The bar itself was out of the way, I mean, it was downtown, but hidden. Located in a dusty, cobble-brick alley from the main strip. For me that worked, I didn’t particularly care to be around a bunch of loud tourists…or students, for that matter. I ducked into the door, a battered, metal one plastered with flyers of bands no one ever heard of and after my eyes adjusted to the dank I took a seat at the counter.
The bar was small. The counter itself only offered about six or seven chrome stools bolted to the concrete floor. There were four booths lined along the opposite side of the bar. A large, dusty plate glass window shrouded in dead neon tubes. The bartender, a flabby, balding middle aged man with a ponytail, attended to a group of four University students who sat at the end corner of the bar.
I ordered a beer as I scanned the dank room for a familiar face. Nothing. Everyone I hung with previously in this town, where did they all go? An abrupt wave of alienation surged over me. An absolute feeling of being severed from the human condition.
I took a napkin and began jotting down notes for the novel I was working on. I made no eye contact with the group of raucous male students as I sipped my beer. Heaven forbid I get wrapped up with the Are You A Writer/What Are You Writing crowd. To be sure, conversations of that ilk don’t unsettle me, but at that moment in time, I simply wanted to drink, not to be bothered.
On the second bottle, I was approached by a scraggy little lad in baseball cap and worn jeans who apparently stumbled in from the heat. Shaggy, black hair fell out from beneath the cap and cascaded down over much of his dark, Native American features. Short but skinny, he obviously was poor and undoubtedly lived either on the streets or South Tucson. He was actually ruggedly handsome, but already intoxicated. The group of white, male students scowled at him in derision. He wasn't bothering anyone from what I could tell. I saw him as simply another guy out for a drink and managing with his life’s hardships like anyone else, through alcohol. I sighed, glancing at the students. People can be such hypocritical shits.
As I stated, he approached me and slurred timidly if I was German. I smirked and said no, I was American. He never asked, which was a plus, but I chose to drink with this guy, who said his name was Stephen. He was twenty-two and worked parking cars in a parking lot. For almost nothing, he sustained off of the meager tips from washing the vehicles and guarding them against thieves who have a habit of stealing license plates and selling them. He stated he wasn't queer and actually never had sex with a man. Leering at me he smiled that tonight he might want to change that. I laughed and said calm down tiger or some stupid shit in a vain attempt to be coy.
Noticing my scribblings on napkins, Stephen asked what I did for a living. I mumbled, "A writer."
"A writer?!" He snatched a napkin off the bar and plucked a pen from his pocket. "I don't believe you. Write something."
I smirked, grabbed the pen and scrawled out, "His eyes were stone. Sadness. Yet a spark rose from the ashes with a sudden burst of lust that was likely to drive a man mad. He eyed me as he ran his fingers gently back and forth across the stubble on his chin. His mouth was slightly open, his lips plump and soft, with a glint as though he had just ran his tongue across them. He wanted something. Actually, he wanted it all. And one day he would have it."
He glared at the scribbles and said in mock surprise, “Oh no! That’s about me?! It’s good, though.” As he folded the napkin and placed it in his front pocket, we both burst into laughter and more beer was ordered.
Things were going good and pleasant until Stephen threw up. Right there at the bar. A cascading flow of pinks and yellows splattered onto the cigarette butt littered tile. The students and the bartender reprimanded him as Stephen stumbled back into the mensroom.
After a bit, the bartender snarled at me, "Go check on your friend."
I rose and when I entered the toilet, I found Stephen passed out in the urinal. After a couple of are you all rights, I succeeded in pulling the young man out. Unfortunatly, a student witnessed this and repoted this fiasco to the management. Thanks, snitchy.
The bartender behind the bar ordered the young man out. Two of the students grabbed the lanky lad and tossed him out on the street. I followed them to the curb and picked Stephen up out of the gutter, handing him his cap.
“I want to go home.” He said, wobbling.
“I’ll walk you to your bus stop.” I stated.
“This late? Not running. I need a cab.”
Thoughts of dragging this lad to my house and doing all sorts of nasty things flashed through my head. Literally using his anatomy as my own personal amusement park. But, I digress. I am not a monster. I agreed to find a taxi to take him back to South Tucson. One surly fucker stated eighty dollars and before I had time to protest, Stephen climbed into the back of the cab. I handed the smirking jerk of a driver four twenty dollar bills (all I had left), waved goodbye to Stephen and headed back home.
3:26am. I exhale a breath and look around at the still buildings where I see darkness and light. I bet most people are in bed right now sleeping or reading a book or novella while some people are on the phone, watching the television or maybe there’s a few in love couples lying beside each other carrying on a conversation while sleep beckons for them and the smile and voice of the other encourages them to continue to ignore the sleep.
I walk the long, lonely way. Nothing out on these dark streets. Not a soul. I feel the beat tide of depression consume me. I seriously do not know what to do...