For the Cake Wednesday Write-in.
The car breaks down a mile and a half away from the coast and Judith, to Christine’s feminist right-on horror, only delights in the opportunity to become “real, capable lesbians”. They push the car to the first garage they come across which is part of a cluster of thirty or so buildings, small and plain. Christine’s thighs burn and a whole flora of sweat blooms from the armpits of her summer dress, collecting in the cup of her bra and the dip of her breasts. Judith suffers over-heating beautifully – only a glimmering film of perspiration springing to her forehead suggests that she even struggled. Having run out of dry fabric with which to dab herself dry with, Christine’s tongue darts out to sweep over her upper lip and the saltiness reminds her of the fleshy olives they gorged on at the last town. The garage is obviously recently abandoned, with a small sign in the door in Italian which, after some guide book referencing, points them towards “Marco’s Public Drink House”.
The bar is damp and smells overwhelmingly of liquor and sweat. A handheld TV sits in the corner, sharing football highlights with the room at a volume which doesn’t seem likely from such a small device. The wooden floorboards are swollen and split with humidity and salt from the sea. They rise slightly in the middle of the room like a pound cake and then flow away to the edges of the room. A haphazard puzzle of mis-matched tables and chairs break up the great space between the big windows and the bar, all of which are taken up by a dozen men of working age, real salt of the earth people, Judith would say, grinning at them and waving fingers wizened by over-exposure to rough fishing nets.
Judith is already at the bar, flirting her way into their first of many free limoncellos from a young man with an excessive forehead, a ripe looking mole over his right eyebrow and a crooked grin in his mouth. Christine, who favours such home comforts as her grandfather’s most treasured whiskey and gin and bitter lemon, tries to negotiate a simple vodka cranberry but only succeeds in securing more of the pale yellow liquor and a lecherous wink from Marco behind the bar. Marco also owns a vineyard not far from here and is looking for a wife. He seems amenable to co-opting either Judith or Christine into this position and hints heavily towards a shag pad upstairs with a thick hairy arm resting on the yawning splits of the sticky bar surface. She politely refuses his proposal, unable to locate the words under her thick tongue – somebody else, there’s somebody else – but after more limoncello, she doesn’t resist too much when he pulls her up to dance with him on the bar. Her hand rests on his shoulder, curled up and round, so that the tips of her fingers strain toward the inside of her wrist. She no longer measures time by the number of unsettled glances towards her watch she can manage in an hour. Instead, she watches Judith describing a careful circle around some empty shot glasses on her tip toes and measures time in the number of limoncellos she has had (too many), the number of dips that Marco moves her into (at least three, with the third one accompanied by a curious hand at the hem of her skirt), the number of times Marcello (Judith’s heavy browed friend and Marco’s younger brother) spins Judith round and around across and over and through those same shot glasses (seven and counting) and, of course, the number of beats it takes before Christine has to look away when she catches Judith’s eye from across the room.
Neither of them notices the rental car being carefully, quietly pushed out of the garage, past the bar and toward the sea.