Notes From a Dive Bar IX

06/11/2015 08:23 pm ET | Updated Jun 11, 2016

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Happy? Some nights are just dark.

Talking Heads is on the jukebox. All the hits. Around closing time, the bug man comes in, his poisons in hand. He crawls under the bar like an explorer venturing into the darkness of the insect world. Nothing there. The roaches have been taken up by a flying saucer, he says, or are on vacation -- a sign that the end of the world is nigh.

All night long, I'm a signpost at the edge of the abyss. Don't jump! First, Jimmy skirts along. He's young, he's got American good looks, chiseled. His mum died two years ago. He's been in a waking alcoholic coma since then. At the door, he weeps, I miss her so much. You're a good guy, Jimmy, I say, pointing to the sky, and he tears his way down the dirty street, dizzied, listing at an angle. If he were a ship, the S.O.S call would be frantic.

We're on the road to nowhere now with Junkieman, who usually brings in good items to trade for a dollar. But he brings something else tonight -- bad breath. He's wearing an old lady's frock, fashionable for grandma back in the 1950's. He has lipstick on but his teeth are far from the tinkle of white piano keys. Discord sounds from his mouth. I'm hurtin' man. What can you do but help and point the way back to the comforts of the street.

Jesus Christ! Now, Bruce has appeared, as if by magic, in the smoking room. Haven't seen him for a while. The few enjoying a puff leave quickly, better run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run away. Bruce is ill, tense and nervous, he can't relax. He does not take his meds. He speaks in tongues spinning twisted mash ups about smashing the machines in gyms. I speak to him in a whisper. He calms down like a baby hoping for a mom. And leaves but he'll return over and over again until they take him away.

The bug man wakes me. My head has dropped on to a table. Startled, I am confused. Where am I? I say. You're not my beautiful wife. How did I get here? My, God, what have I done?

Same as it ever was...

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