Hey everyone, This is a short novella that i finished recently. I have not posted that much because i have been putting a lot of energy into my personal life, also finishing this story took up a lot of time for writing as well. I am going to post three chapters a week up until the end so keep coming back if you enjoy the story! Thank you again for your support and patience as i build myself.
This bar was peculiar in the sense that every person in it was considered, by the society that surrounded us, an outcast. If an average person were to walk by and peak their head inside, they would be greeted with the same initial perplexing thoughts as someone discovering Picasso. First, you stare at the image as a whole and then in depth, running your eyes across every detail. Attempting to find the meaning or emotion behind the painting, at first it is merely a cluster of shapes and figures with slight similarities to the real world. It’s confusing, in fact, it can even be a bit frightening or overwhelming. Then as time progresses, your eyes become comfortable, a wind of realization goes through you, “ahh” you say, smiling and nodding proudly at your new found knowledge. It makes sense now. Unfortunately for this bar and its inhabitants, the confusion gained from the first look drives most average people away from discovering the depth that this image might hold. So here we all are, myself included, in this abstract painting created by a small group of loners and outcasts.
The bar itself is quite elegant, in a chaotic sense. Always littered perfectly with the right balance of alcohol and faces. The worn black leather couches that line the walls are always warmed by bodies and sometimes even pets. A fog of conversation and laughter fill the space. The room is dim enough so that you can just barely see the intricate details of your surroundings. Flowers and plants crouch in the corners alongside old and new lovers. A pool table sits in the back surrounded by the drug dealers and day drinkers. All in all, a frightening and overwhelming atmosphere for most, but an intimate, stimulating escape for the select few.
It was a Friday night and the scene was free and wild, everyone had settled down in a chosen spot with their chosen company, occasionally a lone wanderer would absorb themselves in a group, sometimes two different groups would integrate and create a sort of frantic ecosystem filled with loud intangible conversation and noise. It was easy to find companionship in this place, all you had to do was enter a circle of friends and nod and laugh accordingly and soon you would be part of the clique. I sat at the corner of the crowded bar, slowly bringing my cold drink to my lips and savoring the liquid courage. My eyes glued to the condensation on the glass but my mind was fixed on a conversation between two gentleman sitting next to me.
They spoke naturally about death and consciousness. Answering questions with questions and taking in long pauses to contemplate their existence. Stories of past psychedelic drug use would interject itself occasionally as a way of giving proof to this high realm that they spoke of. They both stared at another, anxiously waiting their turn to astonish with thought provoking speech. I was beginning to become lost in their back and forth.
I sat there eavesdropping when a hand squeezed my shoulder. I turned to be greeted by a pale figure. The room was dark but I could still make out her fire-red hair, just reaching her bare shoulders. Her eyes—though hard to see—still grabbed a hold of me. She smiled and spoke with a soft confidence.
“Hey do you smoke?” She asked.
“Not cigarettes.” I replied.
“That’s what I hoped for” she smiled. Before I could reply her hand grabbed mine and pulled me to my feet. “You’re joining me then!” She said as she pulled me towards the door, leaving my drink unfinished and my heart beating faster than before.
We walked out the door and passed the talking crowd. All of them with drinks or cigarettes in their hands, speaking and muttering stories and jokes. Nods, gestures, laughs and gasps painting the crisp night. The moon was out and full as could be, shining its light down on the scene.
The girl and I walked over to a car parked under a tree and we sat in the back seat. She dug around in a bag on the floor and pulled out a bowl with a bag of weed. After packing the bowl she lit the top and inhaled—my eyes were glued to the embers creating a small fire in the dark car. The moon just giving enough light to see smoke stream out with her exhale.
“Here” she said, passing me the blue piece with red and yellow swirls branching throughout. “It’s a full moon tonight, look.” She leaned forwards, gazing at the moon through the windshield, the moonlight hitting her perfectly. I could see her better now, her eyes that shot electricity through me back at the bar now revealed their color. A beautiful emerald-green, like perfectly cut gems. The kind you’d imagine locked behind glass in a museum or maybe worn around the neck of an aristocrat. These emerald gemstones were different, they weren’t meant for anything or anyone else but her, with her smooth skin and her pearl teeth peeking past soft, pink lips. With her strands of fiery hair tucked behind her small sculpted ear. She moved her gaze from the moon to me. After a pause she smirked and her flushed cheeks turned pink with color.
