“Chardonnay?” Dana nodded toward my glass.
I thumbed the delicate stem. “Of course.”
She cracked a peanut in half and tossed the shell on her ragged, growing mound. “So you like this place?”
I looked around, as if I was seeing the bar for the first time. “I don’t know anywhere better,” I shrugged, “Plus it’s walking distance from my apartment.”
Dana sucked the salt off her fingertips. “It is that kind of place—” She turned back to the napkin doodle she’d been engrossed in.
“$5 for a glass of wine.” I said, “I could buy a bottle for $5. Not a good bottle, but this isn’t good wine either.”
Dana smiled, but didn’t look up from her sketch. Her arms, splayed across the tabletop, obscured my seeing whatever it was she was drawing.
“But I guess no,” I said, “I don’t really like it here—the bar.” I took a breath.
“So why are you here?” Dana said flatly.
The surrounding conversation of bar patrons spun in my chest—a bleary, indiscernible whirl.
“I don’t know,” I said, “Nowhere better to be—” My inflection rose. An uncertain question perched at the edge of a diving board.
Dana set down her pen with a thwack of finality. “Yeah, I tend to get that sense from you.” She didn’t say it like an insult, but I felt a lingering pinch anyway.
Before I could think of a rebuttal, Dana slid her napkin to me. “Here.”
Snaking blue was etched in the soft paper. “A maze?”
“Sort of. It’s a map.”
Dana shrugged. “Somewhere kind of like here.” She looked up, studied the exposed metal of the industrial ceiling. “Except not here.”
I laughed. “Okay, well—what’s there?”
“I’m not sure,” Dana said, her gaze still fixed upward. “I imagine the same sorts of things that are here, except different.” She looked down again. Her wide eyes hugged against me. “But you should go.”
I pointed at the napkin. “Here? This someplace?”
She nodded seriously.
I laughed “Okay—” The laugh crumbled apart when the word emerged. “Can you at least tell me who will be there?”
“Well,” Dana’s mouth was hard. “You will be there.”
I chuckled, nervously this time, then took a sip of wine. “Would you go with me?” The question surrounded my swallow.
“I could, if you wanted. But—if I go with you, it won’t be the same place.”
“Same as what?”
“Same as it without me.”
Dana leaned toward me; I could smell the sharp green of gin on her lips. “Because you would be there. And then—so would I.”
I looked at the bar’s front door, at the copper bell tied to the handle, the closed side of the open sign. I picked up the napkin and turned to Dana.