I got home around 8PM and immediately went to bed. I woke up Monday morning and began my weekday routine. For me, the weekends were reserved for any sort of delinquent activity, the drinking, the drugs, and the recklessness. As for the weekdays, those were the days I kept myself sober and neat. I worked for a local newspaper, nothing to exciting, I write columns on local events; farmers markets, upcoming fairs, plays, shows, and music. It was a draining job, not because of the work—my days would sometimes consist of me going out on the road and visiting event sites and talking to coordinators about the production and such, and I enjoyed that, but when the time came to write and I found myself stuck at the office, the hours seemed to drag. For I had a slight resentment for the office itself, most notably my co-workers. An arrangement of the dullest souls I’ve met.
There was a man named Jake, a man in his late 30s with a long weathered face. When I first started working here he asked me to join him for lunch, he seemed nice enough so I agreed and off we went for a chat and some sandwiches. The next hour was filled with talk about his kids and their schooling, his wife and her nagging, and his dog who “always takes a crap on the damn rug.” That incident in turn would make his wife nag and he would find himself lost in another tangent. His children was his main point of interest though, he would go off about any detail he could remember, “Here look at these pictures! Aren’t they a miracle? Aren’t they?” He had his 7-year-old Michael who hates asparagus but loves cheese, and his 10-year-old Patricia who “is growing up so fast! Time flies when you’re a parent huh?” He rambled on while I buried my sandwich into my mouth at an attempt towards suffocation up until the end of break. That was the last time I ate lunch with Jake.
Then there was Victoria, a younger woman with straight brown hair and too much make-up. She always wore the same blue top and always smelled of mold. She spoke like she was trapped in a constant state of confusion and unanswered questions. She also had a tendency to trail off, starting on one subject and ending it on a completely different matter. Like when she told me about her travels to London and how she thought that the weather was too cold and rainy. She got there and ordered “this fish and chips thing?” and when she got her fried fish with fries she was confused until someone told her that they called fries “chips.” She would laugh longer than need when telling me about this revelation of hers. She then began to rant about the fries and how they were too thick and how she prefers them thin—she would trail off at this point and start talking about where she had the best fries. “You know this place sure knows their fries right? I like their fries there, they have good salad too! But you know who has the best walnut salad?” As she continued with her story I would sit there dumfounded, trying to trace back the moment we went from her trip to London, to why so-and-so has “Like the best walnut salad ever.”
These were my days at work—nine to five, Mondays through Thursdays. It was a personal hell really and the only salvation was the weekend binge at the bar. I’m not saying that these people are boring or uncultured—I’m sure they have interesting traits to them, like Jamie the tech columnist who could recite the first 23 numbers of pi from memory. It is just that I have become so used to and absorbed by the mayhem of the bar that, It is difficult to find substance in most regular people.
Now, if I were to say all I do is work on the weekdays and get unfathomably drunk on the weekends, well, I’d be just as routine and unspontaneous as my co-workers. I do have my own personal ambitions that separate me from my predecessors. I have dreams of becoming a writer, someone who travels the world and meets colorful people and experiences exciting new things and writes about it all. I also paint, a hobby I picked up from my mother at a young age. Usually I paint portraits of flowers, and foliage, and roaring rivers with steep waterfalls. All this along with the occasional nature walk keeps me fresh and alert in spirit and mind. As long as I have arts, the bar, and strong drinks, I am perfectly content.
I worked through the weekday and come Friday I was ready for another trip to the bar. I woke up late, wrote a little and drank my coffee while listening to music. At around 8PM I was sitting at the crowded bar with a drink in my hand. The usual faces were about. There was Jen, a short dark-haired girl who always wore band shirts and tight jeans, a permanent smirk stayed on her as she freely walked around. An interesting girl, originally from the bible belt she was the middle child of a family of five. Home-schooled by her mother, she was raised to fear the almighty one and to only speak when spoken too. “Bible thumping ass-holes” she would tell me. She eventually broke free from the cycle when she discovered LSD through a friend and was kicked out of her home to go live with her aunt up here in the area. “It was the best thing to happen to me, the acid turned me on to the world.” She would say, exclaiming how the drug made her realize how abusive and manipulative her parents truly were. “I started to think for myself, I started to listen to new music, and soon I discovered the punk scene. I met some people with the same interests and it all took off. My parents started calling me the devil and by senior year of high school I was sent up here.” She would always say this story with affection, thanking the harsh actions of her parents for her current happiness.
I took my gaze off jen and landed on a bald man with nervous eyes and protruding cheekbones, I forgot his name but I remember him as a pyromaniac. I had a chat with him over a couple of beers some time ago and he spilled to me his love for fire. “The heat, the sound, the crazy adrenaline that goes through me when I see something burning.” He told me that his addiction began as a small child in Alabama, “I came from a real small town, not much to do but drink and burn shit.” He spent his early years doing more of the later. “By the time I was eleven I was already getting drunk with the neighborhood kids and causing a ruckus. I would mainly burn piles of leaves or pieces of plywood and all that. Eventually I got bored, I wanted to burn something big! The first thing that really got me going was when I lit my neighbor’s mail box on fire. I threw some vodka on the box and doused a rag in it, I opened the mail box, lit the rag, and threw it inside. I got far enough to hide behind some car and I just stared at it, it was around one in the morning and the whole night was lit up. This crazy flaming tower just getting taller and taller, every nerve in my body was shaking from excitement, I didn’t blink, I couldn’t! That’s when it started.” He told me this story with bated breath, griping his fist tightly and with a psychotic grin.
