I spent much of my twenties in bars. I never had a drinking problem, but I spent many late nights drinking, mostly with the same crew. There were a few bars we frequented. The dive bar with $4 pitchers of bud, where I tried valiantly, but unsuccessfully, to bed the red-headed waitress from Cincinatti. And whose owner once tried – and failed – to punch me. The beautiful bar with the ironwork out front and the spectacular wooden mirrored bar. With the buxom waitress whose apartment (I heard from my childhood best friend, who characteristically bedded her) was filled floor-to-ceiling with newspapers. The jazz joint, where one of my friends – taller than us, bearded – was once told by a server, “I can serve you, but not your children.” The less-good jazz joint, smaller, with the sisters who tended bar, one stocky and busty, one slender and tiny. The dive bar with the pool table in the back and the bikers who monopolized it. And the one in which I found myself just the other night – a tiny little hole-in-the-wall on a residential block, incongruously sandwiched between a quiet restaurant and some unfortunate people’s homes.
So the other night, I was there, in this bar where, twenty-five years ago, I drank far too much. On this evening, I drank just the right amount. I’ve learned some things in twenty-five years, among them, pacing. As I peed in the tiny, freezing bathroom, I remembered a sloppy fuck in the disgusting bathroom. Making out on the street in front. The pungent smoke that used to permeate the place. The wannabe fireman who always, always was there.
This time, I was there with two good friends from the neighborhood. Not friends from my 20s, but grown-up friends. The sort I made as an adult. We talked politics while two women tried unconvincingly to bed us. One of my friends – married, not open – was just drunk enough to take a number. The other – also married, also not open – fled home, terrified. I – the one of the three of us who plausibly could make out with either of them – simply watched. I sipped my scotch. I chatted with the affable, bemused bartender. And, at the end of the evening, I walked the ten-minute walk home, crawled into bed, and passed out.