If you haven’t seen these streets or ever really looked at your own, then you will not know what you have missed and avoided. It is neither kind nor cruel, enjoyable or unbearable, but it pays to be drunk, if only a little… Just enough to smooth out the edges and apply focus where it is needed. It’s very important to understand the glares, but never let them topple you. Keep a cigarette lit, as a distraction, if you need it. Jangle your change in your pocked – if you have any – but not too loudly; they are people here with nothing who will take anything. I’ve had friends who play with their change too vigorously, and I have visited them in hospital… recovering from a knife wound just below the ribs.
I found the first bar with a barman as supposed to a barmaid, it was also the quietest and the jukebox was all mine. I found a stool, ordered my lager with a scotch and soda, sunk the scotch and wandered over to where the jukebox sat silently. Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk and a little Jefferson Airplane for variety’s sake. The barmen seem to like it when the dishevelled play jazz, it puts them at eases and gives the impression that their takings are about to improve. Some of the best psychologists in the world are working minimum wage jobs and are clueless about their skill. The best ones even know when to you alone. He was no exception; half my age, well dressed, but with an unkempt beard. He spoke softly, didn’t ask too many questions or expect any answers. I’m forty six, alone, lonely, and the only thing that takes the edge off is sitting in bars like this and drinking my rent away – what answers could I possible have other than ‘don’t try.’
A few drinks later and I’m still sat on my own. They are more drinkers in the establishment, but they are no more than drafts of wind as they go to empty their bladders. I’m thinking about the waitress…
Maybe it was her youth: the unbridgeable gap between generations that sparked my interest. Possibly her freshness towards the country and its sunken inhabitants, but more likely… she looked as she did –to me- because of my desperation and the fact that she didn’t walk away. I remembered my notebook of some twenty years ago:
‘You’ve got to have someone
that you can watch.
If you can’t lose an hour
Studying the most basic
Then start again.
But when you can,
The hours are no longer wasted
-they are aflame
It is baffling how some things stay with you, given the right triggers. It must have been her age taking me back… Whatever it was, I was back there again, but as hard as I tried, I could only imagine her as a detached whole –in pieces. It was the women of twenty years ago that were picture perfect. Sitting at that bar, older and lonelier, I began to miss it all… All of that perfection that I had failed to fully embrace back then: The perfection I am willing to give anything for now.