The International Writers
the other side of a bar sat a lovely specimen of the female gender
whom avidly conversed to a man who had the appearance street hood.
Mike Young thought himself lucky to at least be granted eye candy
on his last night out of drinking. Looking at this woman with
jet black hair cropped at the neck, an olive complexion, a gaunt
memorable face with vivid eyes, and an artsy outfit Mikes
mind meandered into fantasy about a life long success white picket
fence scenario with her. Still staring Mike noticed the probable
felon order two shots of whiskey which jolted him to reality.
New Years Eve was the night with his resolution being to
quit drinking for his all around health, and he felt an uncertainty
about this change.
People in New York City his age drink and partake in other indulgences
for their social outlet, Mike Young convinced himself his first two years
in Queens. A night out always contains anticipation of greatness, after
four drinks one assumes epic self defining events to occur before sleep.
In groups and more and more by himself in recent months Mike experienced
plenty in New York bars. When Mike Young drinks by himself he obsesses
about the eye candy, drinks too quickly, and makes bad decisions. His
drinking group met irregularly, but recently his nights out averaged several
nights a week. Excess caused Mike Young to accumulate substantial credit
card debt, which is one reason to quit. The other reason includes his
physical well-being. On several occasions he drank an incredible amount,
passed out, woke up in the morning, and in the sunshine of the bathroom
window tossed his cookies which worried him completely, because he read
enough rock n roll stories to know that may lead to death.
By seven no bar stools remained and the tables became occupied as well.
Mike still saw the beauty, but talked with some regulars that he knew
in that bar environment. Other activities with these people never happened,
but the drunken conversations, confessions and tales interested him. Sometimes
their stories outweighed the eye candy and those two components, the intellect
and the sensual, make bars interesting. Mike on his third beer told some
regulars of his resolution to quit drinking. To his surprise, they gave
him positive encouragements. They watched him in that Queens bar oblivious
to restraint, so Mr. Young concluded they gave their advice in sincerity
and not ridicule.
Mike Young watched the beauty stand up, pick up her cigarette pack, and
walk out the door. He waited a minute and followed, seeing the thug remain
seated. Outside, three or four people from the bar smoked, and some pedestrians
passed on by. Mike faced the beauty and spoke, "global warming works."
"Scary but true." She replied concisely in a good humored way,
her little grin of amusement fueled him to continue.
"If I wanted no seasons Id move to Florida."
"Where are you from?"
"Ohio. And you?"
"Arizona, so this doesnt seem too warm." Arizona Mike
thought, finally lighting his cigarette, he envisioned her posing for
photographs at the Rio Grande, and sauntering through the desert in some
biblical way. She continued the talk, "Ohio to NYC must have been
a change, from politics to just about everything."
"Im from Toledo, a medium sized city. Blame other parts of
Ohio for President Bush."
"Thats good. Im from Phoenix, a suburban urban sprawl.
I like New York City better. Ive been here for half a year."
"Ive heard comparisons of Phoenix and Los Angeles." Mike
stated in a derogatory way even though he reasoned the geography of the
southwest and a metropolitan combined into one cant be that bad.
Mike foresaw this leading to nothing other than small talk so he scourged
his brain for something interesting. To buy time he quickly tossed his
cigarette even though it contained a couple of puffs and pulled out a
new one. To his relief, she did the same. "Do you have any resolutions?"
"No, I dont think people need a time constraint for improvement.
Seriously change should be a continual process, not once a year."
"By the way, whats your name?"
"Clara. And yours?"
"Mike." They shook hands while smiling, "Clara, I have
a resolution." He paused for a moment seeing a sardonic role of her
eyes but shortly continued. "Basically I want to quit drinking and
"Thats good and healthy. But why now?"
"Only recently it became a problem, and this is a good symbolic time
for a new slate."
"New York without drinking, you might as well live in Toledo."
"It will be a change."
"This is your last night out?"
"Are you meeting people later?"
"Not until eleven or so?"
She inhaled her last puff, threw the butt on the sidewalk, and propositioned,
"Come and drink with me and my friend."
Mike took his last puff and decided to ask an uncharacteristically bold
question for him. "Is he your boyfriend?"
To his surprise she grinned and stated "he is my best friend, and
happens to by gay. Call me a fag hag if you want." Mike laughed at
this expression not heard in years, and followed her in optimistic. A
regular switched seats with Mike. Clara introduced Mike to Jeff who looked
menacing, tattoos included, but spoke in a somewhat soft effeminate manner.
Mikes memory flashed back five years prior to a biker bar in North
Toledo when he thought a fight involving him would brake out over spilt
beer, but instead had an apparent brute emphatically apologize to him.
Jeff reminded Mike of that biker.
