by Shadow Silvers
Feet shuffle and glasses clink to a steady, silent rhythm. Swish, clink, swish swish, clink. After a while the beat stops and the bartender looks up from drying a glass, asking if I’d like another.
Toying with the peppers and onions in my rancher omelette, I peer at the sad tear-drop remnant of a terrifyingly spectacular double straight whiskey. Taking a melted cheesy bite of my boozehound’s breakfast, I contemplate leaving the tally at three. This contemplation reigns my consciousness for a mere second before I decide it isn’t enough. Hell, it’s never enough.
If it were up to me, I’d have a bottle. But they get expensive if you want to add eggs, ham, cheese, bacon, and myriad vegetables to the menu. At least, that’s the case at this bar.
Shit, I’m just grateful they let me drink in the diner and eat at the bar.
I can’t eat beer all the time.
“Sure,” I say, sloppily. I drain my glass while gazing through a window that could have just as easily been a friend, a wall, or a lover.
Everything blurs together, and though I see all of it nothing stands out as being important or worthy of my attention. Undivided or not.
We fit together like puzzle pieces, or old handmade furniture. In close range, there was a constant a spark, a tingle, and a small but obvious rush of excitement. My anxiety withdrew, my nervousness stopped. I was comfortable. Once I touched him, I didn’t want to stop. Calm. Safe. Natural and Perfect.
A plague of impossible love. Desperate and aching.
With a broad Norwegian build, ice-burn blue eyes, and beach sand hair, I can’t help but see him in every broken-hearted face I meet. Hear him in every hopeful sigh.
I sit in the same spot every time I come here. My surroundings are pegged – back to the wall, exit on each side, bathroom around the corner, and the bar just a coin toss away.
I will remember this layout as I drink through classroom bells, rush hour, happy hour, and last call.
Slowly, through a distant detachment, I slide my fingers along my neck.
A short, passionate affair full of exploration. Is this what I asked for? Could this be what I hinted at? If so, why do I feel as if I should run away? Perhaps this is a test? A challenge from some hidden force to figure out my next move. Will I choose my long-term best interest or short-term? Such pretty words… An encourager and a praiser. A rare gem indeed.
Anxiety shakes my leg. One after the other. Up, down, up, down.
I realize I’ve been distracted as I look up to find a brand new drink in front of my plate. I don’t even wince at the burn anymore. In fact, this beloved booze has lit the furnace in my stomach and my cowardly indecision vanishes like a light rain on the sun-warmed sidewalk.
Conviction, in all its transparent impermanence seems to smile upon me as I daydream questions and swallow their answers.
Burnt cigarette kisses and bruised liver night-sweat soil my skin this early morning trip into the black-out ballroom of amber courage and liquid nightmares.
Round and round the small tic trails the tock.
Eventually, nature calls me away from my internal conflict. I muster the will to slide my face back into form so as to pass other mellow morning melancholy without encouraging unwanted attention.
Clouds of a lawless nature fog my vision all the way to the bathroom and, as I decipher the language on the linoleum, I remember leaving a stitch of my heart here. Here on this floor.
Broken pieces of a loving romance stained these tiles blood-black once upon a moonlit sky.
I don’t know why I come back to this bar time and again.
The need of love, a swift blackout, and an omelette, no doubt.
Distastefully and without preamble, I vomit acidic stomach death, painting the porcelain bowl with Christmas as red and green peppers decorate with style.
A knock on the door pulls me into lucidity to let me know there’s a double on the bar waiting for me.
Good, I think, I just wasted one.
With seasoned alcoholic swiftness, I wipe holiday joy from the latrine, singing old hobo music contemplating brown bags and rail yards.
Sauntering through the silhouettes of back alley stars and boulevard singers, he spots me.
I rub my mouth in surprise and heartbreak, trying to devise an escape, swift and subtle.
Suddenly, the vast array of stains on the carpet captures my interest as I edge closer to that next shot of hope and bliss. The glass is comforting in my grip, full of solace.
Early morning blues have washed all other color out of the crowd creating a dark cave soft on the eyes.
“I thought I’d find you here,” He speaks into my neck with a tired smile in his voice.
“I woke and you were gone. Are you okay?” His question hangs in the air with the weight of his sincerity, his love.
I signal the bartender. “Hey, can we get a couple beers, please?”
He puts his hand up shaking his head, eyes closed. “No, thanks, it’s too early for me.”
Nodding, the bartender moves along drying glasses, keeping busy. Swish, clink, swish, swish, clink.
I sip the whiskey in my hand savoring the smooth heat down my throat.
With mouths and eyes hard, we both know what’s coming.
“I had a good time with you,” I say. A crow’s foot twitches in the corner of his eye and I know he’s bracing himself for the inevitable. I want to hold his hand, comfort him, love him. But I do none of these things. Instead, I fumble through my pack for something to smoke. Eventually, I nervously blurt, “I’ve got to hit the road,” throwing back the last of my drink, avoiding eye contact.
This is the hard part.
I promised him I wouldn’t leave anymore without saying goodbye.
An awkward spill leaves my face to fall on my the last pieces of my omelette. My throat turns to gravel making it difficult to speak, so I cough through a pathetic excuse to hide my face while I grab my things and head (for) exit right. How selfish it would be to let him see me cry.
Stay here, he’d say. And mean it.
Mend your loneliness for three easy payments of $24.95. [You don’t need mother’s milk.]
Outside, the light temporarily shocks my eyes, reminding me there is still night and day. I dig deep in my pocket for the new-found cigarette, still resentful of the smoking ban put on bars and restaurants.
I love double-fisting alcohol and tobacco.
My tongue weighs heavy with the residue of a few days.
It’s definitely time.
I watch him cross the street, heading to his second floor apartment.
I always thought it was a convenient location. One hundred feet from food, music, and booze.
But that’s not why I liked him.
Hallucinogenic DT booze sweat drips from my body, falling fast like weary soldiers wounded in battle. Spongy skin smelling of the after-party. Mental clarity is forced into focus, heavy.
Watching him, I lean on the brick stoop smoking until he’s no longer in sight. I could watch his trainer’s body until all the earth’s mountains faded to sand.
The very first time he caught my attention, I knew instantly that we would be in each other’s lives for better or worse.
The sun is fierce to my eyes, eyes that have been inside for so long seeing nothing but the dim and dark, losing time.
I need sunglasses…
and another drink.
Shadow Silvers is currently in the Master of Science in Outdoor and Environmental Education program at APU. She is a Klamath-Modoc tribal member who smokes non-filtered cigarettes and likes her coffee with cream and sugar.