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©2001 Carly Issitt
February 7, 2001

The Girl Formerly Known as Eve

I met Eve at Ebbett’s Bar and Grill.  She was there alone, as far as I could tell.  She was gorgeous—sculpted features, rich brown hair, a perfectly pro­portional body frame, a vibrant skin tone, every part of her was spectacular.  Ebbett’s was sort of my neighborhood bar, but I’d only been there a few times.  That night it was so cold, I didn’t want to go far from home. 
   

I’d been watching Eve drinking, the way she gently puckered her lips around the straw.  She didn’t seem to notice me.  She hadn’t looked at me the whole time I’d been there.  

“Honey, I’ll take anything you want to give me,” the bartender said to a customer asking if he would accept American Express.  He had a phlegmy laugh and greasy hair combed over the top of his head.

“That guy’s a real peach,” I said to Eve.

“Phh.  He’s an asshole,” she said.

“What’s your name?” I asked. 

“Well, it’s this,” she said, pulling a napkin out of the holder.  She drew on the napkin a little symbol of a flower with a peace sign in the middle and sun rays coming out the sides.  “But you can call me Eve.  Or ‘the woman formerly known as Eve.’”  She looked at me with a totally straight face.

Another woman came up to the bartender to settle her check, and you could tell by his posture he was making sexual comments at her too.  I tuned him out.   

Eve was sitting two seats to my right.  Her voice was so commanding that every­one looked at her when she snapped at the bartender all of a sudden. 

            “Women are people, you know.  We have names,” she said, standing up from her stool.  “I’ve heard you call every woman you’ve talked to in here ‘honey’ and I don’t know about everyone else, but it sure isn’t my name.”

            “Yeah, Bill!” yelled the waitress from across the bar.  The customer at the register smiled and meekly held out her hand for her change.     

            The bartender laughed mockingly to himself.  “Honey, I’ve been doing this longer than you’ve been on this earth, now you just finish your drink,” he told Eve. 

            Eve was working on her third Long Island Iced Tea since I’d been there.

            “Fine, I will,” she said, and she slapped her straw down on the counter and gulped down her entire drink in a few seconds.  She shoved a dollar down the bar toward the bartender and got up to walk out.  The string on her coat somehow got lodged in the crossbar of the stool she was sitting on, and in one movement she took off walking, and the bar stool jerked forward, and Eve jolted backward and twisted her body around and nearly tripped over her feet.  She caught herself on the bar, and I instinctively started to get up to help her, but then I just hovered over my stool, half-standing.

            “Are you okay?” I said.

            “I’m fine,” she said, still gathering herself together.  “I’m leaving.”

            “My name’s Jeremy,” I said quickly.

            “Have a nice life, Jeremy” she said and she made a little saluting gesture before walking out. 

            I wanted to go after her and have it be like one of those scenes in a Meg Ryan movie where Meg Ryan and whatever guy meet and have an instant connection, and the rest falls into place within two hours.  Sometimes when you see someone, you just have a feeling about them.   

            Eve stopped outside the door and scanned both directions, as though she didn’t have anywhere to go and could decide on the spur of the moment where the wind would take her.  Or maybe she was surveying the scene, taking it all in before she headed out into the night.  It was like a ghost town outside; negative five degrees with the wind chill kept everyone huddled up in their living rooms.

            Something about her was enticing.  The way she stood up for the women in the bar, for the blond waitress who probably never would have said a thing, even after being called “honey” for years by the same man, Bill, who probably didn’t even know her real name. 

            The blond waitress came up and handed an order slip to Bill.

            “Thanks, sweetie.”

            “It’s Sylvia, Bill.”  She looked at him crossly and walked away muttering to her­self.  “Five years and I don’t think he’s said my name one time, jackass…”

            Bill watched her walk away, looking more confused than angry.   

            There was a space heater in front of the door to counteract the icy gusts of wind that chased people in the door, but since nobody was coming or going, the warm air formed a big cloud in front of the door.  The left side of my body was significantly warmer than the right side, until Eve opened the door and reminded me of how uninviting the night air was.  When Eve stepped outside, I imagine she too was struck by the reality of her decision to stand up for her morals, but it didn’t stop her. 

            She had finally settled at the bus stop across the street from the bar.  I could see the wavy image of her through the thick glass panes in the door, not much more than a little streak of red from her coat. 

            I wondered about whether or not I should go out and talk to her, maybe offer her a ride home.  But then I would have to brave the weather, and when she opened the door I thought I had seen snowflakes starting to come down.  She had been right, too.  Bill had no right to disregard women’s names just because he was good at mixing drinks and pouring beer.  I had done enough of that at parties to know there wasn’t much brain power behind the whole process.

