Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Saloon

You can sit at the saloon, sideways, eye cocked just right. Careful, bar stools are slippery things. You'll hear strips of conversation, let them wash over you. Don't listen to the words themselves, hear the cringe and jab and sweat of it. Let the tone color your lens. It's been amber for so long. A dark coursing amber that you can swim in, it's so thick. When you hear people clapping, clap. It's the sensible thing to do. It lets the mouth corner booth busters know you're there.

You will smell the sickening sweetness. You'll come to love it. A smell that can't be reproduced. Old beer, spent dreams, epiphanies, and love stories...they make a fascinating perfume. You don't need to think about it. Soon, it will fit you, the smell, like your Grandpa's aftershave.

You'll stop feeling awkward. Conserve words. Another pint. Then: Again. Soon, you only need tap the bar. You tip a dollar a drink. Don't flirt with the bartender. She'll probably appreciate it. Your wife probably will, too - dead or not.

Time passes. You'll know people, but you won't know anything about them. You'll talk about the same things all the time. It's scripted. You play the game and you get your prescription. It comes in a thick glass and, if you hold it up to the light just right, hell - the whole goddamn world is in there.

Sometimes memories will fall on you out of nowhere, leaving you gasping, laughing, wondering...

You can sit at the saloon. That is a guarantee. That is a promise. You won't have to wait for the young bankers to get their drinks. The bartender has no idea what a gimlet is. You do, but you pretend not to. You drink whiskey and leave when you are sated, coated in laughter and the sound of billiard balls cracking. You'll go home then. You'll try not to sway when you walk, which never works. You can't think about it. It's like carrying a drink. You look at it and you're fucked. You look ahead and walk, hell, you won't spill a drop.

The years will pass so quickly. That's the whole point of the saloon. It is a time machine. You pump quarters in and pull hangovers out. You talk about a lot of shit you'll never remember. Sometimes you think about the look on your father's face when he'd take off his belt. You wonder what kind of psychosis it was. He always looked happy, wolf lip-licked and excited. You'll think about that and fucking cry. And cry. And no one will say shit because the saloon was made for sadness.

Hard days add up. Work makes you tired. You'll start calling in sick. You'll be shocked when they tell you how many days you've missed. The time machine, remember?

Sometimes you just got to own your choices, good and bad, man. You need to smile and nod when people suggest skipping a night at the rail. You need to embrace that shit. You've disconnected. You've reached the finish line. Most mornings you'll wake up and wonder why everything hurts so badly.

There is a woman who comes to the saloon and she always stares. You probably had a night. A conversation. Something. It is important that you avert your eyes and embrace the lost memory. She will only bring you humanity - sadness, honestly, love, empathy - and that goes counter to your whole plan. It's a disgrace to the saloon itself.

Years evaporate and you won't even tap the bar anymore. Your glass fills up without you even noticing. You'll give the bartender handfuls of cash. It doesn't matter.

You can sit in a saloon any motherfucking way you want. This is not a wine bar. This is not church. This is yours and you deserve to enjoy it or not on your terms. Don't let them sway you. Don't let them give you the meaningful look. Stop making eye contact.

They'll talk about you after you're gone. Your family will cry acid tears and blame themselves, but they will get over it. The folks at the saloon, they'll remember. In drunken bursts. Remember when he was drunk enough, he'd sing those stupid Russian songs? Remember when his mother died? Shit, I've never seen anyone that angry. They won't remember you, but they'll remember the stories and you will live in some twisted immortality that you never saw coming. Because the stories are you.

There are even some of the old crew who will never sit on your stool. And they'll be angry when other people do. They'll grumble. Look at that kid, it ain't right. It just ain't right. 

The saloon is bigger than anything. It is a place of worship, a refuge, a place to space the pace of life - too fast. That's the one thing everyone in the saloon can agree on. Life moves too damn fast. Sometimes the booze speeds it up. Mostly, it slows things down.

You buy your ticket, you take your chance. Bar stools are slippery motherfuckers. Don't say you weren't warned.

10 comments:

  1. What can I say. I get it. I really do. But I can't tell you what I get. Your words come from someplace I have no words for. But I get it. I do.

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  2. JD, you know I admire your writing and your ability to find the truth in each nuance, but you've outdone yourself in this brilliant piece. Truly a master class - both in second person narrative and in the heart-piercing brutality of the story. One of a kind, sir. One of a kind.

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    1. Thanks Jo. I'm glad you liked it. :)

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    2. Liked it? That is quite the understatement! I'm framing it! :))

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  3. Yeah, second person is tough and you nailed it, for sure.

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  4. Great piece Dan. Well done using 2nd person.

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    1. Thanks much, John. I appreciate your stopping by!

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