It’s a beautiful Tuesday afternoon on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan. It’s one of those picturesque days in June when most people would be out and about, maybe even enjoying lunch at a quaint little sidewalk cafe. But not me, not today, it’s been 2 full days since I quit smoking, my nerves are fried and I’m just looking for a quiet place to drink. It’s noon so most bars are closed and the ones that are open have the goddamn world cup on. It only invades the city once every 4 years but even that is way too much for me. Every bar I pass is filled with European, die hard football fans. I just can’t handle a place filled with excited, energetic, liveliness. I just want to find a spot where I can pop my headphones in, sink my teeth into glass of whiskey and have the outside world and all its inhabitants melt away.
I end up in the the most filthy, repulsive of joints. It’s a throw back to the old bars on the skid. A place that time forgot to re-gentrify, a last vestige for the unwanted, unloved, wrecks. It’s one of those kind of places where it’s cleaner to wipe your ass then wash your hands in the bathroom. Where every time you go to take a leak you have to piss on the fruit flies that swarm the urinal just to keep them from landing on your dick. The patrons can be anyone from artists, to banker, to homeless, to housewives. The one thing they all ARE, is drunks and this is their daycare. Yeah it’ safe to say, they know me well here. I nod to the bartender with the an urgency that’s written all over my face . She nods back, no words are necessary. She also knows me, better yet she knows what I drink. Many a night we’ve spent countless hours over numberless drinks telling personal stories of greatness and shame and with each passing glass the line that separates, blurs, turning them into one in the same. I pull myself up to the bar and am immediately overwhelmed with the overpowering, and even more disturbing, unexplainable smell of mentholliptis in the air. I mean really I just don’t understand why the joint smells of Vick’s vapor rub, and quite frankly I probably don’t want to. I’m uneasy as I pull myself up to the bar, and for a second I have faith in myself. I’m disgusted by this place and quite frankly I should be. Any rational thinking man would be repulsed. I should just leave, say fuck it, walk out into the sunshine, breathe in the crisp summer air and exhale a new. I should pick myself up and walk right out of this sewer and start living. As if I needed anymore incentive, in walks your slightly over weight, forty something year old nobody. He could have been anybody, he could have been me. I could be the guy wearing khaki shorts with sandals. I could have my shit together and a caring woman to come home to. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I don’t want to be this sorry sack of shit as much as he doesn’t want to be me, but I’m getting sidetracked. I was about to leave when our new friend came in with an announcement. “Any of you guys hang out here like 10 years ago?” “Anybody know Patty Koons?” “This was her place, she used to hang art up here.” Now the name sounds familiar but fuck me if I’m gonna speak up. I’ve been around long enough to know where this is going. “Well, I’m just trying to track down some of her old friends to let them know she passed away the other day.” “She was forty two and overdosed on Sunday.” AND THERE IT IS. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not heartless. Just because it’s what I expected to hear doesn’t mean it’s what I wanted. It is simply what happens in places like this, to people like us. I mean most of us here are half dead already. We take each others death’s as blasé as the ordering of our next drink and faces change as regular as the seasons. It’s just the way things are if you spend enough time in the bars.
“I’m gonna take some pictures of the place for the funeral.” our new friend states with an almost unnerving jolliness. Part of me can’t help but chuckle at the horror in that. I mean if she died of cancer would you take pictures of a pack of cigarettes, if she killed herself would you hang up a polaroid of the gun? This is too terrible to bare. The absolute horror in it. The absurdity, the injustice, the humiliation cracks my heart and brings a tear to my eye. My soul screams to get out and don’t look back. It’s time now, this is the sign to step out into the light of this new day and finally live. To try for everything and become it all, to care. I get up, resolute, ready to go out and live, love and be happy. Just then the bartender slides my drink in front of me and there it is. It’s as if someone put a hood over the falcons head, in an instant I am calm, content. It’s as if this flame in me were suddenly snuffed out between two callous fingers. I sigh, take a long hard pull on my glass of whiskey, settle snugly back into my bar stool and speak out loud for the first time that day. “Hey! Anyone got a cigarette?’