“It’s a terrible, stupid thing to be like that.”
“Like what?” the man asked.
The girl pointed over to the bar where a young man in a pin-striped navy blue suit had his face down on the bar. The man’s dark brown drink was full beside him. He had been sitting there like that since the couple had come into the bar an hour ago. It was almost three a.m. and the older bartender didn’t care about the man much. The bartender cleaned the back of the brass-topped bar and arranged the glasses on the rear counter.
“I just don’t see how people let themselves get like that,” the woman went on as she smoked.
The girl and her man were a young, good-looking couple. They were cute like the type you saw shopping in SoHo on weekday afternoons in the fall. The two of them had been partying earlier at one of the new big clubs off the south end of Park Avenue. The girl had gotten them into the fashion party there and they had danced for a little while and then talked while they drank and she made sure to carry him around to meet all of the fashion friends that were very necessary. He hadn’t minded one bit, and it was better than a lot of other places you could be, he had told himself when he was in the dirty club bathroom alone, washing his hands. Now the dancing and the party were done and they had eaten some ravioli and oysters with rounds of cold white wine at Le Express and then he had brought her to the bar to finish the night.
The bar was very warm and comfortable with good music. There was a pretty fireplace in the middle on the far wall from the door and the tables were small, brass-topped and shined nicely in the dim lights. Outside the rear windows was bamboo in a little garden. The garden was closed for the season but it was still a very rare and clean thing for a bar. The bar was on Gramercy off the strip of loud, chic Park Avenue lounges, good, trendy restaurants and the new Euro-styled clubs on the south end. At the north end of Gramercy was a small, well-lit private park lined with old, tall trees and several expensive apartments. This was the only bar on the far end of the street and hidden down a few marble steps under a pair of arching trees lit from below, just to the south when you turned off from the park.
“You see the way he doesn’t even drink his drink now?” she asked.
“Don’t worry about him dear.”
“It’s a waste.”
“He is fine, there enjoying it.”
“It’s just a stupid thing to get drunk like that,” the girl said.
“He’s not bothering anyone.”
“Sure he is. He’s a real drunk.”
“Shhh, dear,” the man said.
“He’s a real mess of a drunk you know.”
“How is the drink?”
“But it’s just sad, isn’t it?” she said.
“Because he doesn’t have anyone with him?”
“No, because he’s a real mess of a sloppy drunk.”
“How is your drink?”
“It’s just fine.”
“Good,” the man said.
“I enjoy mine. See, I like just simply sipping it here.”
“Let’s drink to that then.”
They sat there drinking and not talking and listened to the soft music while she smoked with her head on his shoulder. Outside the wind picked up and a policeman walked his beat north to make it around the park. Another young couple was on their way home, out of the cab and passed the door to the bar and looked in but then walked on.
“You want another?”
“No, we should be going.”
“Yes, to bed,” the girl said.
“Sure, we can. Just enjoy this now.”
“But I’m sleepy.”
“Just sit with me for a while,” he said and lit a cigarette. It was quiet again and he enjoyed it like this as he smoked.
“I could except for him there,” she started in. “You know you should save drunkedness for New Year’s Eve and your birthday”
“I will have to remember that.”
“You should. There is no need to end an evening like this.”
“Maybe there is.”
“Yes, but we should all be home in bed.”
“Maybe he doesn’t have anyone to go home to.”
“Perhaps he drunk her off.”
“Maybe he is just comfortable drinking here,” the man smiled.
“He lost a big deal today. Look at his nice suit.”
“Maybe. Yes, look at his suit. That would be just nice if he did.”
“Yes, maybe that is what it is.”
The young man at the bar was a Korean. He sat at the bar and his head was spinning a little as he stared down at the wood between his arms. He had loosened his tie and the top button was undone as he sat there. The Korean wasn’t thinking about anything or anyone. His head was tired and it felt nice laying it on the bar and he tried to close his eyes. He wasn’t that tired. Since his eyes wouldn’t close he sat up finally and reached for his drink, took a short sip of it, licked his lips and then turned to look around the bar. No one else was there except for the couple. He looked back at the bottles in front of him and then reached into his side pocket. What he was looking for wasn’t there. It was long gone hours ago. He had already had a good time with it in the upstairs bathroom at another bar. The Korean felt like putting his head down again. Instead he reached into his breast pocket. Nothing was there either. So he took another drink and didn’t think about it any more and worked to keep his head up as he straightened up his tie.
“Look Simone,” the man said, “He’s awake now. Are you any happier?”
“Sure, maybe he can leave now,” the girl said.
“He’s ok, drinking now, see. And he doesn’t spill any of it at all. He is very neat and enjoys it.”
