She wasn't really blind. The regulars had nicknamed her 'Blind Betty'
because she always wore a pair of those big, white, fifties-style
sunglasses, the sides of which swept up and back like a pair of huge
wings, and the few times anyone had actually talked to her, she never
seemed to be able to make eye contact, but always looked at something
that was sitting just over their left shoulder. It had also been noticed
early on--the word passed via whispers and elbow nudges--that after you had imbibed a couple of beers and looked at her with slightly squinted
eyes through the dim, smoke filled light of the bar, she looked
remarkably like a mature version of the legendary 1950s model, Betty
Page. So, the nickname stuck.
I considered myself to be a 'regular' at the small, local tavern, even
though I had only been stopping by most evenings after work for about six
months. Located in the corner of a decaying shopping center, sandwiched
in between a dry cleaner and a real estate office, it didn't even open
for business until 6:00 PM, which was just about the time most of the
other businesses in the center were closing up for the night.
The interior of the tavern was long, narrow and dark; the old bar itself
taking up most of one wall, while deep, red naugahyde booths lined the
other wall, with a scattering of small tables and chairs placed randomly
down the middle of the room. A mixed aroma of stale cigarette smoke,
spilled beer, lemon scented polish and long lost dreams greeted you when
you entered the bar.
Up front, an old jukebox stood sentinel by the door, the dusty selections
not having been updated in over a decade, but none of the patrons seemed
to mind. Across from the door, a raised platform had been installed in a
corner of the room, upon which a three-piece band had once played during
the weekends, and where, for a very short period of time years ago,
Tuesday night Karaoke had been tolerated.
Today, there were no pool tables, no dart boards, no loud contemporary
music to entice a younger, more swinging crowd into the bar. This
establishment was meant to be a quiet sanctuary for people who sought a
refuge from the outside world--a place in between the realities of work
and home and life.
It was the perfect place for Blind Betty to make an appearance.
I usually stopped in for a drink or two on my way home from work most
evenings about 7:00. My new apartment was just down the block from the
bar and being in my late forties and recently divorced (for the third
time), I no longer had any special reason to hurry home, and the laid
back atmosphere of the bar was something I had started to look forward to
every evening. Mellow, familiar sounds of lost love and unfulfilled
quests floated from the juke box, to mix with muted conversation and the
tinkle of ice against frosted glass. To me, it seemed an island of peace
in an unsettled world.
1 2 3 4 5 6