Every eye turns in my direction. I smile at some of the patrons. Acknowledge others. Some smile, warm and friendly. Some glower at me, still smarting from recent slights. Half of them are stuck here because of me, passing their days as the background chatter in other people’s lives, hoping to someday settle their tab and be allowed to move along and get on with their lives. No one will say anything. No one will approach me. They all know why I’m here. They all sit at their tables and booths, playing their roles and sipping free beer to drink away the ghosts, careful to give the new stranger a wide berth. They all know he’s the reason I’m here. And whether he knows it or not, I’m the reason he’s here, too.
I glance over the faces of the patrons, looking for Jessica. I finally find her in the back corner. She’s squirreled herself away in the shadows, as far away as she can get from what I’m about to do. She doesn’t look at me, but she has to know I’m here. I could use a smile. Or a wave. But I understand. I know how I feel when she’s working a client.