Part the first.
Gail is probably in her early 40s and is the kind of woman that reminds you of that aunt you always thought was secretly kind of hot but you kept it to yourself. She has wide eyes that open even wider when you say something she finds interesting--and she finds everything you say interesting--and she honestly seems like she wants to know you. Her hair is a deep chestnut brown with a red tint and as we sit at this bar, I notice that she keeps smelling her glass as if it's going to smell different 1/3 full as it did 2/3 full. Maybe it does, but I don't feel like asking.
Which is a shame, because she's a wine critic for a magazine in Seattle and she's about to become the manager of a soon-to-be-opened wine bar downtown. She was raised Mormon and attended BYU from 1983 to 1988 and talks about Provo's mid-80s "post-California skate punk scene" like your drunken grandpa talks about "fighting the gooks in Korea," a hybrid of survivor's pride and a "What were we thinking" sort of attitude. She's articulate without being pretentious and she says "fuck" like a semicolon, joining two otherwise complete sentences.
Gail's been married twice, and when she finds out I'm an Aquarian, she pauses; both of her former husbands were Aquarians. This, for some reason, inspires a probably-not-familiar-enough-to-be-funny "Well, I guess I won't marry you next!" and a series of almost pleasantly demonic chuckles. Her spurt of laughter shows a set of nice teeth--uncommon for a big wine aficionado--and she is perfectly aware of just how pretty she is.
Which is, I guess, above average, if I had to apply some crass definition for which I was not well-equipped. She seems warm but slightly clinical. It's clear that she's been burned by love but retained optimism. She talks about her first husband, a Mormon skate punk, with a little bit of bitterness, while she refers to her second husband, a speedboat racer from the Northwest, with a little bit of sadness. You see, she still lives with her second husband and they are still very close, Gail says, and marriage, well, just wasn't for her. She's bisexual and an atheist slash agnostic. Wine is her religion, she says, and nature and sex are for practice. Because I'm an arrogant shit, I interpret this last comment as an advance.
She's in Provo for a family reunion. Her brothers are going to pick her up from this bar pretty soon, and she imagines that they'll sigh audibly and say "Oh, good, Gail's drunk again." but she doesn't seem to mind. I remind her that family reunions are often just excuses to drink alcohol and that she's probably in good shape. She agrees, puts her hand on my arm, and asks if I have a girlfriend.
The physical contact isn't negative but it is jarring, and the combination of the shock of her touch, her earlier mention of sex, and the question's relevance to my last week catches me off guard. I share a peck with my gin and tonic.
"Funny you should ask," I say between sips. "I was supposed to get married last night."