Slowest Drink at the Saddest Bar
It was Friday afternoon, the late side of lunchtime, and I was drinking the last drop from my final beer in a semi-crowded bar.
I had drank it slowly as I could, trying to make it last. I couldn’t afford another one and couldn’t yet face going back outside. Drinking slowly isn’t an easy thing to do when you’ve trained yourself all these years to drink fast and drink hard and do it often.
Now my final bottle was finished. I had about 5 good minutes left before they got suspicious and came to ask if I’d like another, a further two minutes after I’d declined before they asked me to leave. It isn’t good for business to have someone sitting there without a drink in front of him, especially when he’s drinking alone. Odd enough as it is, that you’re by yourself.
I sat there in my blue work shirt with the sleeves rolled up, looking down at the tattoos on my arms and wondering exactly when it was that tattoos became fashionable again. It probably didn’t matter. There weren’t many people left in life that I knew who didn’t have tattoos.
I looked at the girls crowding round the bar, all dolled up in short skirts and high heels and heavy makeup and fake nails, giggling and drinking wine. They had tattoos.
I stared at them for a while, wondering what other tattoos they had, ones in hidden places and not on public display. Ones that only bland, square jawed men with hair products and stomach muscles and bullshit pickup lines would ever get to see. I imagined what tattoos these women had. I imagined what they looked like naked, who was shaved and who was wild, who screamed when they got fucked and who groaned. What was their demeanour when they had a piss and what did their assholes look like? It was pretty obvious I wasn’t going back to work, and I sighed at the thought of the onslaught ahead.
Eventually I rose to leave. The place was getting crowded with people who had finished their work early and were getting a head start on Friday night. Men came in with perfectly manicured beards and reeking of aftershave. They were wearing their best clothes and had their game plan all mapped out. I watched them all jostling at the bar, jostling to be seen, to be served, to be noticed.
They were trying to employ all their little ‘moves’ to get served quickly, cheap things like standing up tall and straight to look commanding and important, or leaning forward with a twenty note between their fingers so they looked ready to go.
I had been a barman once before, and I knew none of these tricks ever worked. The good ones serve who they want to fuck first, the best ones keep score and serve in order.
When you stand back and look at it from a safe distance, society is a ridiculous and childish, pointless thing. Nobody would join it if they didn’t have to, and everyone would opt out if they could. I shook my head and headed out to the white pick-up truck ready to brave the day.
On the street I almost bumped in to Ernie, the local garbage man. He began telling me some wild story about a prostitute that ran by here last night with half an ear sliced off and one shoe on.
“Oh man you really missed it” he groaned, “should have been there”. I tell him I wished I’d been there to and was sorry I missed it.
He asks me if I’m going back to work and can he get a lift? I tell him I’m finished for the day and am going the other way. Well, that’s just about half true at least. If I told him I’d quit work he’d offer me a job down at the garbage yard. Except he never really offered you a job so much as positively insist you took it. On and on he’d go about how great it was and all the perks you got and how all the guys back slapped and looked out for one another. I couldn’t be bothered with it, not now. I had a slight beer buzz and the sun was up and I wanted to ride around a while. I told Ernie goodbye and see ya later. He seemed happy enough with that.
I didn’t know yet exactly where I wanted to drive to, and that felt good in itself. People always have some place to be, and wherever they are they generally wish they were someplace else. I was as guilty as the rest on that count, but mostly I made my own, sluggish way about the world. I got everything done on time, but it was my time that I got it done on. To hell with some manager telling you what the deadline was. Some manager in a cheap suit with an ugly wife and two fat kids and a granddaughter going the same way. What the fuck did he know? What made his life such a roaring, shining success? And what did it matter whether I stood on the near or far side of the conveyor, or whether the letter was sent before or after 12pm? Or even the day after that. It didn’t. None of it did. It was all a big con. I’d known that instinctively since the age of five.
So there I was driving slowly around in my white pickup when I was meant to have been punching the clock in some dreary factory, slaving away with another 4 and a half hours to go before I’d be free.
