Chris's Card  in  The OSF

 

by

Kathy  Lynch

 

It was during the divorce I figured out what I had to do. I already knew we had to get rid of the house to be able to move by the river. Everyone knew my husband hadn’t spent much time there himself, I didn’t think he should’ve been able to get anything out of it. So . . . I tricked him. There, I said it.

I had received a bunch of legal papers, divorce stuff, that my soon to be ex-husband needed to sign, one of which would relinquish any right he may have had to the house. After I mixed that one up with the others, he just started signing. He had no reason not to trust me, after all I had always been the good wife, did what was right, never lied, and always did just what was expected of me. I probably should’ve felt guilty, but then I’d thought about any of the thirty or so girlfriends he’d had during our marriage and the guilt just floated away.
 
I’d never done anything like that in my life, or since for that matter. It felt so good, damn near therapeutic.

I was the responsible one in the marriage. I made sure I had the jobs that carried health insurance for us. I took care of the house, the two dogs, and our three kids, which I enjoyed most.
 
As soon as the divorce was final my oldest son, Jason, fourteen at the time, thought he would now be the man of the house. He could be as head strong and bad tempered as any man but chose not to be, most of the time.
 
My middle child and only female, thank you God, you were smart to give me just one of those, Amelia, was eight going on twenty-eight and the bossiest, of course.
 
The baby, my youngest son, Bryan, was only five and the smartest of us all. He took the whole divorce thing in strides.

We were ready for a change, needed a change. The final step to our big move was to rent a dumpster. We had lived in this house more than twelve years, so there was a lot that needed to be thrown away. We decided not to take anything with us that we could not use that very day. So we got rid of a lot, old memories mostly.

We had family that by now had already moved to Riverside Drive, on the Ohio River. Two of my sisters, their families and my Mom. It’s a world all its own.
 
We moved into a building that was a hundred years old. Our apartment was on the third floor, no elevator. It looked awesome from the outside . . . before climbing all those stairs. Our living room had French doors that opened up to look over the river. We were in heaven. As long as we didnt need groceries. Carrying groceries was not fun, no way to make it fun, since my kids hated it, too. I even had the youngest carrying stuff. Once we got up there, it was great. There was one other good thing. No one just drops by when you are on the third floor. On the other hand, you cant invite anyone to visit either, with all those stairs, they wont come.
 
Except for "Thunder over Louisville," the largest fireworks display in the world. Each year this event kicks off the Kentucky Derby Festival. Then people we had not talked to in years were showing up to stow their stuff for the day, eat, and enjoy our view. Not to mention the couple hundred thousand people we didnt know, stomping through our front yard. Took some getting used to, but it was definitely worth it.

The area by the river, we now live in is referred to as
"OSF", which stands for the "Other Side of the Flood wall." The flood wall stretches from Jeff Boat, one of the last working ship yards around, down river to the Falls of the Ohio. It keeps people out.

The folks residing here are a different bunch. We are from every walk of life. Hank, our very own millionaire, lives on the corner. He wears cutoff shorts and flip flops. Right up until it snows, pretty much. Although he is married now, Thank Goodness, when he was single he was a little crazy. Apparently, while driving home from a local river front establishment one evening, his car somehow ended up over the river bank. Guess he figured, if he was going to enjoy the nectar, he better build a place close enough to home, he could walk. So he did, my Mom runs it and I keep his books. It was my chance to work somewhere fun and I’d get to bartend, too. Making me the
"Captain of the Ship" when Im behind the bar. Which is very empowering.

Most everyone from the neighborhood visits the place that Hank built. Even a pretty well known basketball coach from the University across the river, stops by occasionally for a bite to eat and a Grey Goose on the rocks. Since it is a restaurant, as well, there is something for everyone.

We have karaoke on Tuesday and Saturday nights. It starts early on Tuesdays so everyone in the neighborhood with kids can bring them along and let them sing till they lose their voices. Not that anyone would want their kids to lose their voices. My kids are older now, and we have many memory bubbles of our Tuesdays singing here, and sometimes till they lost their voices.

Karaoke on Saturday nights is a little different.
 
Tonight, being Saturday, Im heading to Hanks to watch as the others throw some back, becoming the singers that usually only come out in the privacy of their own showers, visit with our neighbors, meet new neighbors, and have a good time. I dont drink myself, but with so much entertainment here, I have to show up, I also help out, if needed.

As I walk up the front steps, I peek inside to see if any of the regulars are here yet. Yeah, they never let us down. I walk in and get a big hello from those sitting at the bar, kinda reminds me of the show
"Cheers." Damn, does that mean I"m Norm? There are a few faces I dont know sitting there. It wont be long till everyone feels like old friends.
 
Alan, the six foot four, two hundred pound bartender stands behind the bar. He is "Captain of the Ship" tonight. To me, he is just my wonderful, nutty, gay, nephew that I adore.
I walk past the tables, full of people having late dinners, speaking to those I know from the neighborhood.
 
The bar itself is shaped like a lopsided "L," looks very typical, silly signs warning against "Loose Women and Pick Pockets," pictures of employees with the regulars, beer ads with half dressed women. The regular bar stuff, along with the, have to have, mirror behind the bar.
 
