Stream of Consciousness #16
Far off into the distant mysterious lands known as the township, there exists an old, ran-down dive bar nestled at the intersection of two dusty back roads. To get there, one might follow the rusty train tracks south, starting from the center of town, until they see the shit box of a building protruding from the otherwise flat earth. She sticks out like a sore thumb, with her gravel parking lot and dingy brick structure, and her front patio, with plastic lawn chairs you might only see at a redneck barbecue, and those crusty red picnic tables, with the tattered umbrellas rising above the eating surface, which have seen the worst of the summer storms and winter blizzards, all encased by a chainlink fence, as if you are standing in a prison yard, unable to escape from your humble, blue collar origins. This bar is called Nostalgia.
The narrator does not know what the interior looks like, as he has never frequented Nostalgia, but he can only imagine it has striking resemblance to many other dive bars he has attended when he does engage in some harmless tomfoolery. A rotting hardwood floor, perpetually sticky from stale light beer and warehouse sweat; an oft used billiards table in the back corner, with an incandescent light fixture illuminating the felt surface; neon signs advertising various domestic brands and cigarette cartons; the daily specials, which include $1.50 bottles on Tuesday and $5.00 cheeseburgers on Wednesday. Yes, this is a place all too familiar to the narrator.
But this story is not about him, rather it is about the man, no - boy disguised as a man, the boy disguised as a man, drinking alone on that last barstool, talking to himself and his regular buddy and the trashy bartender with a low-cut white t-shirt and a nicotine addiction.
‘Do you want another “Good Old Days” hun?’
‘Do I want another what?’
‘Another Gin and Tonic, what you’ve been drinking?’
‘Oh, right, yeah I’ll take another one Sherri. Thanks.’
‘You’re welcome hun. Enjoy.’
The hallucinations had already begun.
I remember the good old days. Yeah, those ones back in high school. Do you remember when I shit on Will’s car for sending that half-nude picture of me around to half the school? The one where I was jokingly posing as a model, hoping to unironically impress Mariah, who I so desperately had a crush on. Yeah, that was epic man. I took a steaming hot shit right on the windshield of his car. It was hilarious. Everyone was talking about it.
Or how about that time when we used to drive my old F-150 around town after a varsity baseball victory? We used to pile 10 of us in the bed, driving around the neighborhood, like a bat out of hell, blasting Gwen Stefani and 50 Cent, hooting and hollering like a manic pack of owls hunting late at night, having a good time and harassing any and all pedestrians. Then the one day we drove over to coach’s house and surprised his wife and she was loving every second of it. Man, I loved that team. Not only were we good on the field, but we were good off the field too. True brothers in arms. It was the chemistry that made us great - not just the talent.”
One more sip.
Or how about the time when we egged your ex-girlfriend’s house, and Mikey dislocated his shoulder trying to throw one at her bedroom window on the second floor?
Or how about the time….
The alcohol served at Nostalgia had a euphoric effect beyond the standard one felt when consuming the sweet elixir. With each sip, every memory became more and more vivid, and the senses heightened to a point where every memory was as real as reality - the smell of a baseball diamond, the feel of the freshly raked dirt under your metal spikes, the sound of a ball slapping the catcher’s mitt - it was all happening inside the walls of that damned bar.
‘Do you want another “Love Drug” hun?’
‘Long Island. You want another one? I know you like ‘em strong.’
‘Indeed I do Sherri, Indeed I do (you little tavern slut). Yeah, pour me another one.’
‘Sure thing babe.’
Sarah was my first true love. She was the one that swept me off my feet; a broom, sliding the dirt across the floor and into the dustpan, and dumping the entirely of me into her trashcan of a heart. I adored her and hated her guts at the same time, and that was what made us so special - there was never a dull moment, which was surprising, because on the surface, she was a quiet girl. Being a year younger than me, we didn’t see each other much in class or even the hallways at school, but I knew of her, because she played softball, and she was quite good - a nifty, athletic shortstop who could also slide over and play 2nd base or even 3rd base if needed. She was small, but could hit for contact and power to both fields, and no doubt was destined to be a college star.
I’ll never forget the night I first made a move on you. Me and the baseball guys invited some of the softball girls to play a friendly game of wiffle ball up at the little league park. It was good, competitive, sexually-tensioned fun, and we were chatting it up in between innings when it was our turn to bat. The way you laughed and rolled your eyes at my crude and disgusting attempts at humor and self-deprecation cemented the idea that you were the one I was going to spend one million eternities with, standing side by side until our final days on earth. After the game, we headed up to Louie’s house for a bonfire and some good old-fashioned under the radar high school drinking. The speaker was blaring pop country hits, the gas-station vodka was flowing into the gatorade bottles, and I was feeling like a million bucks, knowing that I needed just a few more sips to muster up enough courage to walk to the other side of the crackling flames and put my arm around your shoulder, which was shielded from the coolness of that summer night by the oversized sweatshirt you had on. When the time finally came, goosebumps were making my hair stand up like an electrocuted cat. Luke Bryan was playing in the background as I made my way to the other side of the fire, towards the empty spot that had opened up on the bench next to you when your friend got up to use the restroom. Indeed, you can Crash my Party any night. Wake me up in the dead of the night. Wreck my plans baby that’s alright. I sat down next to you, swallowed you up in my bear hug of lust, and the rest is history.
‘Another one please. Yeah, Love Drug. That’s what I said. Long Island. Yeah, another one.’ (thanks hoe).
But the truth is that no matter how much I loved Sarah, Lexi was the girl of my dreams. She was the doggie in the window, the show stopper, the 1920s flapper that turned all the boys heads, not limited to my own. Liv was the all-American girl with the rich family and perfect smile that we all dreamed about wifing up and running off to some tropical Eden to raise a picturesque family that belonged on the cover of a Lana Del Rey album. She was the only one that could save me from my mediocrity. From my blue collar desperation and fattening body. She was the one that could redeem me of all my shortcomings and sins, show me the light, and turn me into a respectable family man. How pathetic I am for thinking that I deserved a girl like her. She was the concept I dreamed of marrying. I wished she was Sarah…
2 AM. Last call. Closing time. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here, because Sherri is kicking all the regulars out for the night. The boy disguised as the man closed out his tab, grumbled as he stood up from his perch, and fumbled around in his jean pocket for the truck keys as he made his way to the exit. Drunk driving was the only option at Nostalgia. No ubers or taxis dared ventured into the abyss of the dimly-lit country roads, and you were a damned fool if you thought you could call for a ride, as this was no country for any man. A true throwback bar through and through, where all of America’s best and worst qualities were on display on a nightly basis. He swung the car door open like he was trying to rip the door off the hinges, flicked the ignition, and turned up the radio, as he commenced his return to his humble abode. Windows down, swerving left, swerving right, singing along to those cheesy country songs….
“If I would've just laid my drink down
And walked out
I wouldn't be in my truck
Driving us to your house”
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
Wake up you fucking loser!
12 more hours until that sweet, sweet first sip of Nostalgia.
Cheesy Country Song Appreciator