            Who knows, if I had kept talking to her and Bill hadn’t interrupted the situation with his repugnant comments to women, she may have turned out to be the one.  The woman I’d been dreaming about my whole life.  She was beautiful, smart, funny, inde­pendent.  I had to get to know her.

            Now she was sitting at the bus stop, and it was after midnight, and she was drunk, and possibly she had no place to go.  The more I added to my mental list, the more I was convinced that I had to at least offer her a ride.  I, after all, could go back to my own apartment at any time and curl up in my empty bed, and maybe Eve didn’t have that lux­ury. 

            I was still working on my first drink.  Bill was at the other end of the bar talking to a nicely dressed couple, who were politely smiling but obviously wishing to return to their conversation. 

“You see, my son’s got a 1200 Sportster.  It’s just a little red thing about yea high,” he said, holding his hand up to his waist.  “I tell him, ‘That’s okay, as long as it’s

got the Harley engine it’s the real thing.  Don’t make no difference if it’s a Sportster or a something else, it’s a Harley!’”

            Eve had such an energy about her.  I had to see what was behind that.  I threw a ten dollar bill on the bar and ran out the door in a swift movement, determined to ignore the inevitable shock of the cold air.  I was half way across the street before it occurred to me that I’d have to say something once I got there.

            “Do you want a ride somewhere?  I have a car right across the street,” I said.  She didn’t respond.

            “Look, I’m not a serial killer or anything, I promise.  My name is Jeremy Ed­wards.  I live at 1605 Ohio, just a few miles from here.  My dog’s name is Dr. Ruth.  Here’s my license, look.  I’m actually ten pounds heavier than that now.  I’ll just take you wherever you want to go.”

            She glanced at my license.  “You think it’s convincing me you’re sane to tell me you have a dog named Dr. Ruth?”

            “Hey, it’s not that weird.  My friend’s dog’s name is Shit.  I keep waiting for him to call me up one day and say ‘Shit died.’  The poor thing’s gotta be like 128 in dog years.  So, do you want a ride?” 

“I guess it’s better than sitting out here,” she said.  Her nose was bright red from the cold.  She was even prettier than I had noticed in the bar.  She had huge brown eyes, a miniature nose, and perfectly symmetrical lips, which in itself is unusual.  And how many

 

people are willing to sit in the freezing cold in the middle of the night waiting for a bus that’s never going to come, in defense of their morals?    

            “I don’t even think the busses run after midnight,” I said.  Getting a ride from me was really the only option, given the circumstances. 

            I started driving and got near the highway before I realized I didn’t know where I was supposed to be taking her.

            “Where am I going?”

            “I don’t know,” she said.  She was hunching forward in her seat like one of those homeless women huddled over an emaciated little stray puppy.  “Are you drunk?” she asked.

            “No, I didn’t even finish my one drink.”

            “Then how about we just drive?”  She hid her face by looking out the side win­dow. 

            “Sure,” I said.  “I’ve got plenty of gas.  East or west?”

            “West.” 

            “West it is.”  I got on the highway, thinking I would get off when I saw a sign for some little town I’d never seen before.  There’s always those little places, usually like fifteen minutes outside the city limits, with names like Frederickston and Springton, where there’s nothing but antique shops and convenience stores.  These are the towns you stop at on road trips.  You walk into a place called “Family Dollar” only to find it’s actu­ally a liquor store.  Of course, everything would be closed this time of night. 

            Eve seemed somewhat more comfortable in her seat now.  The heat had kicked in on full blast and even my toes were gaining back their sensation.  But I wanted to get to know her better, and I couldn’t stop babbling to myself. 

            “Are you feeling okay?” I asked.  “You chugged that last drink pretty fast.”

            “No, I’m fine.  I mean, yes, I did chug that last drink.  I mean, yes, I’m fine.”

            “Are you sure about that?”

            “No.  Yes!  I’m sure.  So, where are we going?”

            “It is a place to be named as soon as I see the name on the sign saying we have arrived.  But it can’t be anywhere too far away, because Dr. Ruth knows how to open the refrigerator when I’m not home on time to feed her.”   

“Women know what they want, and they’re all the wiser if they know how to get it,” she said.  “Dr. Ruth is a wise woman.  The dog, I mean, not the woman.  She’s a wise dog.”

“So, I don’t even know anything about you, except that you drink Long Island Iced Teas really fast and you have a good sense of humor,” I said.  “Where are you from?”

“I’m from Baltimore originally, but I moved here ten years ago,” she said.  “I hate the Midwest.  It’s full of racists, and the weather sucks.”

“Oh, I’ve been a Midwesterner my whole life.  I was born in Kansas.  I lived in Ohio for a while before moving here.  I love the Midwest, racists and all.  It’s farm coun­try.  Corn.  Good for the bones.”

“Good for the bones?  Corn?”

