She had initially caught Gene’s eye because she sat alone at the bar, fiddling for over an hour with a tall drink that had not declined in volume. Her eyes were fastened on the door as she clutched the glass with long bright nails. Though heavily made up, her plainness still found its way through the paint on her face. A blind man could see she was there to meet a man and she had a plan.
Whenever the doors opened and a man came through who seem to suit her tastes, she’d move quickly and hand him a card with a smile that offered an invitation to talk. Unfortunately, each guy accepted the card politely and continued past her without a second look. Her smile would fade slowly as she stared off into space until the door opened again and captured her attention.
As he watched her in motion, he began to feel pity for her and then pity for himself. Her loneliness was apparent and he understood, for he himself, had been lonely since his divorce. He sighed deeply as he watched her discriminate between the men. The tall, good-looking ones in suits got cards and the shorter ones without ties did not. He looked down at his own attire. He was tall and he had on a tie, but he knew she wouldn’t be interested. She was obviously looking for a pretty face and he didn’t have one.
As he observed her face slide downward in defeat, he decided to go over to offer some form of empathy because he was no stranger to rejection. She looked even worse up close. “May I offer you another drink?” he asked in a quiet voice. “I’m not finished with this one,” she said in a slow southern drawl. She didn’t offer him a card. Her eyes surveyed him cautiously. For him, she didn’t smile.
Gene had long been accustomed to women not showing him favor, but this one was different. The look in her eyes made him feel ugly and he no longer felt sorry for her. He turned to walk away, just as the club’s owner approached him.
“Judge Baker, are you with this young lady?”
“No I’m not”, he quietly replied, as he returned to his seat at the other end of the bar. The club owner spoke to the woman, “Miss, we don’t allow the distribution of any kind of literature in here. You are disturbing my customers. You either stop or leave.”
As Gene paid his tab, a soft voice suddenly came up from behind. “I’ll take that drink now.” He turned abruptly to the sound of the voice. It was her. She was smiling now and holding out a card. “This is my last act of disturbance. I forgot to give you one.”
He stared at her in an effort to penetrate the paint. Unlike the men before him, he ignored the gesture and without a word moved past her to the door. He experienced a sudden deep satisfaction that penetrated his soul. Suddenly, he knew that ugly had little to do with one’s face.