I head to the short side at the end of the bar where Alan is waiting for me there, along with Chris, also from the neighborhood. I hope a little of the chemistry Ive been feeling, may be what hes been feeling too, and hopefully more before the night is over.
 
Leaning over the bar Alan greets me, "Hey, see that guy down there?" I glance over his left shoulder, "No, dont look now! "
 
"Ok, when then?" I ask.
 
He takes a long, ever so dramatic draw off his cigarette, glances around as if he were checking on his customers, but reminding me of Gloria Swanson instead, "Mr. DeMille, Im ready for my closeup." All that glamour just busting to get out of him.
 
He turns to me, "NOW . . . he is so hot."
 
I look, trying not to look like Im looking and thinking the entire time, What grade am I in?

Sure enough, sitting at the other end of the bar is a man, every bit as tall as Alan and handsome. Alan goes on,
"He has been on me all night, wants my number, I told him I dont give it, Baby, I take it!" and then giggles as though he made a real funny.
 
"What the hell does that mean?" I wonder aloud.
 
Again he giggles like the goof he can be.
 
I ventured on, "So, are you going to give him your number?"
 
He yelled, "Are you nuts, HELL YEA!"
 
We both laugh; Im thinking, am I laughing with him or at him, he wouldnt care one way or the other. I asked him, if he knew this guy's name yet.
 
"Butch."
 
I give the snicker I thought he was going for.
 
"No seriously, BUTCH."
 
I looked at Chris who had been listening to this so far.
 
"You just cant make this shit up." He says and we laugh and laugh at that. Looks like it could be an interesting night.

The singers are many tonight. I have only gotten up there myself, once or twice. A lot of people say they have to be drunk or almost drunk to get up there. Since I don
t drink, I dont sing.
 
I wander around the bar a bit, visiting with the regulars. I see Hammad and Shaza, from down the street. They go for walks every day by the river and sometimes stop in to listen to the singing. Shaza asks me to sing her favorite song, "I never promised you a Rose Garden," I tell her maybe later, knowing it isnt going to happen.We laugh. I try to get Hammad up there but he is not falling for it, either. I head back up to the bar.

On my way up I see a couple over in a corner booth. I recognize them from the sushi bar and grille around the corner. We nod a hello, as I hear the D.J. call a name, one I didn
t know. It was his, the Asian man from the booth. He leaves his Honey and goes to sing a song just for her. I thought he was very gutsy to get up there, not being so good at English is hard enough without singing in front of an audience, well sort of an audience.
 
As he grabs that microphone, I know he’s done this before. We clap, some sing along with him, some dance. There is no culture gap, no problems with the language, just him up there singing Elvis’s, "Love Me Tender" to his love, and doing a pretty darn good job of it, too.

I hear someone yell,
"Katie, Honey!" It’s Rachel, our own hippie girl from Long Beach. I brace myself for the bear hug I know is coming. She makes me smile. Rachel has been a part of "OSF" for a while now and is the sweetest thing. She can drink most of the men under the table and can get a little redneck after a few shots, as well as brave. She puts her name in with the D.J. to sing the song she is known for, "Chantilly Lace" from the 50s. Everyone gets into it. She loves doing it. I think there is another reason for her to be here, she is "looking for love in all the wrong places," oh well, isnt everybody?

I look around, kinda hoping Chris is still in the immediate area . . . there he is. He has such a nice smile, my Mom says his smile gives him sex appeal. Okay, that does kinda weird me out a little, so I put that out of my head.
 
I cant help but watch him for a minute, he is in a big conversation with Tom, our own local Engineer/Pastor. They both love to get in deep and sometimes even a little heated conversation. They are so animated, and harmless. Usually one will pretend to concede to the others way of thinking, ultimately having to buy the next round. Alan waves me down to come over to him.
 
"Katie BOOO, bring your hiney over here to me" he bellows. He is busy behind the bar. It seems Tom is about at his limit and may need a little persuasion it is time for him to go home. That is where I come in, at this moment, anyway.
 
"Is it that time? Are you comin home with me?" Tom asks me through his loopy grin, as I put my arm around him.

"Yep, it is that time and nope I
m not comin home with you, Dear Tom" since he only lives across the street, I walk him out the back door watching him get safely to his front door.
I love this place.

I go back in, and Chris is about to sing. I have to grin to myself. His great smile, nice eyes, he just makes me laugh. Especially when he sings.
 
The music is loud, just how he likes it. Everyone is yelling his name and he is eating it up. Right about now he is Robert Plant, front man to Led Zeppelin, and he is performing LIVE and IN PERSON, just for the lucky few here at Hanks. Hes buzzed enough that the words on the screen he is supposed to be following along with, are moving a bit too fast, making it a little hard for him to keep up. Chris doesnt even notice it, nor do any of the people who are singing along with him. I do, but I dont care.

I remember the first time I met Chris and again, I smile. Damn this keeps up and people will start talking.
 
