Dame of the Night. Queen of Darkness. The Black Goddess of Sleeplessness.
She dropped by my bedstead and knelt to kiss me awake.
"Go away," I said. "I am no longer in your thrall."
"Ha," she laughed, kissing my forehead. "Ha. You are mine."
She pulled me from warmth. She dressed me caressingly. And there we were. In 4-degree weather. With Whiskey, my almost-three-year-old golden retriever, trudging in the chill, to the Tempus Fugit.
No, friends, not the West-coast version thereof, that one Rich Siegel haunts. But the dark, gloomy original. Foreboding yet friendly.
Whiskey settled into her spot, at the foot of my stool. The bartender brought her a small wooden bowl of water and then hustled back around the teak and pulled me a Pike's (the ALE that won for YALE!)
"They're all here tonight," the bartender began.
I sipped at my Pike's and scanned the room. Except for a table at the back against the wall, near the signed glossy photograph of ex-heavyweight champion Gene Tunney, the place seemed as neat as a new hotel room. That table had a chair pulled about three inches out and an old "New York Journal-American" newspaper folded in thirds on its top. That newspaper had ceased publication in 1966.
I drained my amber and he deftly yielded another, wiping the teak in front of me and settling it in front of me.
"Who's here?" I asked stupidly.
"Every woman who ever was, whomever had a hold on you. This is the hour when memory dances and does a rousing can-can in your Hippocampus."
"Lovely," I said. "I come here because they don't know this place."
"They're where you are." He consoled. "As the one and only Barbara Stanwyck said in Sturges' "The Lady Eve," 'You have no idea what a long-legged gal can do without doing anything.'"
"Sturges could sling it," I admitted. "Stanwyck also said 'I need a man like the axe needs a turkey.'"
He laughed and slid over a small bowl of salted Spanish peanuts. As is my wont, I pushed them his way.
"No woman wants a round man."
He be-suds'd me again, filling my juice glass full of Pike's for a third time. I scanned the room for lithe athletic blondes, dark-eyed brunettes and even a well-upholstered redhead or two.
"Hello girls," I announced.
He laughed at that and walked over to the coat tree where I had hung up my red-hunting jacket along with my Russian Astrakhan lid. He helped me on with my things.
"Go home," he said. "Go home to the one who matters."
I slid two twenties his way.
He slid them back.
"Cheaper than alimony."
Whiskey and I walked home alone in the dark cold.