At the Wine Room in West Hollywood

At the Wine Room, I order a beer. Some kind of cream stout. The waiter assures me I’ll enjoy it. I look him up and down—his top two buttons are undone, his chest hair peeks out, and his sleeves are rolled up to his elbows.

I say to him, “You look trustworthy.”

“Famous last words,” he says.

The girl in front of me is thin with cherry lips, lips that spout proclamations of love for her plain, little corgi. She shows me a picture of him lying on his stomach, looking bored. I think she could do better.

The beer is thinner than I prefer—it’s anemic and unsatisfying. I put the glass down and look for depth elsewhere. A table away, a man preaches to a nodding woman about technology’s corruption of kids today. “They won’t even have books anymore,” he says. “Just iPads. You know they’re just gonna use them to watch porn.” I’m sure he kept the Playboys under his mattress for the articles. I don’t give him the knowing nods he wants, so he stops looking at me while he talks.

I throw myself at the next table like a dart, hoping to stick a bullseye, but I don’t even hit the board. The short ballerina here is drunk and incontinent, spewing a repetitive rant on the cutthroat ballet industry, crushing the dream I never had. I stare, stupefied and stuck, waiting after every sentence for her next one to mean something to me, to pull me in and shake me, wake me, and make me use words besides “wow” and “uh-huh.” I’m disappointed each time.

The waiter from before flips the sign in the window to “closed,” but everyone is still talking. I stand back, and my ears drink in every conversation at once. One by one, they melt together. The sound waves blend into a single voice, speaking a garbled language I don’t understand.

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