I was on my second drink when I looked to the door and saw her walk in. My cheek burned at the memory of her lips, my heart froze over with a sharp pang and my legs began bouncing from anxiety. Her hair wasn’t red anymore, it was a light purple, like a garden of lavender pouring out over her slender shoulders. Everything else about her stayed the same. Her eyes still piercing, still emerald, still breathtaking. I froze when she locked eyes with me. She smiled and raised her hand in the air.
“Hey you!” She wrapped her arms around me and I breathed her in, feeling her warmth. My heart was pounding. She took a seat next to me and ordered a beer.
“I love your hair, why the change?” I asked.
“I was bored with red, I change it often. I was feeling flowery and flowy so I changed it to this.” She said, twirling a strand of smooth hair in between her fingers. “So what are you up too tonight? Anything fun?”
“I just got here, been people watching mostly.” I said.
“Oh, you came alone?”
“Yea I did.”
“Good, then you can spend the night with me.” She drank her beer and twirled in her seat to look at the crowd.
We talked for some time, letting the drinks do their job and watching the crowd shift and move. We spoke about our free time and what we filled it with. She liked to play music she said, she played guitar and she sun. She told me about how she wanted to travel around the states, playing songs in small bars where people come to drink and hang out. She didn’t want to be famous, in fact she loathed the idea. She just wanted to play her music for small groups of happy people and meet others, and never be bored of life. “I’d rather die a starving artist before anything else. I won’t let myself get bored or give up.” She said this with confidence, a glint in her green eyes as she got lost in the fit of her passion. She looked so wholesome when she spoke, the epitome of hope, of belief that dreams can come true. I just stared in wonder, becoming warmer and warmer at the sound of her voice. Falling deep into the mystery that is her.
I was never a lonely man, in fact I preferred my alone time at home, I preferred to do most things on my own. It gave me room to move at my own pace, allowing things to unfold naturally without rush. I was never one to fall in love easily, I would always catch a glimpse of someone beautiful and my mind would wander to romantic thoughts but I would never entertain those ideas for long. Not to say that I did nor love, in fact, I was madly in love with a girl for three years of my life. We spent out days doing everything together, we would go to parks and watch squirrels run around. We would eat and go out and spend the nights under the stars and moon. For three years I was in love with my best friend, and I enjoyed every bit of it. But as life tends to do, the relationship fell under horrible circumstances and my best friend and lover was taken from me. Since that time I was never really entranced by another soul. That is until now, at this bar in the middle of somewhere and nowhere. With her colorful hair and her gemstone eyes and her porcelain skin. So here I sat, engulfed by the white hot beauty that emanated from this person. Feeling the heat in my body rise with her every movement. It wasn’t love, but it was something.
“Hey are you going to stay here long?” She said. Snapping me back to the loud ruckus of our surroundings.
“With you yea.” I said.
“Good, then why don’t we take a little something? I got a surprise if you’re willing.”
“What did you have in mind?”
She smiled and pulled out a blue pill with a symbol on it and a line going through the middle. “Here, let’s enjoy our night a little bit longer.” She broke the pill in half and I placed my half on my tongue, not taking my eyes off her as she did the same. A cold wind of anxiety filled the pit of my stomach and I took a shaky inhale, shuddering with excitement and fear and what was to come.
At this point the music has outweighed the conversation and the floor is full of dancers. People rocking back and forth, some with their eyes closed, completely blocking out the world around them. Some holding their partners close, pressing their hot flesh together, letting their emotions move them. I finished my drink and looked over at the sweet figure sitting next to me. She sat there with her eyes closed breathing deeply, her fingers twitching from nervousness. I wanted to be closer to her at that moment.
“I never got your name” I asked her.
“Kim.” She said.
“Dance with me Kim.” I grabbed her hand which was cold to the touch and moved us to the center of the dance floor.
We joined the ball of heat and passion that made the heart of this bar. We joined along with the sweaty bodies thrashing about one another. We squealed and yelled and laughed with glee and mounting satisfaction. I grabbed a hold of her waist and we spun, the whole room around us becoming a blur. She grabbed my hands and we swung them around and moved and shuffled out feet, we knocked our heads back and forth letting our hair flail about. We were lost in a wild fit of energy and touch and feel. Time melted away and all the weight of our days stripped off of us, we were floating across the dance floor—effortlessly gliding into one another. Song after song, step after step, laughing! Dancing! Shouting! The night matured with this unstoppable energy until I felt my legs collapsing under my weight. I threw myself onto the couch against the wall and sat there, a sweaty, exhausted mess. A few seconds later Kim joined me.