“What are you looking at? You haven’t even hit the bowl yet!” She said.
“Sorry, I was lost in thought.”
I took a drag of the piece, watching the embers come back to life. She leaned back in her seat, this time closer to me—or so I’d like to believe. I could feel her warmth, I didn’t have much to say but I wanted to hear her speak again. I passed the bowl.
“Do you feel anything when you look up at her?” I asked.
I handed her the bowl and she took in smoke, letting the smoke linger out from her lips. “The moon? Of course, don’t you? I feel this coolness in me, like she is breathing her very essence into me. I feel comfort, a wholesome feeling. Sometimes when I stare at her for a long time, thinking about myself and my purpose, I get so lightheaded—so incredibly lightheaded. I would never know if it was my crazy thoughts running through my head causing that light feeling or if it was her,” She motioned her head towards the moon. “There is something more to her then just a giant rock floating through space. She feels human to me, she has this ancient feeling to her, like standing at the base of the pyramids in Egypt and realizing just how far ago they were created. It’s all so old, you can’t help but feel something if you stare long enough.”
It was silent after that, a gentle silence, just us two and the moon—and the ruckus of the bar a couple feet away from us. We continued smoking, passing the bowl to one another, we spoke in small fragments. Little bursts of ideas or beliefs would hang in the air and then we would return to a wholesome silence.
After the second or third grinding, packing, and smoking she looked at me with a curious gaze. She smirked, squinting her eyes and letting her straight teeth peek past parted lips, then leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. “A souvenir” she said with a chuckle, then she proceeded to get out of the car—followed by a large cloud of smoke. I sat for a second before realizing it was time to part, a bit pushed back by the kiss I got out of the other side and watched her go to the driver’s side.
“I’ll see you around then right?” I asked.
“You will.” She said. Giving me one last glimpse of her gemstone eyes and affectionate smile. She got in the car and as quickly and suddenly as that kiss on the cheek she was gone, and along with her went my curiosity.
It was late at this point, thought the environment didn’t show it. Bohemians of all sorts still scattered in and out of the bar, talking and gesturing and drinking and smoking. All of them as lost in their worlds as I was in mine. I went inside and paid for my unfinished drink, then went out and walked the couple of blocks home. I stripped and fell into bed, drifting into nothingness. I dreamt of the moon that night.
The thing about this experience, though odd in its own sense, was that it was a completely normal occurrence in the small society of our quaint bar. The kind of people that this haven attracted were ones who lived and survived off of spontaneity. From the way they got their drugs to the way they got people to do them with, it was all a perfect ecosystem of extroverts, introverts, and everything in between. The possibility of going into this bar alone and coming out the same was close to none.
There were the drunks, ones who would come as lonely individuals or in pairs and take down drink after drink, slurring life lessons to each other just loud enough for another pair of drunkards to notice. Then from there on forth, a group of bodies stood in a circle, swaying and spitting out wisdom filled with loud laughter and hearty slaps on the backs.
Aside from these were the casual drinkers, the ones who held a drink in their hands as an open invitation for conversation, only occasionally taking a sip from the beverage. They walked around hopping from bar to sofa to pool tables, slowly integrating themselves into a group with nods and chuckles, soon someone would notice their presence and with a welcoming gesture they’d now be part of the circle.
Next to the drinkers stood the smokers, who rarely wandered around inside but mostly hung out on the patio of the bar. There, one would wander around hearing stories of recklessness and excitement. I wasn’t much of a smoker but after a couple of drinks I would crave nicotine to calm the swaying in my head. It’d be as simple as going up to a man and asking for a cigarette. One of the handful of times that I did that I met a heavy fellow by the name of “Rat.” Rat was a man with a boisterous voice, one that you could hear distinctly through a crowd. His stories were always expressed with wide and rapid hand movements, his voice always changing tones and pitches to match the mood of the scene. One day I walked up to him, he was wearing a pink beanie—his favorite color I later discovered—and was leaning against the wall smoking and playing on his phone.
