his Woodbines. “I find her attractive.”

“What?” said Addison, who was in the midst of raising his glass to his lips.

“I find Polly attractive,” repeated Milford, and he shook the pack of cigarettes, causing several of them to protrude through the opening.

“Oh, might I try one of those Woodbines?” said Addison, his glass still in mid-air.

Milford said nothing but proffered the pack. Addison took a cigarette with his free hand and paused for just a moment to appreciate it, a cigarette in one hand and a scotch in the other, both of them bought by someone else. Happiness was so simple really, if you only kept your pleasures modest. He took a sip of the scotch-and-soda, then put the glass down on the bar and the cigarette between his lips. Milford gave him a light with his nice-looking silver lighter, monogrammed MM, and then lighted one for himself.

“There is exterior beauty,” said Milford, “and then there is the other kind.”

“Interior beauty?”

“I was going to say spiritual beauty,” said Milford.

“Oh, right,” said Addison.

“This is the beauty that age does not tarnish,” said Milford.

“Absolutely,” said Addison.

“And this is the beauty I see in her.”

“In the nickel-thrower?”

“Polly, yes. You see, I’ve had it with the glamor girls.”

“You have?”

“Yes. You think they’re glamorous, but the glamor is only, only –”

“Skin deep?”

“Yes, precisely. Skin deep. I am interested in a deeper beauty. Can you understand that?”

“Of course,” said Addison, thinking of Bubbles, who was to meet him here, ‘depending’, she had said, but Addison was willing to wait, especially with someone else buying the drinks and supplying the cigarettes. She might be here by 7:30, maybe not till nine, or never – she had said she had some “business” to attend to, no doubt one of her “clients”, but she probably would show up eventually, and when she did, if she did, it would be his turn to enjoy her company, and, if she wasn’t too tired, maybe she would even let him come up to her place, and perhaps she would allow him to watch as she removed her shoes and rolled down her stockings…

“I am quite fond of spiritual beauty myself,” said Addison. “But don’t you think that spiritual beauty can be transmitted shall we say, through the senses? Through a Beethoven symphony, a painting by Van Gogh, and, yes, through the beauty of a woman?”

“Well,” said Milford, still smarting from the refusal of Shirley De LaSalle earlier that day, and from the harsh realization that she apparently bore no attraction to his own corporeal being – “maybe.”

“I suppose what I’m getting at,” said Addison, “is that beauty can be both physical and spiritual simultaneously.”

“Yes,” said Milford. “I suppose so.”

He lifted his glass of ginger ale and sipped it. Alas, it was only ginger ale. A coarse beverage, drunk just for the sake of drinking something, but at least it wouldn’t cause him to wake up half dead in an alley somewhere.

“I can only speak for myself,” said Addison, “but I have found myself touched profoundly by the sight of a woman’s naked thigh.”

Milford said nothing, but wondered what Polly’s naked thigh looked like. She was rather thin. What if her thighs were too thin?

Addison for his part was remembering, savoring the memory of the those few precious times when Bubbles had permitted him to see and to worship her own ivory-white thighs. And perhaps tonight, if she were not too tired, perhaps tonight would be one of those precious nights when she would allow him one of her “Baltimore handshakes”, and at a reasonable price, too – maybe even, as had happened two or three times, for free, gratis, and for nothing, but only just because, as she had said, she found him amusing, and not like “all those other jerks”…

{Please go here to read the “adult comix” version in A Flophouse Is Not a Home, profusely illustrated by the illustrious Rhoda Penmarq…}

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