“I’m sleeping, July,” I said, holding my ear to the front door of my apartment, waiting to hear footsteps, but there were none. She was just standing there, on the other side. I could hear her violently breathing through her nose.
“I’ll wait,” she said.
My apartment didn’t have a peephole. Such things were extravagances.
I could just hear her nose air, steadily increasing in knots, as she stared at me through the door.
My phone was dead, drained by thousands of vibrations, missed calls, text messages.
It was me and the door against July.
The first time I met July she ignored me entirely. What a turn on.
She was a new bartender at Rock Bottom, a place I liked going because no one there was good looking so I never had to smile or impress anyone or feel bad for sitting at a bar alone.
I could just be fat and drink beer on a wobbly stool and listen to the manager Carl complain about the guy who delivered the Newcastle kegs and what a dick he was. Frank was the door guy who didn’t need to be there because no one wanted to get in. Kelly worked there too. I think she was 90.
And then July came. I’m guessing Kelly died, but I’m not sure. I fixated immediately on the way she flirted with everyone but me. I was 22. She was 33. She had big beautiful eyes that she used to not look at me. She had gorgeous lips that she used to never talk to me and she had an amazing body that seemed to just glide away from me at every opportunity.
After a few weeks of this, I was at Rock Bottom and no one else was. It was just July and me. Without a glance she handed me a five dollar bill and asked me to put something on the jukebox. I walked over and picked a few songs. The first one was “To Be With You” by Mr. Big. She rolled her big beautiful ignorey eyes. She wiped the bar so thoroughly I thought she was going to fall right through it. After the song ended, she let out a deep sigh, letting me know she was glad it was over.
But it wasn’t. For five dollars you get 12 song selections, plus a bonus 3. I used her money wisely. I selected Mr. Big’s “To Be With You” 15 times in a row.
On the third time, it was annoying. By the fifth, it was infuriating. By the eigth play, it had become ridiculous. By the tenth, it was downright funny. And by the thirteenth play, we were outside smoking a cigarette together. Anything to get the hell away from that song.
She admitted it was a good move and she gave me her phone number and I left. I wasn’t there, but I bet she was smiling when the song played for the last time. And then the silence probably took over. I imagined July walked over and put in a quarter, just to hear it another time.
We fell for each other pretty quickly even though we knew very little about each other. She was a great artist and spent her time making custom pinball machines. I was an unemployed writer or whatever and I was sad. We both loved vodka and I’m not sure we ever saw each other sober. Ever.
We would sit on kitchen floors and smoke cheap menthols and make out in parking lots and take cabs we couldn’t afford to places we wouldn’t remember going to.
I’d visit her at Rock Bottom and she’d only pretend to ignore me now.
She would come by at 3am and we would drink on my front steps and she’d draw and complain about her mother and I would throw cards into a hat from across the living room.
We ate nostalgia and listened to our song frequently, flooding the room with the memory of a great moment that had died long ago.
So there she was, breathing through my front door, her fire threatening to compromise the frame.
It was true, I was sleeping, and this was the fourth night in a row she was doing this. It was 4am.
This time though, I didn’t let her in. And she didn’t wait. She just left. The note on my car told me exactly what I should do to myself.
I never went back to Rock Bottom again and she never called again. That was the end of July.
Two years later I ran into her at the drugstore. She was married to someone with the same name as me and she seemed really happy. She told me she had quit Rock Bottom.
I tried to reminisce with her about some of the funny moments we had, but she didn’t remember any of them. She didn’t remember the song or the cabs or the floors. She didn’t remember knocking on my door.
I always wonder how much of that whole thing I imagined. I mean, it’s so clear in my head but what if I’m wrong? What if her eyes never actually looked up across the bar? What if she didn’t hand me that bill? What if I was alone on one side of the door, hearing my own breath bouncing back off at me?
Maybe it’s all true. Maybe none of it is, but I still remember it. I guess it doesn’t really matter either way.
Rock Bottom isn’t there anymore, either, and it only exists in memories I share with no one.
Maybe that’s why there was no peephole on my door: because only the things on the inside matter.
****For her protection, July is a fake name. Her real name was June. June Adams and I think she now lives in Glendale, CA****