I was about to take over as bartender at the upstairs bar, there werent many people there, it was a slow night. Chris was up there and all he wanted to do was dance on the bar. He is a long, tall, lean man, all legs. In one giant step he was on the bar and one wiggle later, his head went into the ceiling fan that was moving at a moderate speed. He didnt miss a beat but did miss the bar stool as he was half falling, half stepping off the bar, dancing all the way down. I rolled my eyes and thought to myself. It is going to be a long night. It was.

That was a few months ago. His one night a week out is now spent at Hank
s with me. He finishes his song, the applause loud and appreciative. They love him. He strolls back to where I am standing.
 
"I suck, but dont tell anybody." He whispers as he leans over me.
 
"Your secret is safe with me," I whisper back. I like the way it feels when he stands close to me, and I can tell he likes it, too. I get butterflies when he is near. Hell, how long has it been since I’ve had butterflies in my stomach? I like it.

Folks from
"OSF" come and go all night. The music is good, the beer is flowing and everybody is having a good time. The local Police Officers are even enjoying it. As they pass by they can pick up the singing on one of their frequencies. My oldest son, Jason, now is one of those officers and last week while I was sitting here enjoying the "show" he called me on his cell phone.
 
"Dang Mom, who is that singing? They’re killing us out here, make it stop!" He laughed, but I laughed harder, I didnt tell him it was Chris, never mentioned it.

There
s my Mom, sitting in the first booth, her favorite booth, closest to the bar and a good place to watch over everything. It has been a long day for her, but she would not want to be anyplace else. I look over at her as her head bounces back, she is the only person I know that can doze off during karaoke. It has been a good night. Everyone is happy, for the moment anyway and Im perfectly content with the time I have spent with Chris.

The night is about over. The D.J.s have gone home. There are some stragglers, hanging in there for last call. I wish it wasn
t over yet.
 
Mom has gone home, too. Been gone for a little while, she is going to get some sleep so she can do it all again tomorrow.
 
Chris and I are sitting close together at the bar. It feels nice. When we talk to each other, he listens to what I say, even looks in my eyes when I talk. I have never had that before and it is good.

It is closing time when Alan tells me he
s got it and for me to get the heck outta here. I give him a hug and out the back door Chris and I go. There are a couple of cars left in the parking lot, always is. Somehow though, they are always gone by the next morning when we are back to open up.

"OSF" is so quiet, so calm. The reflection of the moon on the river is almost hypnotic. It is so still. It looks like glass. Along the riverbank, I can see there is a fog coming in and I know it wont be too long till we are covered. I love this time of night. I doubt that many of the neighborhood have ever experienced "OSF" like this, so it makes me feel like it is all mine. Usually I am enjoying this time alone, walking home. But beside me tonight is this man that tends to make my heart palpitate.

There is not a lot of talking going on between us, but there is a lot of something going on between us. I am excited to find out what that is.
 
We sit on a bench, on the Overlook, a special place the city built there just for me, that’s how it feels tonight, anyway. We are still not saying much, just enjoying each others company. I feel like Im in the ninth grade again, I think to myself.

"What are the chances of us spending time together outside of Hanks?"
 
Oh my, okay, okay I can do this.
 
And so cooly, I say, "That would be nice." Damn, that sounded more like a croak than how it did in my head. We chuckle slightly and he leans over to me and all I can think is, OH MY GOD, HERE HE COMES, OH SHIT!
 
It surprises me when he gently places his lips on my bottom lip, just barely pulling it between his and holds me there for a moment. This is not like ANYTHING from my ninth grade!
 
I feel a little giddy, almost as if I had been drinking. My heart skipping a beat, I know for sure he can hear it.
 
We sit together, talking about what we would like to do together, regular stuff, besides the bar. We realize we like the same kinds of movies, a lot of the same foods and even dislike some of the same people . . .
 
After we figure out which movie we’ll be seeing next Friday, a good space movie, LORD Im in heaven. I say I guess I should head inside. I could feel he felt the same as I did, we could have sat there the rest of the night.

As I glance back at Hank
s, I see Alan and his big head and bigger grin watching us out the window. He gives me a thumbs up, I can’t help but laugh, knowing that by the time I get back to work in a few hours, Chris and I will have eloped, according to Alan.
 
We walk to my house, which is on his way home. He gives me another of those very nice kisses, I could get to liking this, and  we say good night.
 
As I start up the front stairs to my building, he calls my name. I turn around to look at him as he is getting his wallet out. He digs out a business card and hands it to me.
 
"I find myself thinking about you a lot at work. Here is my card, in case the same thing was to happen to you. The home number is on there, too. Whenever you want, I will be looking forward to hearing from you," he says smiling up at me.
 
I wanted to call him right then, and he wasnt even gone yet. I dont know if I can wait till Friday to talk to him, but I have to wait until tomorrow at least, right?

As I get inside the door, I can
t help myself but to take a peek out the side panel window to see him walking down the street. He turns and looks right into my face, both of us smiling. He waves and continues his walk home.
 
I wonder if I will get any sleep at all. Ah, who cares!
 
This was not just another Saturday night.
 
 
Bio:  Kathy Lynch is a closet writer, non-traditional college student, a sophmore, a Grandmother, Bookkeeper, Bartender, who would rather spend all her time just writing.