“Hey can I bum a cig?” I asked.
“Yea man of course, that’s why I got them. I like to share them” He pulled out a pack of Malboros and opened the pack, reveling a couple of cigarettes and a joint.
“So you’re one of those social smokers huh?” I asked.
“Hey man, people get addicted to this shit, but I can quit whenever because I only smoke when others are around. In fact, I have stopped! Stopped for a full year.”
“Why did you start again?”
He flicked his finished cig and pulled out another and lit it. He inhaled and slowly let the smoke pour out from his lips. “It got boring, no one to talk too. Do you have any idea how great of a conversation started these things are?” He said holding up his lit cigarette.
“Does that actually work?” I asked.
He smiled, showing his stained teeth. “We’re talking aren’t we? Man listen you go anywhere you want and you’ll make a friend easy if you have a pack on you. Everyone smokes, or at least the interesting ones do. You give someone a square and there is this automatic trust. You guys light up and you just get to talking, and not get to talking about boring shit man, we talk. I met a guy once back in New York when I lived there, he looked like he just killed a dude, he was as pale as a corpse and his hair was stuck one his forehead from sweat. I went up to him and offered a smoke. We light up and get to chatting, turns out the dude actually fucking killed someone. Can you believe that shit? This guy just admitted that he killed a dude to a total stranger.”
“Did he explain any of it?” I asked, becoming lost in the story and the nicotine rush.
“Yea, he said he was fixing up some chicks he knew over at their apartment, they were messing around and getting strung out and shit. One of them must have been real fucked up because she let slip to her boyfriend that was there.” Rat took a long drag and let that sentence hang in the air.
“So the boyfriend came over then?” I asked.
“Yep, so, the fucking dude comes over and starts flipping shit. His girl his half naked on the floor completely fucking whacked, the guy told me this guy was big too. So everyone is pretty much losing their shit, a lot of shouting and cursing, the neighbors are coming out and a whole scene is happening at this point. The boyfriend starts trying to fight the dude, the guy is running across the kitchen trying to get away from this chicks boyfriend and he grabs this pot or something and flings it at the dude. Now he said he was just trying to daze him or something so he could get away, but instead this shit smacks into the guy’s skull. He told me he heard a cracking sound, like eggshells being crushed and a mist or red spits out into the air. Next thing you know the dude drops dead and the girls are fucking losing it!”
“What does he do?” I asked, tossing my cigarette on the grass.
He smirked at me, “He just books it man, shit I’d do that. The guy told me that he ran for an hour and a half before getting me. The guy was scared shitless, he didn’t know what to do. I gave him the rest of my cigs and he left to who knows where. That was a while ago.
That was the end of that conversation, he left and I went back into the bar to keep drinking. This was the way of the craft here at this bar. Stories were told in a wild manner and then the newly met patrons parted ways and latched onto the next source of excitement. It was a constantly shifting and changing amoeba, no group was ever the same for long.
On the Saturday night after meeting the girl I returned to the bar for another drink and, hopefully, another chance at seeing her. I got there around 10PM and saw that the patio was already crowded—Rat was making his rounds, sharing cigarettes and exchanging words.
Today was karaoke night and the stage had a girl jumping around screeching something punk, bobbing her head and swinging her body. The crowd was active, bodies close and a sea of heads crashing and shifting. I went to the bar and took an empty seat in the middle, waving at the bar man.
The bartender was a mellow looking man in his mid-20s, he had a scruffy beard that he dyed different colors and a wholesome smile that took up his face at most hours of the day. He was a man who listened more than he talked—although I knew that he had plenty to say. If the patrons of the bar had stories for days, this man, had stories for years.
There was a time on an early Tuesday afternoon when I came in for a drink—it was a tough day and I thought I’d forget about it with some scotch. I sat in the empty bar and got to chatting with him. This man always found himself in the middle of all sorts of mishaps. We talked for hours and he told me a handful of different conundrums of his.
