Decisions, no matter how small, have gigantic impacts on our lives. I knew I would be disappointed when the opinion came. Four months of waiting. I didn’t know I’d be so frustrated with my part in it. I should’ve fought harder. I should have done better articulating my point. Disappointment fueled me but self-flagellation wasn’t helping. I needed to move forward. People failed all the time. I’d lost cases before, but this one seemed more personal.
I walked into the Willard, weary, giving my bags to the bellhop, and I beelined to my favorite watering hole. The Round Robin, a circular historic bar that immersed me into a better mindset. I heaved myself up to the aged red leather stool. The room was empty except for the pictures on the white walls of old politicians shaking hands with even older politicians and famous people smiling alongside them.
A few weeks ago, I spent a good thirty minutes staring at each picture, wondering what law was being negotiated or which person was pandering and to whom. If I dug further, googled each of the transactions, I might have gleaned more information, but at the time, I had too much paperwork piled up. Instead, I had my two whiskeys and meandered up to my room. I looked at my phone, four o’clock. Too early for the DC politicians and bureaucrats. Not that they frequented this place anymore—it was mostly tourists hoping for a quick hit of history. It was Friday afternoon, and the place was empty.
A towering scruff of a good-looking guy behind the bar came over.
“How are you doing today?” he asked, throwing a small, square paper napkin in front of me with the name Willard printed in black cursive.
He seemed familiar. Perhaps I’d seen him at one of my stays here before. No, I would have remembered a man that looked like this.
“I’m fine, thanks. May I have a whiskey neat?”
His blue eyes twinkled as he nodded. The sun brightened the room, and natural light poured in from the window. The spring air had made my long blonde mane frizzy. I attempted to smooth it down.
He placed the drink in front of me. Finally. I picked up the glass and looked at it appreciatively. I had waited all day with my colleagues to hear the decision of the Supreme Court Case, Garcia v. United States. I had helped to prep and argue on behalf of Garcia seven months ago. They hadn’t notified Garcia about a court date and tried to deport him. The Garcia family and my colleagues were at the hotel near the courthouse.
I hated staying there. It was filled with all the legal experts. Typically men who thought they knew more than they actually did. They irritated me. I needed to be far away from them. Usually, I flew back to New York for the weekend and would return on Monday morning to wait for the outcomes. But we lost today. This weekend, I would stay in my favorite hotel, lick my wounds, complete the work that had piled up this week, and remain for the other opinions to be announced on Monday.
The bartender had a small book in his one hand and his other moved vigorously, sketching. I took a sip from the whiskey. It tasted different from what I had ordered before.
“What is this?” I held the glass up to him. I liked it.
He looked up from his small book. “You don’t enjoy it? I can get you something else.” He frowned.
“No. It’s great. I ordered one a few weeks ago, and it was—okay. This one is like a warm hug. I love it.” I admired it for a bit. The amber drink stuck to the sides with long liquid legs, and the oak smell reminded me of my father. Every Friday, he would splash a small amount of fancy whiskey after the day’s work was done. Whiskey was my go to alcohol, more out of the unhealthy habit of bringing up sad memories than the fact I loved whiskey. When I was nervous or having a bad day, this drink gave me the courage, the memory from my father to keep fighting. However, this pour was different. This one was smooth.
“It’s one of our Japanese whiskeys. You didn’t say what kind, so I just picked one for you. This one’s my favorite.”
I took another sip and closed my eyes for a moment to enjoy the feeling. The warmth traveled from my mouth to my entire body. When I opened my eyes, the bartender stared at me. I flushed, staring right back at him, and raised my eyebrows.
“Sorry.” He looked down at his small book and moved his pencil fast.
“Are you sketching something?” I eyed his book, but I couldn’t see what he was drawing.
“Yes.” He smirked. A dimple flashed as he did.
“What are you drawing?” I asked, hoping he would distract me from the dread of today’s news.
He didn’t respond at first. He continued sketching. I finished my drink and moved the empty glass towards him. “May I have another one of those? It’s fantastic.”
He smiled and put down his book in front of me. I snuck it from the bar and opened it.
“Hey, that’s not for your eyes yet,” he protested with a smile, that dimple even more prominent. He didn’t mind me looking.
“Possession is two-thirds of the law.” I studied the small sketches before he could pretend to grab the book back, but he didn’t make a move. He watched me, amusement gleaming in his eyes. These pictures were good. Each subject had a different emotion on their face. Happy, elated, surprised…
“What are you, a lawyer or something?” he said as he poured me another drink. When he handed it to me, our fingers grazed. He lingered, and I didn’t move. Warmth washed through me as I allowed this lapse in judgment, a connection I didn’t need or want.
I pulled the glass away from his touch and continued to look through his sketches. They were mostly of people and an occasional animal. Mine was the last one. I looked tired, my eyes sad. Accurate. He had captured the tiny scar above my eye. This man was talented.
“You didn’t ask permission to draw me,” I teased and glanced at his fingers still on the bar, thin, strong from sketching, letting myself imagine what holding his hand might feel like.
“I don’t need permission to draw what I see. What are you, the First Amendment police?” He crossed his arms in front of his broad chest, his grin growing. “You going to take away my ability to express myself?” He laughed again. That smile was infectious, with straight teeth and full lips. His mood was contagious, like a life saver in my ocean of self pity.
“Never. I protect the First Amendment every day. At least, I try to.” I lifted my drink to him. “You’re good. Are you a professional artist?”He took his book and put it on the counter behind him.