She was resting her head on my shoulder and I had my shaky hand gripping her thigh. My heart felt like it would burst through my chest at any moment, my legs were numb to the bone—sweat drenched my body. My vision was a blurry mess, faces and bodies seemed to blend into a sort of fog. The music was drumming into my ears, it was physical. I glanced at Kim and her green eyes were now two black holes. An awestruck expression stretched over her face. Her chest was rising and falling sharply with a thin film of sweat covering her. The ecstasy has taken its hold of us.
“I’m going to get us some drinks.” I said to her.
“Get me a water too” she said, squeezing my hand with hers.
I walked over to the bar and ordered the drinks. I leaned the weight of my body against the table and zoned out to the music. There were two men next to me that seemed to be in the middle of a heated debate—the man facing me had narrowed eyes with his lips tightly pressed together and deep wrinkles in his brow. The other with his back turned to me was flailing his hands about and occasionally pounding the bar table. The music overwhelmed most of their conversation except for parts that they shouted.
“I NEED IT NOW!” The man closest to me shouted.
“NO SCREW THAT, I TOLD YOU ALREADY! ARE YOU STUPID!” The other spat back.
“SCREW YOU, MAN! I WANT MY MONEY BACK NOW!”
“YOU’RE NOT GETTING SQUAT YOU FUC—“
It happened in a moment, which was all it took. The man closest to me gripped a glass cup with drink still in it. Within the span of a second or two and with a single fluid motion I saw him swing his entire body towards the other. The glass moved with incredible speed, the drink spilling out from the top. The glass crashed and shattered into the side of the victims head, spraying shards of glass and alcohol in his face and surroundings. At this moment there was n silence, there was not a single moment of astonishment, like a switch simply being flipped to the “ON” positions—all hell broke loose. The two grabbed at each other and slid their weight towards me, knocking me on the ground. Others began to jump and grab at the two, there was shouting and crashing and then another punch was thrown and obscenities were spat out. Soon there was an all-out brawl, a tornado of bodies and fists slapping into one another formed in the middle of the room. I stood to my feet and witnessed a beer fly into the air and crash against the back wall. People all around me moved with a great panic, some joining in on the fight, using fists or bottles or whatever else they could use to beat one another—others ran and pushed past me, an avalanche of bodies rushing to the door. Then came a sharp pressure upon the back of my head and I found myself on the floor again, black splotches taking up my vision. I looked around in a daze and thought of Kim. I glanced past the chaos at the black sofa and she was gone, I pushed myself up and stumbled towards the door—all the while chairs and glass and bodies all being thrashed about all around me. I pushed through the door and a group rushed in past me. There was another group of spectators outside shouting and in a frenzy looking through the window. I heard the noise of police sirens getting louder and louder. The sounds of tires screeching and horns blaring as everyone took off into different directions, a violent chaos had unfolded. Towards the back, underneath a tree, I saw a head of purple hair and ran towards it. Kim was there standing next to her car with a panicked look.
“Jesus what the fuck happened? Are you ok?” She shouted, her hands were shaking.
“I don’t know, can you drive? The fucking cops are coming, we have to get out of here.”
“You drive, I can’t.”
I grabbed her car keys and we left the scene as the flashing red and blue lights began to approach.
This was not the first fight at the bar—neither will it be the last in all honesty. This does not mean that the bar is home to violent criminals with short tempers and aggressive attitudes. The bar is far from that sort of cesspool. Most of the patrons there are kind souls, they keep to themselves and are not ones for confrontation. It is a shame to now that the first label thrown one the dwellers of this haven is “violent.”
Is it because of the array of tattoos that take up most of the inhabitants’ skin? Is it the metric ton of metal that pierces them, poking out of noses or lips or belly buttons? It might be the stone expressions on some of the regular’s faces. People might be intimidated by the rainbow of different colored hair. It is simple, people are afraid of anything different, anything that does not abide to the social rules laid out by generation after generation of conformist. They see someone walking on the path less traveled and they stick their nose in the air and scoff! “How dare they, what an act of rebellion” they shout.
People are taught to fear this sort of attitude, this sort of reckless living. The machine finds this as upright defiance! A spit to the face of the giant white-glove-wearing masters that pull the strings of this puppet world. So what better thing to do then to exile them all. Dismiss any sort of retaliation and uniqueness as nothing but a violent outburst.
The reality is, that these sort of people are usually the kindest of the bunch. It takes a sort of openness and understanding to become an individual. An awareness of your surroundings that allow you to step outside the mirage of your society and see it for the barren, passionless, wasteland that it truly is. These sort of people are the first to reach out their hands and pick you up and dust you off. The first to listen to what pains you and nod with genuine understanding. They are the ones that look past the material lust and look at the person as nothing more than human, a group of outcast to the world around them but to each other, they are a society of free-thinkers, lovers and huggers, and eccentric passion-filled beings! They are not here to take over, they are not here to steal and destroy, and in fact they want nothing more than a chance to spread their message, a chance to live a life independent of everyone else. They only wish to travel down a path paved by the individual, not the whole. They toil and work and fight to lay every stone that they step upon. They work endlessly to find a place under the tree of life and far from the looming shadow of the grand machine. They are simply, individuals—independent and free.