Clara quickly announced that this was Mikes last night out, and
they ordered three shots of Old Granddad whiskey. With the heightened
effect of more shots and beers Mike enjoyed the next couple of hours with
these two, forgetting his looming cessation. The talking began with the
frivolous such as both the advantages or disadvantages of internet jukeboxes
depend solely on the musical taste of the selector. After that line of
thought dissolved literature sprang up with Jeff mentioning his favorite
book being A Portrait of Dorian Gray for the fact with the beautiful writing
it feels like your reading art and only a great poet could create that
feeling from prose. Mike Young stated several of his favorites and the
attention shifted from Mike to Clara for her two cents. She stated "anything
by Sylvia Plath, suicide poetry is best." They chuckled and Mike
asked her if she read Plaths poetry. "All of it" This
feat impressed Mike, because with the world of poetry he was illiterate.
They discussed a good sliver of literature until they ordered another
round of shots, Clara gave the toast, "to troubled writers"
and they downed the harsh whiskey.
Clara told Mike she wanted a cigarette and he agreed. This time Jeff got
up as well stating "I need some fresh air." So the group of
them stepped outside. Immediately Jeff offered, "Mike, take one of
mine." In the grasp of Jeffs hand was a sandwich bag containing
numerous tightly rolled joints. Mike Young could count on the fingers
of one hand the times within the past couple of years he smoked marijuana.
All of those occasions came about similar to this, with too much drinking
and an offer.
Maybe the whiskey talked but Mike clearly articulated without hesitation,
"thank you," accepted the joint, and lighted it. Inhaling with
the immediate throat burn unlike tobacco Mike reflected on his end of
nightlife escapades, and he might as well have fun.
"Do you toke often?" Clara asked with a strange glimmer in her
"In high school, college, but I prefer drinking."
"The intoxication of alcohol varies more, and its legal."
"Were on a sidewalk, nobody cares." Jeff argued.
"But the illegality of weed put it on the level of any illicit drug."
Mike retorted with what he actually believed. Habitual pot use also makes
a person slow, he almost added.
"No comment on that statement." Clara said and they finished
their last couple of joint puffs in silence creating awkwardness. Within
a matter of minutes inside the bar everything seemed right to Mike, the
music from the internet jukebox was timely, the talk of the New Year exited
him, and the trio quickly forgot their differences stated outside. His
watch stated 9:45 which left plenty of time until the closing time of
four. In his mind, he put significance to his present moment, after tomorrow
his world would change. Maybe he would concentrate on reading or writing,
solitary pursuits, but his party will have ended. However, Clara intrigues
him and repeating nights similar to this one with her temp Mike.
By this time, the bar was packed, noise chaos collected to create a euphoria
throughout the place. After the second shot since they walked back into
the bar Mike observed Clara whispering to Jeff secretly. During this correspondence
Mike saw Jeff quickly take something small from his pocket and discretely
pass it to Clara. Mr. Young saw that action numerous times in bars to
realize the transaction and talked to a guy on his left about the football
playoffs. Soon Clara tapped Mike on his shoulder telling him they should
smoke. Mike got up and started for the door, Clara grabbed him, "This
way, to the patio." He followed her while Jeff remained seated.
Funny how Mike Young was a regular but never went to the patio until the
apparent stranger Clara led him there. The moment he walked out, silence
surrounded him compared to the bar, and they sat down on the only bench
completely alone. Mike lit a cigarette, and put his left arm around Claras
shoulders, it seemed natural. "Maybe I shouldnt quit drinking,
tonights been awesome."
"You should, it would show strength."
Suddenly a drunken stupor turned into reflection and they sat in silence
for a number of minutes. Mike thought of the differences between them,
shes beautiful but might be immersed in an adherent lifestyle, while
Mike other than drinking too much is not. And he believed quitting his
nights out will make him Joe Average. Mike pondered his weakness of him
accepting the joint, and with that concept he knew what question she had
as she posed her lips to speak. Disappointment came over him when she
finally asked. "Do you want to do some Coke? Since this is your last
night, and all." Mike shook his head no, perplexed and she asked,
"Mind if I do some?" He declined, taking his arm off of her.
Clara pulled out a small baggie poured some on her left hand between her
thumb and index finger, crushed it with her right index finger, snorted,
and some dust fell onto her lap. Mike Young watched three or four people
do cocaine in his life and always noticed sadness with utter vulnerability
in their facial expressions right before and while they do it. Clara is
the first female he observed snorting, and that characteristic seemed
heightened by her gender. They were silent, she repeated her nasal act,
and Mike wondered if he continued his nights out, if he would ever sink
that low. Finally Mike decided his New Years resolution was essential.
If he fell into a narcotic lifestyle, he would be no better than a New
York City stereotype in the eyes of Midwestern parents.
All the sudden Mike Youngs cell phone sang an eighties tune, and
he picked it up. Mike and Clara gazed seriously eye to eye at each other
during his conversation that ended with these words, "Ill be
there shortly." She, more hopped up by the seconds, nodded as he
told her of his prior obligations.
"Good luck quitting drinking."
"Take care of yourself." He replied and they hugged soulfully
telling him of the possibilities that he was refusing. They returned inside
to the jolt of a fully packed bar saying goodbye. Then he paid his tab,
said goodbye to several others, and went outside to catch a gypsy cab.
Mike realized he may never see Clara again or that bar, both being representations
of what he does not want. With anger his thoughts turned to military sobriety
starting the next day. The test had already begun.
© matt allison Feb 9th 2007
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