We enter under the tubular arches filled with flashing sketches of neon reds and blues, the lights illuminating the street like one of those old theatres on a Friday Night Premiere.
We are seated at one of the many long tables varnished in deep red, sitting down in tall slender chairs like kings.
We recount our last few weekends, our trips to Vegas, Cabo, college towns in Arizona and Texas scoring on undergrads, and count our collective kills.
We order drinks, and, like a procession we are delivered foamy beer in fake wood kegs, sake in vials that look like they're made out of porcelain, and know this won't be the last porcelain we drag our mouths across, just as long as it isn't in this bar's bathroom, but our own.
We look at the prospects referring to them as girl in black or girl in pink or girl in blue.
We have our waiter do a countdown for the first bomb, and quake our fists against the tabletop at the rush of three, chopsticks tripping off, sake cups plunking in beer mugs, shooting up syrupy squirts of high gold that are caught as we raise our glasses and kamikaze them down our gullets.
We announce our birthday boy and frenzy our eyes over potential birthday girls.
We do another bomb.
We stand on our chairs and do another bomb.
We announce our names and state that we like ladies and do another bomb.
We order sushi platters and make bets on how much we can eat and which girls we can get, the girl in black the girl in blue or the girl in pink, and do another bomb.
We shimmy our asses against the asses of other girls standing on the chairs next to us, and we do another bomb.
We hand over our empty kegs of beer and sake containers and ask for more and in the meantime with what is left do another bomb.
We try to eat our food and decide that we are too full to eat but not too full for drinking so we pour more into our glasses, pound the table, and raise another.
We spill sake, beer, and soy, and the trays and plates slide closer to the edge as if at the end of a flat world's ocean, and we do another bomb.
We cheers to the birthday boy being a fag, bang and do another bomb.
We cheers to someone else coming out of the closet, laugh our asses, slam and do another bomb.
We cheers to all the girls we will crush, and do another bomb.
We cheers to all of us being the man, and do another.
We are the only ones left and do another, pay the bill in a flurry of twenties, and do another.
We are still reeling from all the bombs we dropped as we exit on the slick sidewalk undulating at each step and wish we could do another, but we got the motion down now for the next bar, and the next night, and the next group of girls.
The only thing we haven't figured out is the next morning, our cracked lives appearing fine in a hazy mirror blurred by our own eyes.
I catch up with you In this boom time of the manic Depressive memoir, (a spree Of snakebite kits) the same book You were writing when I knew you, Before you stopped. But I know you Will, at least, start one again And we will have at least one more Long conversation like the last— You wishing for one more chance To come back, go back to back then And me actually picking up a tennis racket Swinging backhands to bat you away, You coming through the space In the catgut anyway.
Bundle of light heads racked together labeled and named after sultry women.
Brigitte is grabbed by a black-gloved hand.
Cables twined through scaffolding above, a plug inserted, Brigitte lights up.
High-watt orifice casts down a fan of light on a mahogany office desk.
Reflections are swiveled clear from the gimbaled glass panels.
A bleached blonde stand-in sits in, and the light is studied across her face.
How's this? Like this? A voice asks from a ladder, hands mending and bending black-wrap around the burning eye of Brigitte.
Guess all those arts and crafts classes helped you out, somebody yells and laughs.
A woman, maybe an actress, maybe an extra, splashes through pages of People off to the side on a couch.
Someone important watches the setup, shoulders slumped over a bowl of cereal. He cleans some milk away from his manicured beard with his hand, just above the cuff of his clean white shirt, and peels away into the shadows of the stage.
An older man with white hair on the sides of his head and no hair at all on the top sucks in slow from his cigarette. He sits under the eaves of the café in lukewarm shade, the cigarette held between two fingers resting on the arm of a faded plastic chair.
A woman walks outside with a clipboard, newspaper and a dark brown leather purse. Her sunglasses are pushed to her hairline. She sits at the next table and crosses her tan thighs under her floral print dress, the white flowers outlined in red surrounded by night black sky. She too smokes a cigarette. In fact, they both smoke Marlboro Lights.
He notices the design on the back of her clipboard.
You teach, he says
Yeah, she says.
Lot of teachers around here. One inside. He teaches mechanical engineering.
Oh yeah? She studies him from the corner of her eyes, blowing smoke from the side of her mouth.
Later on he asks, You look young to be a teacher,why history?
I studied abroad in Germany, she answers.
I was stationed there in '72, '73. Frankfurt. You study in Frankfurt?
I miss the beer, he says.
Yeah,she says. It's hard to find places here for a nice quiet beer.
All the bars here are filled with yuppies. Too many yuppies. He shakes his wrinkled head.
There are still a few dive bars around.
Those aren't real dive bars, lady.
The Mermaid is but the owner died and they are selling the property.
That place has been around for 50 years though.
You like teaching?
I like the freedom.
The old man lights another cigarette. She gets up from the seat and presses her cigarette out with hurry in a black ashtray. She tucks the clipboard under her arm and turns to him, full frontal.
The children left behind are ruining this country.
She leaves him and walks off back inside, settling low in the corner of an empty couch and begins reading and marking papers attached to her clipboard with red ink.
The old man smokes three more and gets up, stuffing the side pocket of his jeans with his pack of Marlboro Lights and transparent neon green lighter. She left her newspaper outside on the seat of a green plastic chair, the paper folding casually back and forth as ocean air breezes through the patio.
Her hair shines like the light off her baby-oiled leg.
El believes I'm staring through her white v-neck at her breasts. She is right in a way and only moves her eyes as I peruse her uniform. Her eyes are calm. Maybe she has lost a bet I don't remember making. She smiles or is about to smile as she pulls the shirt over her head and whips it to the floor. I lock onto the scar.
I trace the raised line above her sternum around the left clavicle and over the shoulder ten times in five seconds. My eyes shutter, remembering. I cannot stop my molars from grinding and my nostril rear like horses'. I hold my seething tongue behind my front teeth. The scar is standout pink and I can't put my finger on it. The skin is Gauguin brown and I'm an imperialist. I have greed for moments too absurd to last.
My cocked head follows the scar over her shoulder, centimeters from her gently sweating skin, a 45 degree angle down to her spine. The scar stops. Or it goes under the skin and follow its line down to her hip. I lift her right arm easily and escalate back up to her heart. The puckered movement around wraps her in a sash.
El sees the hair standing on my arms and our moment accelerates towards the end. I meet her eyes and trade her contempt for the forever imprint of damage. I ask the scar how and why because I know it won't answer.