The Drunk

“I never was good with women,” he said. “I faked it, though.”

The bar was as empty then as it had been for the better part of the hour. I hoped to close early, but the man who held himself up at the counter put an end to that. He was blind drunk, but he held himself with a composure that made it difficult for me to toss him out. He wore a three-piece beige suit that looked cut from the same bolt of cloth as a cheap living room sofa; a mutant hybrid of burlap and low-pile carpet, with a faded plaid pattern. He rested both arms on the countertop, framing a bottle of expensive single malt that had one shot left in it. His head bobbled in time to his heartbeat. His face was a blotchy red, an old drunk’s pallor, but he was clean-shaven, and a pair of round gold-rimmed spectacles pinched the bridge of his straight, narrow nose. I continued to polish the same tumbler that I’d been polishing for the last thirty minutes and hoped that he wasn’t fishing for a response.

“I said,” he began, and stifled a belch, or perhaps held down a bolus of vomit, “I said, I was—"

“—never very good with women, yes. I heard you.”

“But I—”

“—faked it pretty good. Yep, caught that bit too.”

“It’s all about money, you know?” he asked. I pretended not to hear. He didn’t care. “And not in the sense of, well. Not in the sense of her getting a hold of it, I mean. In the sense of you having enough of it to make the time with her matter.” He smiled a creepy, inward-facing smile and reached for the shot glass. I decided that if he fumbled the drink, I was going to toss him. He had already paid for the bottle, and if he spilled the last of it that would be the end of that leg of his evening’s journey. To my dismay, he locked an expert grip on the little glass and tipped the remainder of the whiskey into it, filling it to the brim and then a bit further. I watched the flat bubble of liquor sit in suspension, rising just off the top of the glass and shimmering there, a golden load held in check by surface tension. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” he asked, locking his bloodshot eyes on mine. With a movement that was almost too fast to follow he knocked the shot back and clapped the glass on the counter. He stared at the empty bottle and let out a thunderous belch. “That’s that, I suppose.”

2015.03.02 – 2023.09.26

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