“You know what’s the best shade? Cruella.”
She is talking about lipstick and her name is Ariel, though the way she pronounces it, it’s probably spelled Arielle. Second syllable emphasis. And it fits her. She is too real to be real, in the way a contemporary novel is real. She is carefully constructed, in her large sweater and tight shirt. She can twist her long dyed blonde hair into a bun on the side of her neck and it stays put as if by magic as she talks about how “school fucking sucks.”
“What are you talking about?” Another smoker outside the Fox Head asks.
“Nothing. Girl stuff.” Peach says, and then she is putting lipstick on her male friend, a fortysomething Asian who arrived by surprising her with a light for her cigarette. “No, don’t pucker!”
Peach and Arielle are laughing under the smoke cloud and the street light. Peach talks about the neighborhood drunk who got hit by a car. “He’s totally sweet, though. And so interesting to talk to.”
These are my Northside girls. They share pitchers of beer and know the homeless regulars at the Fox Head and George’s by name, and they go out for cigarettes and chat to people they met other times out there on the bench. They wear eccentric jewelry rescued from antique shop shelves or thrift store piles. They are anachronisms from mismatched time periods, in red shades of lipstick, in fox furs, in cameo jewelry. In the light of day it would seem twee or pretentious, but next to the pitcher of beer, in the Fox Head on a weeknight, they are comforting, and they belong. They blend into the old woodwork, the collection of mantle clocks behind the bar, the tables scratched with initials and doodles and scratches from a collection of bargoers. They are as much a part of this place as the jukebox playing Hank Williams followed by Joy Division in the corner by the pool table. I feel like a visitor here, but they are fixtures. They are the Northside girls.