There was the time he awoke surrounded by flames, his apartment building caught ablaze and he was stuck on the third floor. He talked about the multiple times he went face to face with bears or mountain lions out camping in the wilderness. He pointed at a scar on his arm and smiled with nostalgia in his eyes while he explained how he got it—turns out his ex-girlfriend was prone to psychotic breakdowns. He told me about the time he quit his job as a server and hitchhiked successfully across two states! He told me this and much more over the course of hours, I becoming progressively drunk from both the drinks and his charismatic story-telling.
So I ordered my drink from him, he smiled and poured it and I turned and surveyed the room. It was a pleasant experience, having a drink in your hand, watching the movements of everyone around you, listening to the others sing their hearts out without a care in the world.
It all felt wholesome, like home, really because it was home. After moving here from my home-state of Florida I found myself in a bout of depression. I had a job and a small apartment, that wasn’t the problem, but my heart craved to connect with others like me. I moved from Florida in hopes of comfort, something I didn’t have any longer in Florida—the kind I couldn’t find in Florida. So I set out scouring my surroundings for my comfort spot. I tried all sorts of different scenes really, I tried integrating into this bar by the fashion district, the drinks were too expensive and everyone reeked of cologne and shit taste. So I tried my luck somewhere else. I didn’t last long at this hole in the wall I found. A fight broke lose the first half-hour after ordering my drink. A man, scrawny and lanky, bumped into an older gentlemen with a wide frame and rough skin. The young man turned and grabbed the other by the shoulder, exclaiming in his drunken stupor “Whoa mate wa—“ The young man couldn’t finish the sentence before the other revved his arm back and threw it into the drunk’s nose, flinging him to the ground with a loud thud and a crash from his beer bottle. At this point three other men surrounding a pool table began shouting obscenities at the man, I paid and left as things began to escalate.
So for a weeks I hopped from bar to bar, finding and attempting to blend into different scenes. I tried big clubs where the music was too loud, I tried small intimate settings where no one had much space for much. I tried side-of-the-road taverns filled with old bikers. Then one day I stumbled upon this chaotic haven, with its tasteful music and cheap drinks and interesting faces, and was instantly satisfied. I felt accepted and I knew I found the right spot.
I sat at the bar listening to the commotion when a fat man walked in and took a seat next to me. There was an aroma of meat and onions coming off of him, he waved at the bartender and ordered a scotch, at least he had good taste I thought. I finished my drink and tuned to face the bar, ordering another glass in the process.
“Where are you coming from?” I asked the smelly man.
“From work, a hell of a day. Gonna need a couple drinks.” He said.
I stared only for a moment, his cheeks were fat and red and a thin mustache sat under his large nose. “What’s your name bud?” I asked, sipping my fresh drink.
“Thomas” he replied, knocking back his drink in one gulp and waving for another.
“And what do you do Thomas?”
“I cook in a hotel, a really beautiful one downtown, I feed all those pretentious business people.” He smiled at his drink and took a sip. “They got good taste in food though.”
I nodded and went back to my thoughts, gulping and closing my eyes. There was a man now on stage, singing something soft and melodic. Thomas and I continued the night together, we drank mostly but sometimes we would break into conversation. I would tell him about my hometown and how great the food was. He would talk to me about the stuff he saw behind kitchens, the filth and the chaos happening behind closed doors. Then we would drink some more, taking turns buying the drinks, round after round. Eventually my vision began to blur and my words were dropping out of my mouth like led balls. Thomas’s face was now much redder than before and he would keep muttering things about cuisine.
“You really like food huh?” I asked.
“My friend! Can I call you my friend? I’m gonna call you that now, listen, I fucking love food, I love everything about it: the noise, the smells, the rush, the taste. I go and make this or that and people eat it and they say ‘wow this really is great’ and that gets me going man.” He put his heavy hand on my shoulder leaned closer, his breath reeked of scotch and he spoke in a slurred mummer. “I am always ready to cook, always thinking about it. Always.”
“Even now you drunk?” I muttered back.
“So what I’m drunk! I can cook your socks off, I can do it drunker! Are you hungry? I’ll cook right now, I have wine at the house, and I’m starving. Come on, I’ll cook us the best damn food you’ve ever had.
