Cigarette smoke swirled above the crowd like a collective halo. The dank smell of a cheap cigar wafted through the mixed aroma of bar fare, cologne drenched sweat, booze and the occasional heady but slightly fecal “weed-breadth”. The thought of attempting to grab a drink subconsciously brought on the theme of “Mission Impossible”. Parched throat, dry lips and a pocketful of crumpled notes prevailed. The fact that there did not seem to be a single waiter in sight helped too. Things were not looking up this Friday evening.
The light drizzle outside and the July sting in the air did nothing to indicate a lifting in fortunes south of the waistline either. Nothing for it but to wade through the sea of humanity ahead to the oasis of boozy fervor behind the bar counter. The place was packed to the rafters, all limbs and faces rapt in the moment and yet I became aware of a deep loneliness welling up. In that eclectic and electric atmosphere it was almost palpable- the loneliness I mean.
The first elbow that rammed mercilessly into my ribcage reminded me of the rules of engagement in such places. I retracted my own elbows around my scraggly frame took a deep breath and made the final push to the Promised Land. Just then the crowd parted in front of me. I instinctively stopped my foot mid-air and mid-step just in time to avoid bumping into a poor chap doubled over getting sick. I side stepped him and thought to myself he must have swung by a “Wines and spirits “for some cheap shots. It was barely two weekends after pay day and not yet eight for heaven’s sake!
The commotion I heard behind me told me the resident bouncers had swung into action. Bouncers, like cops, only show up after the event, why don’t they ever show up before the fists or puke starts flying? It was too drab a night to muse on such philosophical indulgences. It seemed a good a time as any to start getting cooked; the place was warm enough for it anyway. This was not really my scene. I prefer quite little places where the women are older the booze cheap and cold like the women. Forget all the talk about over achieving and independence, cynicism will get you laid!
I was meeting a friend from work who swore on everything that was holy that he had the “perfect hook up” for me. I had balked at the term hook up and that alone should have dissuaded me. However it is bad form to not let a rookie salesperson “Close” you from time to time and Kim was a hell of a salesman! Still I missed my local where I did not have to dodge somebody else’s dinner or the ricochet from what was supposed to be a well-aimed beer bottle.
Just as I got the bar tenders’ attention my pocket buzzed lightly. I ignored it long enough to make my order. I crushed the earpiece to my ear shouting just one word repeatedly “BAR! BAR! BAR!” The tap on my shoulder came before my drink. Kim was towering behind me a huge smile and an armload of women in tow. They must have been in their early twenties and I felt like a lonely, dirty old man. That was quickly replaced by panic as the image of my immediate future flashed before my eyes.
By my reckoning there were at least three mojito guzzlers, vodka and lime and or a gin and tonic somewhere there too! Visions of screeches of “Shots! Shots! Shots!” came at me as I patted my pocket of crumpled notes for assurance. None was forthcoming. Only two of those notes had three zeroes. Thank God for plastic! I thought as my drink and change were thrust in my face. Kim motioned for me to follow him and the crowd parted before him as he led us to some booths at the back of the club.
As I tried to make out the real aesthetic value behind the heavily made up faces, Kim introduced me as his boss (now my goose was well and surely cooked).He then barked out and pointed out at lightning speed a range of weirdly absurd first names that I promptly forgot. The first round came just as I began to fiddle with my phone. I was looking for a way out without seeming like the broke asshole that I was contemplating on becoming in a few minutes. Unsurprisingly; four mojitos, a white Russian and gin and tonic. I felt bad about leaving Kim holding the bag but I knew how this scene was going to unfold. Like I said earlier things were not looking up.
I had gone through these motions before and was not looking forward to it. The first part was already well under way, drinks followed by polite banter; feigned interest in what I did for a living. Kim would try to slur shop through his drunken haze in an attempt to impress the ladies. He would probably throw in some embellishments on his role at the company for good measure. Then inevitably when we had the good sense to ask for the bill Kim and I would huddle, he would haggle and I would pay.
We would proceed to another stupidly expensive sports bar where they would play the news at nine, ten and probably eleven. The same would happen there, another huddle and haggle over the bill, while the ladies were powdering their noses. Then maybe some dancing before the girls drew straws on whom would end up with whom. Like I said I had been around the block and there was no Pulitzer award winning story to be told here. Halfway through my thoughts though I sized up my rather bleak options and prospects.
Go home to my prized Godfather DVD box set, pirated movies and half-drank bottle of jack. Maybe call one of my friends with benefits, spend a small fortune on cab fare and drinks and wake up with a stocking next to my stubble or Dive head along into the immediate future and hopefully Kim came through on the perfect hook up. (That I use the term albeit in my head should tell volumes about my state of mind)
I felt the shroud of loneliness envelope me tighter and beaming from ear to ear turned and drawled in my deepest baritone ”Hi!” . I tried gamely to go through the awkward generational gap impeded small talk. The high pitched acronyms I noted to Google later. In the midst of this bedlam I asked myself where all the good girls had gone.
“Home to their boyfriends…” I dismissed my stubbornly sober subconscious, ordered another drink and imagined that all the girls around were made of sugar, spice and everything nice not the flurry of bills, bills, bills and pending paternity suits before me. YOLO!