The Secret (Story by Risa Peris)

“Are you weird? I bet you’re a weirdo. You have to be. This is a weird place.” I kept flicking a ballpoint pen. The man stared at the pen.

“Click, click,” he said.

“What’s your secret?” The man was in his forties. Graying hair. Expensive suit. An olive green turtleneck under. His eyes were dark but the bar was dim so they could have been blue for all I knew. He had a smug look about him.

“What’s your secret?” he sipped his Bourbon with a snarky grin.

“That’s not how the game is played. Do you see that lady at the end of the bar? Red dress molded to her hot curves. Puckered red lips? Real diamonds on her earlobes? She’s a hooker. Ha. This is a mildly classy place. She’s a call girl. But that ain’t her secret. She’s got a family in the Pacific Palisades. She pops Lithium so I’m guessing she’s Bipolar. Playing call girl is fun. She doesn’t need the money. Her husband is an exec at Fox.”

The man considered the call girl. “Good secret.”

“Would you pay for her?”

The man laughed. He ran a hand through his thinning hair. “I just might.”

“You wanna know that man’s secret?” I pointed down the bar again. A man in his thirties sat staring at his gin and tonic. I knew it was gin. I saw the bartender pour the Bombay Sapphire. He had a notebook next to him as I did. Except his notebook was closed and mine was open and filled with writing.

“What is it?” asked the man in the suit.

“He made a movie two years ago. Did okay. Released on Netflix. But he hasn’t had an idea since and his money is running out. I give him two weeks to switch to a seedy bar in the Valley where he can brag about his movie.”

“You’re pretty good at knowing secrets. What’s mine?”

I set down my pen and sipped my martini. “You’re a zero. You’re where a woman goes to humiliate herself. Women fall for your swagger and then dead end. You’re a hole. A human hole.”

The man laughed. I didn’t. “That’s my secret?”

“Yeah. You didn’t know?”

His face falls. “What do you want?” His look was sharp and sneaky. Like he is about to steal a diamond necklace.

“Do want to add a zero to your life?”

“Yeah, to be honest. I’m a writer. I can turn a dead end into four books. Maybe five.”

“So we should go to your place?”

“Nope. The bathroom. Knock on the door in five minutes.” I left money for the bartender, stuffed my notebook into my bag along with the pen I had been clicking. I walked across the bar. The bathroom was a single. It was marbled and lush and looked somewhat clean. I brushed my hair and waited for the knock. It came. I opened the door. He was there. Less snarky. A little ravenous. He pulled me to him and I managed to lock the door. It seemed like we were wrestling. Trying to control our arms and legs. When he got inside me I yelped a little and then looked in his eyes. They were blue. And there was some weird tenderness there. I knew he was a weirdo. We clung to each other like we were drowning. Was I wrong? He wasn’t a zero? I seemed so sure that he was. What was I going to write about now? Love? He kissed me and then dropped a business card in my bag.

“In case you need another zero,” he said.

“I don’t write romances. Just sad shit.”

“Then maybe live a romance. You can still write the sad shit.” He shut the door. I considered trashing the business card but I had a flashback of his soft eyes. There was some kind of pain and vulnerability there and I wanted to explore it. I did. That was my secret.


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