4pm. At the bar three regulars sit and sip drinks. They sit apart. Three or more bar stools between each of them. The leather padding on select bar stools is cracked, exposing yellow foam underneath. Another customer enters and moves methodically to one such worn seat. The maroon padding sighs deeply under familiar weight.
I incline my head to the bartender. Neither of us speak. I let my eyelids fall, listening. Three cubes drop into a short glass. Trickling nectar. The slightest crackling. I inhale, a faint burn. Scotch. Finally soda fizzes and the glass slides across slick mahogany to rest against my forearm. My lids flicker and I thirstily sips. Satisfied, gulps.
As I drink, I listen with one good ear. A cue ball strikes another sphere. I revel in the sharp, audible sound. I enjoy it because it permeates and resounds inside my skull. Many sounds do not. In loudness - bustling, mingling noise - sounds don’t reach me. I hear them but they are nonsense, a scrambled blur of meaningless racket. I enjoy this bar for its softness of sound. Most nights the cracking of billiard balls is the dominant utterance. And I enjoy the regularity of my visits, how I needn’t to verbalize. Needn’t strain my puny voice to gain what I desire. The bar is one of very few public places I don’t avoid. Most others are loud. Busy.