‘See that?’ she said. The white awning with faded green letters said, ‘Crocodile Lounge.’ I studied it through the window opposite our seats in the front of the M14A bus as it crawled east.
‘They serve free pizza with every drink. That’s why I like to go there. They have one in Brooklyn, too.’
I looked back at her sunken but still sharp eyes, which had hammocks of wrinkles on either side. ‘Is the pizza any good?’
There was a silence. This was toward the end of our ride.
The Crocodile Lounge is profiled in New York magazine and attracts also an NYU crowd, one of whom praised the establishment as, ‘cozy with a non-douchy atmosphere.’ I tried to imagine my new neighbor’s white hair and Army jacket alongside the purple college sweatshirts.
I broke the brief silence. ‘You know, I’ve been told never to eat the free beer nuts because everyone’s had their hands in the dish…’ my voice trailed off, betraying that I hadn’t been in a bar in some time.
‘No, no. They don’t have beer nuts. But the pizza’s pretty good.’
She was a retired probation officer who had worked in The Bronx and lived in Stuyvesant Town since moving here from Ohio, ‘to escape Ohio.’ She had always been intrigued with the criminal justice system and had enjoyed her work.
‘Were you disillusioned by the time you retired, or inspired, or about the same?’
‘About the same.’
‘So I guess you went in with your eyes open.’
[Unintelligible response with quasi-nod.]
‘So what do you with your time now that you’re retired?’
The hammocks appeared with her smile.