Katharine made up her mind that she was going to one of the bars up the street from her apartment. In the time she’d lived in Sacramento, she had not yet found a bar to call her own. Her loneliness usually kept her caged like a prisoner in her apartment with Bette as her only company. Sadly, even Bette had more friends in town—an odd friendship with a nest of pigeons that roosted on the windowsill in the bathroom. Bette could spend hours watching the birds as they built their nest.
The bars up 20th street had bright lights and loud music. Every weekend seemed to bring crowds of attractive people to the corner. One of the bars even had a swimming pool. The bars would at least feel like a frat party, even if she did have to pay for her booze.
Francisco and Katharine walked into the bar that looked the most upscale. A brightly lit sign on the rough masonry wall named the place Badlands. After paying their cover charge, the two walked past an ATM machine and into the bar. Their attention was captured by the TV screens on every wall playing music videos. A few people, mostly guys, were dancing on the dance floor. Ignoring the lines at the bar, the two climbed up the metal staircase to a lounge upstairs. They noted that the bar upstairs wasn’t crowded.
“What’ll it be?” the bartender asked.
Francisco replied, “a shot of whiskey and a Budweiser back. And whatever she wants.”
“I want something sweet and a little fruity,” Katharine added.
The bartender joked, “if he’s not fruity enough for you, everyone else here is.”
They didn’t see the humor but the bartender laughed at his own joke as he poured Francisco’s drink and mixed up a blueberry press for Katharine.
When they’d had their drinks, Francisco took the whiskey shot and sipped his beer. The two found a seat on a couch. Across a low coffee table was an identical couch carrying a 20-something woman sipping a pink cocktail from a martini glass. She seemed nonplused by bright lights and loud music.
Katharine proposed a toast, “here’s to your new job! May it be everything you want and need. I’m going to love having you around, Franky!”
They clinked their glasses and sipped. Francsico looked out over the dance floor. His earlier assessment that it was mostly guys dancing was wrong. It was only guys dancing. In fact, there were guys in their underwear dancing on raised boxes.
Nervously, he blurted out, “We’re at a gay bar! Katharine, did you know this was a gay bar?”
The quiet woman sitting across from them broke her silence with laughter.
Embarassed, Francisco looked at Katharine as if to say, “Let’s get out of here, quick! Before somebody sees us.”
The woman said, “Sit back down. You already paid your cover and haven’t finished your drinks. Besides, you’re cute and a bar is a bar, right? My name is Nicole.”