Thursday, September 30, 2010

Story 19, Edited and reposted... (Part 1)

I knew Harvey Milk… Not every story is funny..

It’s my first opening shift as a bartender. This is coincidentally the first time that I have ever been in the bar completely alone. There are no customers or coworkers in the bar. It’s the booze, the empty bar stools and me. The only thing to keep me company are the cameras which are set up through out the bar to monitor my every move I make while working. While big brother is watching, I am used to that. Being alone in this place is an awkward sensation, one difficult to describe. It’s like the episode of the Brady Bunch where they end up in a ghost town and all get freaked out that it's so empty, but luckily they end up having a great time, even though they have Oliver with them. My reference points are odd and random, I know. For some reason the concept of being alone in this place always has freaked me out. It is in the same way that little kids fear the deep end of the pool I guess. Seeing this place the way it is right now and without al the music and superficial drunken gays as far as the eyes can see, it's like seeing that girl who always has "cakeface" (the girls who wear enough makeup to cover up the fact that they never got enough hugs as a kid), without makeup on.

As an opening bartender there is often a period of time for about 2-3 hours on occasion where one is the only person in the big empty enigma of a bar. Often the shift starts slow. As the afternoon progresses, the place sifts through random crazy daytime drunks, harmless people coming in to use the bathroom, or get change for parking. In San Francisco parking is so expensive that change is like a whole roll of quarters.

After about 2 hours of trying to make an empty bar look like the happening place, a guy walks into the bar very slowly. I can’t tell if he is swaggering for some odd style, is cracked out, actually has something wrong with one of his feet, or all of the above. This man has this odd limp where he moves one foot and slowly drags the other behind. This guy looks nothing like LLCool J, he isn’t attractive, nor does he have rippling abs that you can see through his shirt, and he doesn’t seem like he will break into rap… So, I assume that there actually is something wrong with his feet. He slowly walks up to the bar, plops his tired self down on a chair and just sits there. He is wearing a Padres baseball cap, with stringy grey hair hanging from it like a mop, complimented with a tie-died tee-shirt with a Bob Dylan quote written on it and a dark blue James dean jacket that has a little green pin on it.

The pin reads: “ass, grass or cash, nobody rides for free.”

He also has an equality symbol-pendant around his neck. His cheeks are sunken in slightly and covered with mostly salt and lightly peppered hair that looks like sand on the bottom-half of his face. His lips skinny, yet visibly chapped, his skin is almost pigmentless like that of a vampire. I wonder if he even has a reflection. His eyes probably were once blue, now they are grey and look like they have lived some journey. He looks like he is in his 70s, but his demeanor tells me that he is decades younger. As he sits down, he picks up a napkin as though to make a spot for an invisible, future drink. Not once does this, he looks up at me. Then sitting, while fixated on the napkin in his hand he begins to fidget with it. He goes on to turn this little napkin into some sort of origami something or other. He folds it in fourths and then puts it in his pocket. I say hello three more times. He undoes his little paper crane and starts the napkin folding process without once looking up at me. Then I asked him if he is okay. He is quiet, takes out a five-dollar bill and asks for a bud light, he calls it “the piss of champions.” As I hand him the beer, he starts to fidget again. He then looks up at me with this smile that reveals all his dental work or lack of. The man has a mouth full of porcelain caps where you can see the silver at the bottoms of every tooth. His smile says Tijuana all the way. He reaches out for my hand as though we are old friends and I am about to console him on some problem. I can truly feel his loneliness at this moment. If feel sorry for him, even though I know nothing about him or even what plagues him. I want to tell him that he’s not a Cheers, cause unlike Sam, I drink but keep that thought to myself. Not knowing what to do, I put my hand out. He holds my hand as though he has never held one before. He smiles and just stares into my eyes. It’s one of those gazes where someone looks into your eyes for a tiny bit longer than normal. Long enough to make one feel uncomfortable. Through his eyes, I can feel the weight of the world and see how fed up this being is with life’s cruel deck of cards he has been handed. He then asks me my name. As I start to tell him. He cuts me off with a, “you’re beautiful.” Not knowing what to say, and being horrible at taking compliments, I change the topic. I am now trying to pull my hand out of his whithered hands that is now clamped on to mine. In the back of my head I feel like he is somehow trying to suck the youth out of my hand, like the witches in Hocus Pocus. Still alone, I asked him where he hails from. He is silent and looks down at his beer. I walk away for a few minutes to help the two new patrons who had just walked in.
(Part 1)

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