Closing Time

Closing Time

Photo by Jadon Barnes

Dina tended bar and smoked weed. These two life-defining activities didn’t generally happen at the same time. They did, however, often occur in close proximity to one another. Her third pursuit was men, though she wouldn’t put it in such terms. Not even on Facebook would she do more than state ‘in a relationship.’ There her interest was ‘world peace.’

Her world, however, was markedly devoid of peace, despite the steady stream of dope she consumed. Inside her thin frame beat a heart that longed for something greater than all the world seemed to offer her. In fact, even what the world didn’t offer her felt as cheap as a plastic kazoo in a five-year-old’s party swag bag.

Bellied up to the bar were various men of power. The small ‘p’ in that word is certainly intentional and meaningful. To her right sat Vincent DeLuca, a man the size of a double-door refrigerator. Instead of a water/ice dispenser, he seemed to have a booze on ice intake nozzle. Elbows on the polished mahogany, it was hard for anyone to sit near him. Those who knew him, did not. Those who knew only his reputation did. His reputation was summed up in the word billionaire. Like others in the small ‘p’ world, a temporary and fickle currency defined his ‘net worth.’

How sad. Dina thought. And yet, she felt that same sadness. For her, though, it boiled down to the fact that joy was an illusion. Not just that, but it was an illusion of an illusion, the mere shadow of all the smoke and mirrors. It appeared like the promise of a jackpot at a casino where slumped old carcasses dumped all their money despite the common knowledge that their chances of winning were next to nil.

Sitting at the bar, these men consumed copious amounts of liquor and leered at the female wait staff, suggesting at times that their money and influence should make them desirable.

Dina knew better. She’d seen what happened when a waitress or bartender hooked up with one of these men. One time she heard that he passed out on top of her. Another vomited and expected her to clean it up. The common theme for these men was an expectation that the world should serve their whims. When it didn’t, or even when it did, they found their way back to suck on the end of a bottle.

In the center spot sat William ‘Bill’ Thomas. He ran his own business, but was merely a ‘millionaire.’ Unlike the other lechers, he wore a more classy veneer. But a few drinks in and a bad round of golf later, and even the most polished finish will show signs of wear.

Dina witnessed the time his wife, who was three years younger than him, and a perfect, pert compliment to his symmetrical, dark-haired looks. They both spent enough time in the gym to keep their physiques rock-solid. What wasn’t given so much attention and certainly wasn’t rock-solid was their marriage. Two kids in, they fought over who would have to pick them up from day-care, who would take care of them when they were sick, who forgot to pay the nanny, how much attention Bill’s assistant paid to him, or how much time she spent with the tennis coach at the club.

Neither would file for divorce because their business was selling wedding coordinating, catering, dresses and tuxedos. They were the one-stop shop. They’d started it together. They were the perfect package. If they fell apart, so did the dream.

Seeing the commercialism of weddings and witnessing the bridezillas that stormed through the club every Spring, Summer and Fall (and sometimes Winter), she felt that it, too, was another delusion, a chimera.

Living with men, however, left her just as empty. She wondered why she would expect something even remotely similar to what the wedding dream promised given what she could plainly see. Her desire for fidelity, comfort, protection and love that didn’t depend on some exchange of IOUs was only making her feel more desperate and alone. She wondered if anyone could truly erase that irrational hope from their heart.

She suspected it couldn’t be removed. It was like the appendix, a part that seemed pointless, but served some purpose that eluded the medical community. And sometimes only seemed to exist to explode and kill someone from the inside.

Her boyfriend, on the other hand, seemed happy enough to live with her, doing nice things to get something from her, later. How could he be so content while she remained miserable?

She gave the men warning that they’d be closing in ten minutes. Vince flung some wads of cash onto the bar as his glassy eyes undressed her. The tip was excessive, but not out of the goodness of his heart. He expected to get something back. Maybe another time before he consumed so much depressant. He waved to her and called her by a sexist, demeaning term of endearment that had never been acceptable by moral society.

Bill brooded over his beer, which was nearing the bottom of the tall class, the head smearing the edges of the tumbler. Normally, his hair never fell from its perfectly cut and combed neatness. Tonight, two strands hung free over his forehead giving him an entirely disheveled appearance.

At the end of the bar sat a stranger who had been knocking back shots of whiskey like one might swallow down water. His eyes remained clear and his smile stretched out pleasantly. Black was the style for most of these men because it slimmed them. But the new patron wore brilliant white pants and a rich, white sports coat with ivory buttons on the cuff. His shirt was a white and orange Hawaiian pattern with a well-starched collar.

He tossed back another two ounces of amber fluid and said, “Hit me with another, Dina!”

She carried the bottle over and studied him closely for obvious signs of intoxication. “Are you driving?”

“Always,” he said, chuckling. “Driving people to achieve their best. Driving the world to enjoy all it can with the limited time left on this blue orb.”

Dina decided not to pour the next shot. “Do you have someone to take you home? Because I can call a cab.” She even reached for the phone at the bar.

Instantly, his ice-cold hand clamped onto her wrist and his face was inches from hers. “I neither need a cab or any assistance from you. But you need something from me.”

Dina tried to pull away, but her reflexes were slow and her mind felt foggy.

“You wonder if you can be free from the desire for marriage, security and the good things of this life. But you don’t embrace yourself. Until you embrace yourself, you will always be trying to live in two worlds, one which is simply shut to you.”

Bill looked over at the two, but didn’t move to help. He dropped a tip and left the bar.

“Go home and use your power over your boyfriend. Make him serve you, make him earn whatever you give out. You’ll begin to see how good it feels, the power it gives.”

There was the word: power. The thing she’d been noticing about the men who drank their money away.

Pulling her hand from the man’s grasp, she turned to collect the glasses. “I think there’s something else.”

When she turned back, the man was gone, no tip.

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