I caught Gloria's eye when it fell from her head, wobbled down the bar, dodged an over-full ashtray, bounced hard once, twice to my table. Slippery thing. Shone blue, white, sharp. Stared right at me.
“Miss? This yours?"
“Oh." She covered the fleshy right socket with her hand. “Sorry."
She took the shell-shaped glass, gave it a rub against her lapel, and returned it to its rightful spot. Son of a bitch sounded like a fleshy grandma thumb going into a warm apple pie. Woman had a face like a warm apple pie.
“Guess I owe you a drink, yes?" An American sounding European. “I’ll have another, too."
Jiggling her near-empty glass, she wanted another eyeball. I told her I could see why, but the fake one seemed a good substitute.
“No. A highball."
That sounded delicious, I told her, and she ordered two.
“But thank you for noticing. I do have the one good eye. Things could be worse."
What an outlook on this woman. But I knew better than to say that. I told her my name’s Charlie. She said it sounded like a Boy Scout. Smartass that I am, I held up three fingers.
She rolled her eye, and the sound of her giggle floated with ribbony cigarette smoke.
She raised her glass. We tried to clink, but she missed wide to the left. Poor thing.
Still, this chick acted classy as hell. Later in the night, some dude tried to talk her up. Like every other guy here, he wore black wingtips with a high shine, pinstripes, no tie. That’ll be it for me, I thought. Sure as shit, though? Gloria said she was “with someone." Guy slithered away. Surprised me, frankly. I looked like someone who should be fixing her water heater. I worked at the locksmith apprentice across the street.
“Mr. Camper says I’m on my way. Thinks I have an eye for detail." Slipped again.
“Happens all the time. Hey, can we switch sides?"
I was on the fake-eye side. “Gloria, I gotta ask."
She understood. Watching her mom cook, six-year-old Gloria, curious little Gloria, grabbed a paring knife and put it in the middle of her right eye. Didn’t recall it hurting, but remembered mother turning, dropping a metal bowl of white cake batter, shrieking. Gloria couldn’t understand the fuss. She liked the stripy candy cane pattern she could make by looking down into the bowl.
Gloria opened a confectionary three years ago, and it’s doing really well. Gloria asked if I lived nearby.
“Right down the street." We left. The sidewalk belonged to us that late. I walked on Gloria’s right. She grabbed up my arm.
“Making sure you’re still there, Charlie."
Checking her peripherals I made a funny face. And another. “Sorry about your eye, Gloria."
“It’s okay. Sometimes it even comes in handy. I met you, didn’t I?" She pulled herself into me. Felt innocent and clumsy. Like mittens.
When people say like bookends? This, motherfooker, is what they mean.