Because it’s newish, it’s still somewhat clean: the floors don’t crackle as your ridged soles stick to what mop jocks skimmed over, the obscene one-liners haven’t been incised in jagged- edged bathroom plastoglyphs, no one’s been sick behind the booths, the barstools aren’t yet ragged—
what lacquer, what liquor! Surely I’ve found the place where I’d be happy
to throw my life away. The brisk bartender probably wouldn’t care. She’s cute and blonde, though vaguely so. I contemplate a bender, but that’s just so dramatic, so self-serving. You really want to see the Gray Beyond, I know ways more mind-numbing, more unnerving:
night after night nursing red SOLO beers with desolate doggedness. It takes years,
but judging by the tattered clientele of tatted fifty-somethings chugging Mich Ultras, plus every wisp-chinned ne’er-do-well this side of Oak Hill, half of us have started. Hell, might be halfway there. What made me pick this bar: the band? Cheap swigs? The big—uh, hearted—
bartender who spirits away my beer’s spit-spiked dregs, replacing them with Maker’s Mark?
Not hardly. Mostly, it’s because this bar is half a block from home. You chalk up these elaborate proofs for why you’re who you are when who you are—disintegrant, alone— distills to prospects and proximities, and what you know is what you’ve always known:
the girl next door cooking meth, scheming, is still the girl next door.