“Let him enjoy his drink.”
“Why not, the man just lost a big case.”
“It was a deal,” the man said.
“A deal. The oriental guy just lost a big deal.”
“Sure. Can’t he go now though, go sleep it off. That’s all you need is a good place going all straight to hell with these kind of people.”
“Yes, it is nice to have this place,” he said.
After a while he started talking again. He spoke softly and surely like he was talking to himself. “There isn’t another one like it. When I found it no one knew a thing about it. It’s very chic but not like the others either, it’s clean and nice and no one bothers you here.”
“I like being bothered,” she smiled as she ran her hand across and down into his lap. “Didn’t you like my friends?”
“Sure, they were nice. But it’s good to be here alone now.”
“You want to be alone?”
“You know. It is nice like this.”
“Yes, nice, if we were really alone.”
“I don’t mind him. I know why he’s here,” the man said.
“I also need a place like this sometimes at night. It is good to have a warm place when it’s so dark.”
“There are plenty of places to go when it’s dark,” she smiled up at him. “And there are lots of places open all night for him.”
“Yes, but they are not like this. Here there is the garden and the good tables and candles and the music. The others are dark and dirty.”
“I remember when it was dark in here, in the back.”
“And we made out over there in the back booth,” she said.
“Yes, that was a good dirty night,” she whispered in his ear.
“Yes, but now its good to be like this here.”
“Sure, and to have all these drunk suits around,” she said and removed her hand. “It’s just splendid honey. Truly splendid.”
The Korean man finished his drink and pushed the glass away. The bartender came over and asked him if he wanted another. He motioned that he did and the bartender reached for the ice and the bottle of Scotch and filled the glass slowly. When he was done pouring the drink, the bartender called last call to the couple and the man motioned for another round.
“Honey why don’t we just go home?”
“Why, I thought you liked it here?”
“I do. I really do, but it’s time to be in bed,” the woman said.
“We can go right after this drink.”
“You used to make out with me in here you know?”
“I heard you say that before.”
“Just a drink and then we’ll go, promise. Straight home.”
“But why stay longer?”
“Because it’s nice here.”
“My apartment is nice too.”
“Sure it is,” he said and sipped his drink.
“It is and I can make us very happy there.”
“I know it,” he said. He put his hand on the back of her head. “Just sit with me please.”
The Korean man had stopped drinking. He counted out some money from the roll in his pocket and then put it back. He reached out and held the empty glass and looked at it and then back up at the bottles on the shelves behind the bars. He was thinking how nice they all looked on their shelves. He admired their different shapes and sizes and their labels and then stared at them as they blurred together into one long brown line before putting his head back down on the bar.
When he lifted his head to look around again the couple had their coats on. The man stood finishing his drink then left the money on the small table and looked around the back of then bar and found the garden. The bamboo was lit from below in the dark and the man smiled. The girl tugged his arm. They walked out the door and into the cold. The wind had picked up real strong outside and snow was starting to fall lightly down to the street. The man lit a cigarette and the two walked together slowly to a cab.
Inside in bar, the Korean man was coming to again and wanted another drink. The old bartender came over with his coat on. He got the bottle and poured another drink over the ice and set the bottle on the counter. While the Korean sipped, the bartender got a glass down and after filling it with ice poured himself a drink. He knew it well how it was to be like that. His wife would be sleeping in their bed now waiting for him, but what was one more drink, the bartender thought to himself. He reasoned it out and it didn’t make much difference. He knew how it was to be just like that. The bartender nodded at the Korean when he looked up from his drink. The two men went on drinking in silence for some time.
When the young man was done, the bartender put away the bottle and cleaned off the two glasses. Then the bartender helped the Korean with his coat. The Korean reached in is pocket and handed over some more money but the older man refused. The Korean insisted it but the bartender refused him again and he slid the money back into his pants pocket. Then the two walked to the door together and said goodnight. The old man locked the door and headed for his home and his wife and their warm bed.
The Korean stood on the street in the falling snow and buttoned his coat against the cold and shivered. He didn’t want a cab. He braced himself for the wind and walked on down to the end of Gramercy and to the outskirts of the locked park and around east towards Third Avenue.
It was cold, but the walk felt good and woke the young man up as he looked up into the yellowed arc lights and saw the snow coming down softly and watched as it fell to his shoulders. The snow was nice and clean, he thought and the lights made it nice and warm. It was clean and decently lit on the street, he told himself, and cold but not that cold really with the snow coming now and the wind calmed.
If the wind didn’t ruin things, he knew it could be pleasant to walk outside in the dim lights in the white snowfall and not go home for at least a little while longer.