I had briefly considered going to the library but then quickly decided against it. They had some artists in painting the walls with all kinds of important artistic images and you weren’t supposed to get in the way. I’d seen a couple of the artists at work a few days back, all furrowed brows and cardigans, sitting there with their brushes waiting for some divine inspiration. They looked pretentious and wore the requisite black framed glasses and pointy beards.
You can’t be an artist unless you wear glasses and have a stupid beard, ya know. It’s in the rules. Shit. If they wanted inspiration they should go hungry for a couple days. They should fail to make bill payments on time and have a fight with a stranger. They should go under a darkened bridge on an ugly night and get a blowjob off the only girl drunk enough to give them one, listening to the rain and trying not to think about your lost love as this girl works and sucks hungrily on your meat as you’re overcome with regret even while it’s happening. They didn’t know what pain was. Pain to them was spilling expensive wine on an even more expensive rug and cutting their finger on the cereal box.
Where were the giants? That was what I wanted to know. I rode around listening to the radio, flicking the dial right, right, right again, and then furiously back to the left. Where were the tough writers, the dynamic painters, the big-titted and mysterious models with fierce exteriors, sharp tongues and soft, kind hearts? Where were the bastards and the brawlers and the game changers? Had the whole world gone soft?
Two weeks ago, I had had a writing student shadow me at work. It was part of him getting some education, apparently. All his class was out some place doing it. Hell, the only education he was getting around here was not to end up here permanently, not to be stuck in here 8 hours a day for shit pay, maybe chaperoning some young punk who had bad acne and couldn’t get the shrink wrapping off his dick.
And he wanted to be a writer?
“Yes sir, very much so.”
“Well why the hell are you paying for someone to tell you how to do it?” That bit genuinely confused the shit out of me. It always did.
“Well… so I’ll be good at it.”
Jesus Christ! There was no hope for this dirtbag. He was never gonna make it as a writer, I could tell that much right away. He may as well hand over his money to me, and maybe I’d give him his education.
“Kid, to be good at it you have to go out there, into the world. Get your nose and spirit broken and have your balls gnawed on. I mean, really gnawed on. All you have to do is make something happen, then write about it.”
“My teacher said…”
“Look” I broke in, this geek was beginning to piss me off, “don’t you think if you’re teacher was a good writer he’d actually be a writer instead of teaching you how to do it? Your teacher is a hustler and a thief and a degenerate. Tell him that Monday when you go back to class. That’s your first lesson. Do that and you may yet make it.”
“Thank you sir” he said, furiously scribbling into his notepad. I clipped him around the head with the back of my hand.
“You’re welcome” I said.
Later that night I went back to my motel room with a brown bag filled with groceries and a bottle of whiskey for the slog ahead. I hadn’t found any heroes on the road. I figured they were probably all driving around looking for me, and that we’d bump into one another soon enough.
I turned on the ball game and set the whiskey down by the TV before putting the groceries away. Then I went to take a piss. The bathroom was still in a savage mess from last night. I had brought a friend back that I had fucked once before. Her hair was blonde back then. Now it was pink but the fuck was basically the same. A great lay. We had done it on the bed first then again later in the bathroom.
She was bent over the basin, gripping it with her hands as I fucked her from behind, watching my funny little self in the mirror. If you’ve ever watched yourself fuck then you know how pathetic and oddly ridiculous you look. We all do, no way around it. It’s an odd ritual to do, at the nut of it, thrusting back and forth, in and out and in and out of someone. But it’s still the best and most simple ritual we have, the only thing unchanged for millions of years, relatively untouched by technology and taxes. It’s the only thing left the bastards haven’t figured out how to ruin.
So we had fucked in the bathroom and trashed the place. Watching my cock fill her hole and seeing her spine protruding as I forced her further down and gave it to her harder was a great thing to behold. I knew where all her tattoos were.
Thinking about it as I sat on the bed and unscrewed the cap off the whiskey was making me hard, but there would be nobody to play with tonight. Instead it was 9 innings of baseball and a microwave meal. That’s the way it went some days, in life as in Friday nights. Sometimes you got lucky and sometimes you didn’t. And sometimes you didn’t care which it was.
So I sipped my drink and cooked my meal, watched the 3rd baseman ground out to third as I bit into my burger with the warm, chewy bun. Then I put some paper into the typewriter.
And then I wrote this.