three on the house
i went to a bar after work the other day. i do that often.
it was late night early morning and a guy im familiar with was pouring drinks so i knew it would be a cheap visit. i ordered a whiskey but no beer. i didnt need the suds. he poured it heavy and on the flatscreen was a black and white animated movie with a convoluted plot i couldnt follow. outside the streets were wet from a recent rain. i sat and stared and sipped my whiskey.
at the other end of the bar was a girl with short blond hair and a brassy attitude. she was young and thin and insulted the bartender with a clever smile on her face, a knowing smirk that was at once disarming and still mischievous. i clocked her for a moment then turned back to space.
me and the bartender started a discussion on food. sandwiches, in particular, and where the best deli's in the neighborhood were. there was the 5th ave deli where they grilled their pastrami sandwiches and had a nice array of cheeses from which to choose from. there was the deli on nostrand ave that served their sandwiches on rye and piled them high with meat and cheese and spicy mustard. there were the multitude of delis on every other corner that served the same fare but were consistent and stayed open 24 hours. there was the acceptance of how limited our options were, especially at night, when the stomach grumbles and the mind wanders and the cash in your pocket burns a hole. i told him about a deli i knew, he told me of one he knew. we decided to deliver reviews next time we met.
then the girl came over. the bartender told me her name was shane. she introduced herself and when she asked how i was and i just said alright she feigned interest in why i wasnt stellar. i told her that in life sometimes a rainbow didnt follow the rain and she looked confused for a second then ordered another white wine. she had an attractive face, angular and defined. her eyes were big and her chin was long but it held a proportion that favored her. she let her bangs fall loosely, which i liked. still i didnt say anything. there wasnt anything to say.
a guy to my left started telling me about the spiderman musical on broadway. there was no segue, no introduction, i hadnt even noticed he was there. he just launched into how it was getting a bad rap in all the press, how the production quality of it was beyond any other in the theater district. the songs were better. the acting was good, the costumes and narrative and even the high flying wire acts were all executed to perfection. he didnt understand why everyone was so against it. according to the critics, its an epic failure. according to him, its a smashing success. i listened to him gush about it while nodding, indifferent to everything save the whisky on my lips. eventually he turned from me and began talking to someone else about something else, as if he were never talking to me at all.
shane then whispered in my ear that he was creepy. her breath was hot and sweet from the wine and when she said the word creepy there was a wet hiss i could feel on my earlobes. she explained that he had tried to take her home one night but that there was something about him, something beyond suspicion, a danger, that she couldnt put her finger on. alarm bells went off in her head. she politely declined and he, to his credit, was gracious and accepting of her rejection, but he watched her from afar the rest of the night. and she was afraid to walk home alone, so she spent her remaining cash on a cab just to circle the block and drop her off a few doors down.
it was getting late and i was on my third whiskey. i asked the bartender how much i owed and he gave me a meager total so i tipped him bigger than i planned. he thanked me and then poured me another. i put a napkin on my glass then went outside to smoke a cigarette. when i went back inside shane was on the other side of the bar but as i sat down she came back over and sat next to me. i could feel my legs beginning to wobble and my head was swimming and even though she was painting a target on her chest i decided not to go for it. she was too young. too blond. too skinny. there was no mystery about her, nothing i wanted to find out.
i sucked down my whiskey in one gulp and said good-bye to everyone around me. she looked shocked and disappointed but i knew shed get over it. then i opened the door and went outside and put on my ipod to keep me company. it wasnt a long walk home but i knew it would be lonely.