Years of sitting on a bar stool, from Virginia to Arizona to Louisiana to North Carolina to Florida and back to many of those places again hasn’t eased the loneliness one bit.
Friends always tell you that time heals all wounds. I have a tough time with that. Yes, it dulls the ache of the pain. But heal it? Fuck no. It’s why someone holds on to a picture of the past. To remember the good, but also to feel the pain.
Why? Because feeling is better than not feeling.
A cutter will slice up their legs or arms or torso just to feel something. Maybe it’s to feel something different than loneliness or sadness or rejection.
But then you start to wonder if you’re a borderline personality disorder candidate…
I walked into a new bar today, hoping that something new would kindle something good. The place was called Archie’s. Seemed to be a decent joint. Folks were still smoking inside and out. The beer selection was horrible, but cheap. The jukebox was a cd player behind the bar, which the barkeep – not named Archie by the way – would let you put your own discs in. “Unless it’s fucking Slipknot. I will slit your throat if you try to play Slipknot in my God damn bar!” he told any customer who wanted to insert a cd, including me the first time I tried.
As that may tell, this bar became a favorite spot for me.
Not because it was great, because it was far from great – with great being Quentin Tarantino’s bar in the movie “Death Proof” or what I imagine the Whitewater Tavern in Little Rock, Arkansas to be like – but instead because it didn’t have a history with me.
It was in Ryland Heights, Kentucky. Not too far from Cincinnati or Lexington. And if one was in an adventurous mood in the winter – Indianapolis.
This was a town I’d never been to. Never heard of. And that was perfection.
At 41 years old and single, I figured I wouldn’t have too many suitors to fend off. Probably as many as publishers begging for me to write the next great work of American prose.
So that July afternoon when I walked in to Archie’s it never dawned on me that I’d end up spending most of my days and nights there for the next six months. Of course, it never dawned on me that I wouldn’t. A new way of looking at life, I’d tried to take up after quitting my copy editing job in North Carolina on a whim one early summer night.
The cast of regulars in Archie’s was all right with me.
There was Mona. A 47 year old mother of six whose husband was a state trooper. She was blonde and had fake boobs. Liked to drink Mimosas on a good day and Vodka on the rocks on a bad one. Lately, the goods had outnumbered the bad.
There was Steven. A 25 year old former minor league baseball catcher. He was in a bus crash that claimed the lives of all the other 24 players on his Double-A team, all the coaches, trainers and media folks as well. He played one more season – hitting .111 in 135 games at Triple-A before quitting. He was still dogged by old coaches and scouts who wanted his former second-round talent back in the game.
Then there was Manning. I never figured out whether it was his first or last name, and never really cared. I asked once, and was told it was because he looked like Archie Manning the quarterback. This guy was about 40, drank only Miller Lite from a can, poured into a pint glass, and ate Kit Kat bars. He loved The Who, hated Hank Williams Jr., and wanted to one day go to a Utah Jazz basketball game.
Finally, Cora and her dog Rexington. Cora was a 29 year old former stripper who had half of her body tattooed and the other half blank. On purpose. And Rexington was her chocolate Labrador retriever who liked to fetch beer cans that we all tried to throw through an old Nerf basketball hoop located above a cut out of Rush Limbaugh’s mouth. Rex loved to lick the beer off of old Rush’s face every time as well.
I didn’t know these folks outside of Archie’s. Even though I ended up renting a double-wide just a little over two miles away, near the Waffle House and Circle K. I figured as long as the royalty checks kept coming from my one successful short story anthology, I’d keep shopping and eating and drinking at these three places.
And none of these new friends knew a thing about her.