Monday, April 11, 2005

the hole

i was limping back through brooklyn on my way towards the palace. it was right at the edge of evening, before black poisons the street with night and i was just far enough away to decide i needed a drink in me if i really wanted to make it home. there was no way i was gonna be able to drag myself through the street any further without a couple shots of Black to keep me company along the path.

it was a blank building, generic and nondescript, with a black wooden door and small dark windows that bled red from the corners but kept you blind from what was inside. it didnt have a name or an address. it was like brick secret in the middle of the city and only those with the ugliest urges could even discover it existed. it was like a nothing and nowhere for nobody, the perfect escape. i almost walked past it but a bitter cold wind pushed me towards the door and before i knew anything else i was inside on a stool and i was feeling much warmer than before.

the bartender had short hair, died blood red and curly. she had on thin black glasses and behind them her eyes were a fragile light brown. i was immediately in love with her. -gimme a shot of Black, i said. it appeared and disappeared and before i could ask for another it was already in front of me again. yeah, i was definitely in love with this girl. her face was soft but steely as if she was just holding herself together. as if at any moment she would break into pieces. -you sad? i asked. -you look sad. she poured me another shot then turned around to tend to another chump at the other end of the bar.

i couldnt see where he sat, the chump. it was dark as all hell over on that end, for a second i was terrified she was never going to come back, for a second i thought she had entered the far end of doom and they were going to cut and scratch and beat her until she was nothing but a battered and bruised mess of a beautiful woman. a pile of scars and wounds and fresh soft scabs. but she came back and i sucked down the Black as quick as i could so she would come over to me and pour another shot.

from the mirror behind the bar, i could see what was going on. the whole place was a filthy mess, even through the dim, murky lighting you could see the scum hanging in the air everywhere. you tasted and breathed it. it covered every surface of the hole we were in, except for the beautiful bartender, who's sad eyes said she was stuck there forever, and the mirror, which was strangly enough, crystal clear.

in the reflection was a couple, and i think they were arguing, or they could have been professing their love for each other. empty drink glasses littered the table they sat at. one of them, i couldnt tell if it was the girl or the guy, knocked a glass to the floor and it shattered but no one made a move to clean it up or even acknowledge it was broken. they just let the chards sit there dangerously glittering under the hot red neon that burned from somewhere in the bar but from where i couldnt tell.

their movements were violent but not erratic, thats why i couldnt tell whether they were fighting or fondling. he could have been strangling her, or her him. i heard the yelps and the hushed demands but i only saw it in the reflecton of the mirror. i didnt turn around to see what was really happening. if i turned around that meant i had to face what was there and i didnt want to. it was happening behind me, in a reflection. i didnt even have to believe it if i didnt want to. i was sure if i turned around they wouldnt be there anyway.

i got another shot. the bartender poured it for me slowly, like she was measuring very carefully just how much she was allowed to give. -loosen up beautiful. its only a little poison, i can handle it. she cracked a smile at this, but didnt tip the bottle any further. i swallowed the Black, left some cash on the bar and got up to leave but she grabbed my wrist. -wait. dont go.

her voice was frail and broken and desperate and filled with so much pain and heartache i choked from the sweet scent of it. she looked me hard in the eye and with the hand that didnt have my arm she poured another shot. -have another. dont go just yet. please.

i sat back down and in the reflection of the mirror the couple behind me were gone, the table was there but the man no longer whispered and the woman no longer shushed and the broken glass no longer sparkled from the floor. what was left in the reflection was just darkness and a memory and the bartender and me.


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:gray matters: by jkg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at