The bar is an oasis, despite it being shoved up against the wall. I am not an alcoholic, because I sit and admire the flavors and colors contained in the row of bottles above me; they shine and glow like a body of shimmering water is a respite in the desert’s heat. I perch at the prime place amidst the happy hour confusion, the meetings and the greetings, and the questions asked of the bartender. It is a place of calm, before the first drink is poured, with a smooth wood top and comforting leather seats. I can be still, encased in the swivel bucket of leather, my feet not quite touching the bar rail and thus feeling both adult and childlike at the same time.
Like cool breezes, sentences and comebacks, observations and retorts, and simple statements blow past. My hair remains still. “Hey, I remember you from Mortons!” “Great to see you again.” “Yes, that’s my mother, little old lady with the white hair.” “Hey, oh, yes, it is so good to finally meet you in person.” “She said…what?” “OMG, literally.”
I look up at the bartender. I sit with my phone on the bar, my back is straight and relaxed. “I’ll take ‘The Bartender’s Mercy.’ I like bourbon and tequila and despise anything sweet.”
One by one, bottles are removed from the shelves. A clear liquor. My heart sinks. I hope it isn’t mezcal. Cynar. Something in a bottle marked “Plymouth.” I glance left and the older gentleman next to me, large, bald and with glasses befitting his age, continues to read a New York Times article on his phone. I look right. The frizzy-haired woman is reading Facebook. Her glass of Chardonnay sits half empty, and still it is bigger than my face. Her husband’s beer is diminishing.
“Oh, I just got one more,” she says.
“Yes, I think so,” he replies.
I suppose their digitally-driven conversation makes sense. I feel that the glow from the many cellphones disturbs the atmosphere, feebly generated with small, imitation kerosene lamps.
Stir. Dump the ice. Suddenly, a ruby beverage is presented in front of me.
“It’s a Lipspin. Blanco tequila, Cynar and Sloe gin.”
I smile, take a sip.
“This is brilliant, right up my street. Thank you.”
He nods, walks away.
I take a second sip and wish I wasn’t alone so I could share the taste, but I’ll drink slowly, and save a little. I raise my chin and look at the bottles. Bourbon glows more deeply, richly. Gin is transparent. I hear the glug of wine being poured into a glass, see an enormous bowl of tomato soup pass my left shoulder and land in front of the woman next to me. I smell chargrilled hamburger.
I take out my phone and take a picture of the drink, becoming a digital firefly. I post to Instagram, edit. Smile.
I cease the electronic light and sit up straighter. I listen. I wait.
“I didn’t need these things. I didn’t need them.”