“Sure,” I said.  “Haven’t you been to Illinois?  Nothing but corn all the way through.  And did you ever hear of Illinoisans with weak bones?  I bet not.”

“Are you sure you’re not drunk?” she asked.

“No, I’m fine.”

I was out of control, and about to blow any chance I had of Eve liking me.  Ap­parently my idea of flirting was boasting about the Midwest and corn, and driving a drunk, attractive stranger to some no-name city with a big stupid grin on my face.  Not to mention, I think Eve was more drunk than she realized.

“How come you’re so quiet?” I asked.  “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I think so.  Just feeling a little woozy.” 

“Do you want me to pull over at…Gas-n-Fizz?” I asked, barely making out the sign on the side of the road.  “Stretch your legs?  Use the bathroom?  Buy a souvenir?”

“Sure.”

When we got there, I went inside and bought some sort of frozen cherry-flavored beverage, a bag of cheese popcorn, and a king-size snickers bar.  I was ready for the road.  Eve was still standing against the car when I came out with my arms overflowing and my fingers already coated with sticky orange cheese powder.  “Want some popcorn?” I asked.

She took one look at the orange popcorn and immediately started throwing up.  And she kept going for a long time.  Eventually she was dry heaving, coughing, and gag­ging.  I stood back for a while watching her contorting and lurching forward with every wave of nausea.  I finally abandoned my munchie cache on the ground and went over to help her.  She was weakly holding her shoulder-length hair behind her neck, but it was falling out of her grasp and her hand didn’t seem to have the strength to keep it in check, so I came up behind her and gathered her hair up behind her head.  It was so soft, it kept slipping out of my fingers. 

She was still dry heaving repeatedly, with such short pauses that she had to gasp for breath.  I looked to my pile for a beverage.  The cherry stuff wasn’t going to do it.  She needed water.  I grabbed her limp hand and wrapped it around her hair, and ran in­side to get a glass of water.  I didn’t even look at the cashier, I just grabbed an extra large cup and ran to the bathroom to fill it up. 

“I’ve got a sick friend outside!” I yelled as I ran back through the store to the front door. 

When I got back, she was still heaving over the parking lot, looking like she was about to pass out.  I don’t think she even had any bile left in her system.

“Drink this,” I said, and I grabbed her chin to steady her.  She tried to take a drink, but couldn’t stop gagging, as if she was choking on something.  Her skin was so pale I thought she might collapse and stop breathing.  She managed to get a drink of water in her stomach, and then she threw it up right away.  I shoved the cup in her face.  

“Take another drink,” I insisted.  She was able to swallow three or four times in that drink, and then she pushed the cup away and I thought she was going to throw up again, but she didn’t.  Instead, she took a deep breath, her first one in several minutes.

“Oh my god.  I feel like shit,” she said.

“Yeah, I can see why.  That was nuts,” I said. 

We sat against the car.  It didn’t seem as cold as it had been earlier.  I smoothed Eve’s hair back behind her ear.  She didn’t look at me.

“I’m really sick,” she said.

Obviously,” I said, pointing to the evidence on the parking lot.

“No, I mean, I’m sick sick.  I need to go home.”

“Where do you live?”

“I’ll show you.  Get back on the highway,” she said.

“I’m glad I was there to get you that water,” I said in the car.

“Yeah, thanks.  I owe you one.”

“No, don’t worry about it.”  She would have the prettiest children, I thought when I looked at her.  They would be smart and funny like her, and everyone would like them and they would never be lonely.

Maybe Eve felt a connection with me too, and maybe when I got to wherever she lived she would say she wanted to see me again, when she wasn’t sick.  I didn’t want to bring it up yet, because it was probably taking all of her concentration not to get nauseous from all the bumps in the road and the motion of the car.

She guided me back the way we came, and eventually back to the same street of the bar.

“Stop….here,” she said.  We were directly in front of the bar. 

“Where are you going?”

“There,” she said, pointing to the bar.

“There?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because I live there.”

“Where?”

“Right there.  Above the bar.  Thanks for the ride,” she said, getting out of the car.

She bent her head down to the window.  “You’re an interesting guy.  Thanks for helping me when I was sick.”

“I don’t understand.  You live here?”

“Yeah.  My dad’s Bill Ebbett.”

“What?”

“Look, I just wanted to get out for a while, and you seemed to want to give me a ride, so I let you.  You seemed harmless enough.  Sorry if you thought it was something else.”

“No, I just, well, I thought there was something different about you.”

“Honey, I’m just a normal girl,” she said, and she spun around on one leg before walking up to the door.  The spin seemed to make her nauseous again, and she held her forehead as she walked up to the door, leaning a little to the right with each step.

I started driving.  I didn’t want to go home right away.  I thought she was different.  I thought she would be the one to turn things around for me.  She was different.  I wanted to know her.  I wanted her to like me.