All the books sat on the shelf, rusted.

I don’t know how often I’ve sat and stared at the dry-rotted bindings, never bothering to sit up in my stool, to get a closer look.

“Say, Stan, what’s with those books?” I said, waving my finger in the general direction.

“What?” He looked up at me, his hands busy in the sink. “Oh, those? They came with the place.” He said, before turning his attention back to cleaning glasses.

“Who puts books on a shelf behind a bar?” I asked myself, staring at them, my beer to my lips.

The door squealed open, followed by the sound of hard soled shoes hitting the floor. It was a woman, I knew without looking. I counted the clicks of her shoes, heel to toe, heel to toe.

She sat two stools down from me, dropped her purse on the bar with a sigh, and ordered a beer. I stole a glance at her from the corner of my eye.

She wore a long dress, but not long enough, as she crossed her legs and let her red shoe dance on her toes while nervously wiggling her foot. She wasn’t used to being in a bar alone. Her man was late.

Maybe it was the way she wore her hair, or how nervous she was in a bar, but she reminded me of Sally Parsons.

Sally lived just one street over from my father’s garage. One day, my fingers through the fence to spy on the yellow haired girl, were bitten by her dog. Soon that yellow haired girl and I were jumping rusted fences, and running down the alleyways, decorated with garbage and fat cats.

I tasted her blood before I tasted her lips. Her finger, the victim of a thorn patch, and me being the hero, saving her from the metallic taste.

We got a little older, and her beauty grew from her like a dandelion through blacktop. Her wild yellow hair now fell gracefully from her head like the branches of a willow tree. And I was the mystery by her side, a scabby wound in a leather jacket, with breath made of cigarette smoke, and knuckles as sharp as barbed wire.

Then we got a little older, and she went away with the promise of coming back, but I knew our only meetings that remained were the fleeting passes of strangers that once knew each other well, a spark in each other’s eyes, followed by the soft trickle of far off memories.

I loved once.

“Can I buy you a drink?” I asked softly.

“I’m sorry, I’m waiting for my boyfriend, but thanks.” She said, looking over her shoulder.

Maybe I’ll start reading those books.