The two of us are sitting at the bar; my arms at my sides between sips of my drink because the counter is drenched in spilled alcohol. The bar is very long, the bartenders are very good. It’s 2 in the morning in Atlantic City; 30 people want drinks, in 30 seconds 30 more people will line the bar and crowd around us, leaning chests into the back of my head yelling for 2 more vodka redbulls. The bartenders keep their pace, shoving bottle tops into glasses, flipping them upright, and spraying soda on top.
I overhear one of the bartenders talking to somebody he knows, “I get out at 4. I’ll probably sleep for about 3 hours to get to the other job by 8.” He keeps his smile upright; his hands reach for bottles while his eyes pay attention to his friend and people shouting orders at him. I couldn’t do it.
Here we are my boss and I, having drinks after working an incredibly easy 4 hour shift of moving boxes around and preparing the store we’re visiting for inventory. Alex likes to pretend the work is tough, that it challenges him in some way. He spent 6 months underwater on a submarine, he and other submariners would place bets over where on the planet they thought they were. Maybe he’s chasing that feeling, maybe he thinks working luxury retail will somehow prove as exciting as his submarine adventures. Maybe the monotony got to him and now he looks for it. Couldn’t do that, either.
He’s trying my drink: tequila and coke. He usually hates the taste of alcohol but likes this, I’m glad he does. He orders another, and another, and soon he’s had 5 to my 3. I’m not looking to catch up; he’s double my size and I don’t drink too often these days.
He’s been talking to the guy sitting next to us for a few minutes. The guy isn’t much older than us and is sitting alone next to Alex. They’ve found a groove in talking about the Yankees; I don’t watch baseball so instead watch the bar and the people who walk up to it. They talk for a few more minutes and come to a pause where my boss looks to me and tries to strike up a different conversation. After about a minute the man sitting next to Alex leans forward looking at me and reaches for my attention.
“Ya know, my wife died a few years ago. I leave my wedding ring at home. I come here and drink … to forget her.”
I nod. I don’t know what to say.
Alex turns to him during the moments of silence, “Well if you wear the ring maybe you’ll pick up some girls! Women love a wedding ring!”
I’m still silent. I want to cringe over Alex’s comment but I stay looking at the man, he at me.
“No, I can’t do that.” He was looking for something and came up empty.
He nods to me after realizing I can’t help.
“Anyway, that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to jus’ bullshit.” He looks up to 3 girls approaching for drinks, “Look at these women!”
His words are hollow, emotionless. His response was meant only to humor my boss. He was looking for something from me, words to think about when he goes home alone tonight and looks for a reason not to come here tomorrow. Maybe he does it every night. I was silent. I fucked up.
I finish the rest of my drink, mostly melted ice, and excuse myself. I walk through the bar, the casino, and into the other it’s connected to; the one we’re staying in. I pass the lights, the bells, the drinkers, and gamblers. Take the elevator up, down the hall, door’s on the left. Go into the bathroom, pack and light my bowl, spray some body spray to mask the smell, and lay down on the bed.
I fucked up
His voice echoes through my head; Why didn’t I say anything?
I miss my girlfriend. We broke up a few days ago because I misinterpreted her, I got hot-headed and left her. I want to text her but it wouldn’t be right. I fucked up. I miss her.
I stare at the ceiling until I fall sleep. Gotta be up in 4 hours for more easy work. After, Alex will drive us 2 hours north, away from here.
I fucked up
I’ll be home later today. I’ll text her when I get back.