A lil teaser, and one of the many reasons I love this man...
When I get back to the neighborhood, I can’t even go home. I head to my local haunt, Fritz’s, for a beer. The cute black waitress is there, as is a heavier girl with a shock of red hair and tattoos along her chest and arms. She wears black-framed glasses, and when she smiles it makes me smile too. As different as she is from her bartender, I find this other girl just as cute. Of course, that’s usually how it is with me. Call me a romantic, but I’ve always found women fascinating, like mysterious puzzles that are so much fun to unlock. I’m an Italian, for fuck’s sake. This is what we do. We appreciate the finer things in life, those beautiful things that make life worth living. For me that has always been wine, women and song.
Like ol’ George Thorogood, I like ‘em all. Tall girls. Skinny girls. Curvy girls. Blondes, brunettes and redheads, and girls of every race. They can be tattooed or plain, serious or silly, but every single one of them shines like a diamond when they smile, or their eyes flash, or they walk by in a perfume-scented breeze. Their curves invite to be held. Their voices invite to be heard. Their skin begs to be touched. Far too many guys don’t get this. They see women as paper dolls to collect, pretty or perfect little badges of honor they wear with pride.
The way I see it, every single woman is pretty if you know where to look, and I don’t mind looking. Nothing has ever meant more to me than finding that treasure everyone else forgot. I was the kid who would send anonymous valentine’s cards to the girls in my class I knew wouldn’t get any otherwise. Their smile was often reward enough. A girl is always prettiest when she knows she’s appreciated.
This new girl takes my order as I perch on one of the barstools. I get the feeling she hasn’t been appreciated for a long, long time. “You’re new here,” I say, still wearing my smile from before.
I can tell from the sparkle in her eye that she likes what she sees. “Not so new. It’s my dad’s bar. He’s finally decided I’m old enough to work in it. Happy thirtieth birthday to me.”
I laugh as I reach across the bar. “Nice to meet you. I’m Giovanni. Friends call me Vanni.”
“Pam,” she says. I like the way that sounds. Sweet and simple, like swinging on a hammock on a perfect summer afternoon. “What can I get you?”
I lean forward, my arms crossed over each other. “Let’s test your muster behind the bar. Guess.”
She laughs. It’s a hearty, robust sound. Like music. “Challenge accepted.” She turns her back for a moment and then returns with my favorite beer on tap. I take a sip. It’s right on the money. “Okay, I was kidding. How did you do that?”
She shrugs with another smile. “No big deal. That’s our most popular beer with the regulars. Local brewery and all that.”
“And here I thought you were psychic,” I say as I bestow a cocky smirk. “I was going to ask you what to do with my future and everything.”
“Oh yeah?” she says as she leans across the bar to face me. “Life got you down, gorgeous?”
I shrug. “Torn by what I want to do and what I need to do.”
She laughs. “I know what that’s like,” she says.
“Oh yeah?” I echo. She nods. I rest my chin on my hand. “So what did little Pam want to be when she grew up?”
She laughs more. I love the sound. It makes me happier just to hear it. “First of all, I’ve never been little. Secondly, I’m not telling you because it’s silly.”
“Well, now I gotta hear it.” She shakes her head, giggling to herself. “Tell me.”
She leans towards me, to whisper as loud as she can over the jukebox in the corner. “Fine. But if you laugh, I’ll charge you double.” I lock my lips with an imaginary key and toss it over my shoulder. She glances both ways before she leans even closer. She smells like peonies. “I wanted to be a Rockette.”
I immediately purse my lips so that I don’t laugh. She reaches for her water nozzle and sprays me. I laugh as I reach for a stack of napkins to dry myself.
“Okay, hot shot. What did you want to be?”
I smile. I’m having a good time. The best time I’ve had in quite a while, in fact. “Guess.”
Her big green eyes travel over me. “Well, lemme see. You’re dressed like a corporate flunkie, but you have hair straight out of the 1980s. Those soulful brown eyes tell me you’re generally up to no good.” I can’t help but chuckle. “And that mouth is pure sex. I can so see it just behind a microphone.”
My eyes widen. “Okay, you’re kind of freaking me out a little, Pam.”
“Come on, dude. Look at you. Who would you be if it wasn’t a rock star?”
I sigh and take another swig of beer. “That’s what I keep asking myself.”
“So what’s stopping you?”
I shake my head. I can’t even remember anymore. I open my mouth to talk about my aunt, but I can’t yet. The pain is too fresh. “I’m twenty-six. I have a house. I have two jobs. I have a girlfriend.”
She nods. She gets it now. “Let me guess. Your girl doesn’t want to share you with the world.”
“My girl doesn’t think I’ll get that far.”
“Well, that’s kind of shitty.”
My eyes dart to hers. I’m surprised by her reaction. “She just wants us to be practical. It’s really hard to make it. I mean, when did you give up on your dream to be a dancer?”
She shrugs. “I’m not sure that I ever gave it up entirely. It’d be a sad existence if we give up hope in our dreams.” I continue to stare at her, waiting for her answer. “I don’t know,” she finally says. “It just ceased being a priority, I guess. It just fell further and further down the list until it slipped off of it entirely. I don’t think I even noticed. In fact, I kind of forgot about it until you asked.”
That instantly depresses me to hear it. “So what are you going to do about it?”
“Depends. What are you going to do about it?”
I smile. She reminds me a lot of my aunt, but for once it doesn’t hurt. I hold up a finger, indicating I need a minute. I reach into my pocket and pull out some money for the jukebox. She watches as I peruse the selection, and then Queen’s ode to fat, luscious bottoms blasts from the speakers. She laughs as she realizes what I pick. I wear a smile as I walk back to the bar, my hand outstretched. “I’m going to ask you to dance.”
She only thinks about it for a moment before she wads up her towel and tosses it on the bar. She takes my hand and I lead her to the small, deserted dance floor. I grab her by the waist and lead her through some sexy moves to the pulsating beat. Her hips undulate under my palms to the music with natural grace. How could she ever think her dream was silly? I lean forward to tell her in her ear, “You really can dance.”
Her eyebrow cocks. “Can you really sing?”
I hold her close and pick up on the next verse. I can feel her practically swoon against me, which makes me feel like the most powerful man on the planet. That’s not a rush I get delivering mail to scowling businessmen in stuffy suits. It emboldens me. She reaches up to say in my ear, “You should never give that up. You have a gift.”
God, I hadn’t heard that in so long. I realize now it’s all I’ve ever wanted to hear, ever since my aunt passed. “And you shouldn’t give up dancing,” I tell her. “You can really move.”
“For a fat girl,” she fills in but I shake my head.
“For anyone.” I hold her closer, unafraid of those full curves. They’re sensual. Womanly. “You don’t see me complaining, do you?”
She shakes her head and laughs, as if I’ve told her a funny joke. “You are a shameless flirt, Giovanni Carnevale. Maybe you should take some of that charm home for your girlfriend.”
I pout. I’m not ready to leave. For the first time in months, I feel like someone actually gets me. But she has a point. The dance and flirting have been fun up till now, but it can’t go anywhere.
I’m a lot of things but I’m not a cheat.
After the dance is over, we return to the bar where she tends to more customers. I fish my pen out of my jacket and grab some extra napkins from the tray. I jot down all the lyrics I had memorized on the ride home.
I come up with a solid chorus, which I copy onto another napkin. I take ten dollars out of my wallet and place it on top of the folded napkin. On the top I write, “See you at Rockefeller Center.”
VANNI is LIVE now. So what are you waiting for?? Go get him!