I chuckled at the thought of it, but I was truly hungry, and I needed something to soak up the drink. “I am starving, let’s do this.”
We both fumbled with our wallets and paid for the drinks. We stumbled out the door and I bummed a couple cigarettes from Rat. We walked for a block or two and arrived to a small apartment complex, we went up two flights of stairs and after fumbling with his keys and lock, we were in Thomas’ home.
His home was well furnished and tidy. With white floors and a black leather couch facing a T.V. His kitchen, obviously the prettiest part of it all, had a large granite table decorated with a cutting board, place mats, and a single rose inside a small crystal vase. Parallel to the table was an oven, wooden cabinets filled with spices and a fridge stuffed with meats and produce. I sat at the table facing the kitchen and Thomas walked around grabbing a bottle of red wine and two glasses. We filled them close to the brim and clinked glasses while he leaned on the counter.
“So what do you think?” He said, closing his eyes and breathing in the wine.
“The kitchen is befitting.” I said. Drinking and savoring the red nectar. “How long have you been cooking Thomas?”
He sipped his wine and grinned. “Since I was little, it started with my papa. He was an immigrant from Bologna, Italy. He came here to ‘cook for the fat Americans’ as he would say. It was the 60s and here he met my mother, a beautiful college girl from Maine. He told me that he fell in love with her after witnessing her devour a five course meal he made for them. ‘She ate it all! Every plate, and dammit she looked beautiful doing it!’ he told me.” He turned and began rummaging through the fridge, taking out an array of different ingredients: Onions, garlic, a slab of meat, different cheeses, potatoes, and an assortment of greens. “You know my papa said the first word out of my mouth was ‘yum!’ after he gave me some beautiful capers in a white wine sauce. I was born to be a food critic really.” He finished his wine and motioned towards my glass. I drank the rest of my wine and he poured a refill. He took out some knives and utensils and began sharpening and wiping them down.
“How about some music my friend?” He pointed the tip of a chef’s knife towards a record player next to the T.V.
“Yea, what you have in mind?” I flipped through the records and landed on something I liked. “Ah, how about this?” I put on a live set from The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
“Perfect.” Thomas smiled.
What took place next was a mix between drunken debauchery and a thought out masterpiece. I watched as this man swayed and shifted from spot to spot with ease, like a feather being blown around by a breeze. He was here chopping onions, then he was there dropping the meat in the pan, then back again to drink some more wine. He did it all while singing and laughing and talking to me of his life. His arms and body moving like a wave, crashing upon the counter and leaving behind edible art. He sprinkled salt with finesse and tossed garlic and onions with grandeur. He ran from pan to pot, tasting and moaning with glee, “Yes yes, amazing, here try!” “Oh this is ecstasy.” “Just a pinch of salt and it’ll be ready.”
In the span of two hours and two bottles of wine, we had a feast laid out in front of us. We had thick cuts of steak, perfectly crusted with peppercorn and basted with a garlic-rosemary butter until red and juicy in the center. We had side dishes of garlic roasted brussel sprouts, cheese and herb mashed potatoes, ratatouille, sautéed asparagus, and of course to wash all this down a fresh bottle of wine. Thomas set up the plates with great concentration on the presentation and sat with drunken eyes glued on his creation. “Well, let’s eat then” he said. So we ate. We ate through the night, taking breaks only to drink and let the food settle. We laughed and sung and shared stories, then we returned for seconds, and thirds, and fourths! We gorged on the food and wine until there was nothing left to do but sleep like hibernating bears.
The next afternoon, I believe around 6PM, I woke to the sounds of Thomas vomiting violently. I laid on the couch waiting for the sharp knives that were stabbing my head to subdue—they never did until the next night. I was sick and unable to move without fear of pain and vomiting. I heard the toilet flush and the sink run for some time.
“Jesus, look at this mess.” I looked at him standing with his hands on his hips, gazing at the mountain of scraps and pans. With a shrug and a wave of his hand he dismissed it and turned to me with a smirk. “So how about some breakfast?”