Thursday, January 04, 2007

Kelly Garrett

"...and a bag of Fritos."

The woman fiddled with the bag, crinkling and fussing with it. Did she even eat the chips or only soothe herself with the cellophane-like texture and sound of the bag?

A bar is a bar is a bar, even in California, and a woman sitting at the bar usually has a story to tell.

Patrons in puffy nylon clumped in and out, easing into chairs, smiling over beers or red-cheeked faces turned to the college game on the corner TV. Only the occasional whine of a snowmobile penetrated the glass and wood walls.

A white sweater, fashionably short in the midriff, jeans, white high heels, sitting on a white parka draped over the barstool. Curly brown hair and jewelry. She manipulated the Frito's bag with her raccoon paws.

"How do you say 'Carrie' in Portuguese?" What? The barmaid turned to the woman with the same question.

"How do you say 'Carrie' in Portuguese?" Crinkle, crinkle.

"Uh, 'c-a-r-e'?"

"No, the name. My name. C-A-R-R-I-E. Carrie."

"Oh. We say 'Carrie'."

"That's it? I thought it would be different. Something different."

The TV above the bar had America's Next Top Model, no sound.

The barmaids spoke Portuguese to each other, turned to the woman on the barstool.

"You're not skiing?"

She swiveled a bit on the stool, smiled. Was she eating the chips or not? "Oh, I skied this morning, a couple of runs, but I got tired. I used to come up here all the time and ski all day. But my boyfriend passed away this year and, I don't know, I got tired and came in here.

"Where can I catch the bus back to Truckee? I just don't feel much like skiing today. My boyfriend and I used to ski together, but he passed away last year, and I just don't have the heart for it anymore."

The barmaid leaned on the bar and pointed with a long, softly-brown arm across the parking lot. "You catch it there. The next one is 2:40," not even looking at the clock, knowing, "but you can leave here at 2:37, just there on the corner." She stood back, crossing her smooth arms under her chest. "Don't stand out in the cold to wait. Wait until you see the bus go into Sugar Bowl. It will make a loop and come back and you catch it on the corner."

She never ordered a drink, just watched the tv and out the window. Over a commercial she turned to me. "Charlie's Angels—do you remember that show? I named my daughter after one of the angels." I couldn't hear what she said; something about Jaclyn Smith, then it was back to Tyra Banks and her own world.

The bus took her back to Truckee. She left a dollar-fifty and the unopened bag of Fritos on the bar.

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