The Hours Before Morning

by Emily LAWTON

We went down to Cookie’s. We parked a little down the road and walked and it was dark and cold and all that. We sat at the bar, next to where the guys shoot pool bent from the waist. We checked out their asses and drank fifty-cent Dixie cups of beer and didn’t go home with any of them. They were locals; we knew them all from high school or before, and only by pretending we didn’t know what faces were on the other ends could we admire the asses.

Later Lulu and I found ourselves in front of a shabby fake-cowboy pub where some terrible country song was blasting out the windows and we danced a two-step on the sidewalk except neither of us knew how to lead. “This is what happens to lesbians,” I said.

“You’re a lesbian,” she said. I’m not a lesbian. She just wanted to rile me. A guy came out of the bar just then, and he shouted “lesbians? Wooo-hooo!”

Almost right away he went back in. I guess he didn’t know what he was coming out for in the first place. To see if there were any lesbians outside, maybe.

We went inside but Lulu got groped almost right away so we went back out. We sat down on the cold slab of concrete that ran the length of the building. “God. There is nothing to do around here,” Lulu said. The cowboy bar had got us both down. It looked like the set from a Western, but even less real. We weren’t dressed for the weather; we were dressed for close quarters, sweaty bars. She lit a cigarette and put the pack back in her purse without even offering me one.

“You’re a bitch,” I said, reaching for the pack.

“For what?”

“Sins of omission.”

“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”

Just then the door burst open and a fight got pushed out into the street, ushered by a couple of ugly bouncers. There were maybe three fighters, and a bunch of on-lookers—who against who we couldn’t tell. The bouncers were saying “take it outside,” which is what they always say.

Without speaking, we got up to walk away. We didn’t want to get clocked with a spare punch, or to be around when the cops showed up, asking questions. We hurried down the street, shivering, to where Lulu’s Chevette sat deteriorating on Parkhurst street. “You okay to drive?” I asked.

“Absolutely. Let’s roll.”

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