Back to the bar – it’s not the same

I’ve been back to the bar once since February 2020. It was mid-afternoon. The bar was empty. Mainly, I hoped to encounter the bartender and/or Pam. No luck. The only familiar faces I saw – J, formerly a busboy, promoted to barback, and then, to bartender – maybe in January 2020. We have a friendly rapport, he and I. But we never became friendly. Let alone friends.

The bartender and Pam? They were on that latter line, between friendly and friends. In precisely the way I lived on that line with sex workers back in the day, and that I do, now, with at least one stretching partner.

It’s an awkward line, fraught with questions of power and meaningful consent that no amount of thoughtfulness can erase.

I paid them, and part of what I paid them for was their friendliness.

As I did many of the women who sucked my cock for money (cf., the porcelain doll). They were skilled at navigating that line, and allowing me to imagine a depth to our connection that extended beyond – or that could extend beyond – the bar.

He had given me his business card in a discussion we had once. I had texted him once before when I was in the bar – “$20 if you card my wife.”

He missed the text. The carding never happened. We all laughed about it a week or so later.

In May, I sent him my second text – “Hey there. I’m thinking of you guys. I hope you’re safe and sane. My regards to you and Pam. I hope you will let me buy you a drink when this all is over.”

He never replied.

Had his number changed? Did my text got lost? Did he mean to reply and forget? Or did he simply have no desire to be friendly in the absence of a looming tip?

It seems I may never know.

I write this, now, as I sit in the bar for the second time since February 2020.

The bartender’s not here.

Pam’s not here.

Stephanie‘s not here.

The bubbly, cute, chunky waitress isn’t here.

J is not here.

I see the owner, a guy I never liked, for no reason other than that he’s six foot two, blond, muscular, and not unattractive, and he never showed any interest in me, or returned mine in him.

There’s one busboy I never spoke with but always exchanged familiar smiles with.

That’s it. Gone are all the people I knew.

Shit – gone are the regulars!

Fuck COVID!

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