Sundeep and I concluded our conversation and drank the last of our soup and parted ways. I said, talk to you soon, but it might not be that soon. I couldn’t help it but I felt slightly irritated by his optimism. Hope is annoying. It is always so easy, or convenient for other people to tell you that you’re going to be ok, that it’s going to be alright. Delusional liars. Nothing is ever those things. I was ready for a pint.
I tried my hardest to not fall down the treacherous stairs leading down into the Anne Bonny, a cavernous tavern. Many of their clientele have fallen up those steps after indulging in a jar or two.
Who tracks the steps of glory to the grave? I suppose I did, Lord Byron.
I found this pub by happenstance. There was no sign. You could easily walk past and not know it existed. No Celtic lettering. No neon swoops to inform you. I nearly tripped over a small A-frame chalkboard in the middle of the sidewalk. It read, in some pretty awful penmanship: cheap beers, bad food. The sign spoke to me. I liked the honesty, no bullshit. I popped in and laid my eyes upon a gorgeous lass, one who would not leave my mind since, and for her sake I wanted her to. I’m not good for anyone. With her best interest in mind, I should steer clear. I had nothing to offer her. So best I admire from afar.
I became acquainted with Ms. Bonny over the last few weeks. She was tucked away under a building where the Lower East Side met the East Village. The namesake of an Irishwoman who solidified her legend in the Caribbean and though she was captured and sentenced to death, her fate was unknown. A watering hole for decades for lawless types, down and out thespians and writers, and fresh immigrants from Bonny’s native land. The bar itself was imported mahogany from Ireland. Guinness and Smithwick’s were always in attendance, as well as Jameson, Tullamore Dew, Powers and Bushmills. The chalkboard was also a liar, the burgers, stew and shepherd’s pie were quite delectable.
The usual old men at the bar were arguing over politics when I entered. If it wasn’t politics, it was books or movies, or the past, or some shit. Anything to debate. I said, hello, making one continuous waving motion to greet them all. It was then I was caught off guard.
“Hello Wilhelm,” said Glory, from behind the taps, pouring a pint of the black stuff. I may have been unsettled from the false optimism of Ceraso but taken back by her warm welcome. She remembered my name? My awkwardness was bound to reach new levels as I felt my anxiety increase.
“Hi.” I attempted to walk away to settle in an airy booth and put down my things when she stopped me.
“What are you drinking?” It might as well have been an algebra equation. I was stumped.
I stumbled with my answer, “Uh, a Smithwick’s, please.” Now was that so fucking difficult. Jesus fucking Christ. “Thanks.”
“Toughy,” she said, with a devilish smirk.
I put a Jackson down on the bar, took my pint and thanked her again before cowering to my seat. The place wasn’t very big so though I was in the corner, you could see and hear everything going on, especially with only a few people in the place. I wanted to write a novel. I wanted to write one about us, not how it was but as I wanted it to be. The truth was I wanted to write one, period. Writing a novel was something I desperately wanted to do and Glory was another.
Glory. I’ve been searching for quotes with that word in it for weeks now. Of course I couldn’t recite the majority of them. I wrote a sentence or two and pondered while sipping my red ale. Rot. I leered at her hopefully without notice. Glory stood behind the bar in a blue dress, blau, swinging low with thin straps. Her perfect palm sized breast winked at me. Her long black hair, schwartz, was probably unnatural but I didn’t mind one bit. Her hair screamed for my fingers to comb through it. Tiny diamonds occupied her ear lobes. Ocean blue eyes I swore looked into and frighteningly knew everything I was thinking. This magical woman did something to me.
For glory gives herself to those who have dreamed of her. Charles De Gaulle said that. I don’t know who he is or what he did. I have dreamed of Glory, and doubtful, I was the only man or woman who dreamed of her.
I toyed with the idea of writing her a billets-doux to her, only I’d never hand it over because how immature of me would that be. A bad move for anyone, especially for a customer to give to a bartender. I watched how she interacted with the older fellas. Mcloughlin, Segal and Brennan were fixtures. They were old timers, real renaissance men, who lived interesting lives, not like me. They worked odd jobs or used the G.I. bill to travel the world, and I envied that about them. I thought for a moment that maybe I wasn’t searching for a place but a time that had already passed. What if I missed out on the zeitgeist? What if I was supposed to be here then and not now? I was fucked either way.
I haven’t slept well in a very long time, and that does not mean I’ve adapted to that. I have not. My conscience is steeped in compunction, sleep for me has been disturbed or distracted as my faculties are engrossed with worry. If declarations were to be made, I’d promise I might find a way to sleep soundly with Glory in my bed beside me. Those are thoughts and feelings you can’t say to a stranger without looking weird or feeling foolish. Various aspects in my life normally felt uncomfortable. Our feelings are untrustworthy, and at times, mine are asinine and borderline insane.
“Hello there. Here,” said Glory, placing a fresh pint of Smithwick’s on the table. I hadn’t realized I finished the first one. How long was I sitting here already? She sat in the booth across from me, with a beer of her own in her clothed hand. “Are you writing the next great American novel?”
“No. Definitely not. I’d settle for a good novel or a decent or even a shitty one at this point.”
“Shooting for the stars. What’s it about?” Glory sipped her beer. Here we were, a dive bar, bridged by a wobbly table, two pint glasses, an unscented candle, and about one hundred acid free pieces of paper for me to vandalize. It was hard not to stare. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what?”
“We haven’t really introduced ourselves. I’m Glory.” She offered her hand, a hand I would eat out of. A hand half covered, both hands were covered to be exact, in a gray cloth material, concealing the knuckles to her forearms. Soft gauntlets for the lady.
I told her my name.
“Nice to meet you. Do you live in the city?”
“I live in Queens.”
“Were you raised in the city?”
“I have never lived anywhere other than Queens. Where are you from originally?”
“I’m from New York. It’s just that I’m four hours north. I was raised upstate. A town called Wells. It’s in Hamilton county. Population is about 600 and change. Very different way of life than the city.”
“I’d rather live where you’re from.”
“You say that but you don’t know.
“Oh, I know.”
“What do you do for work, Wilhelm?” I loved the way my name sounded out of her mouth. I watched her lips as she spoke and breathed. I studied how they pronounced each syllable. I wanted to press my lips to hers. Each time I blinked I pictured us kissing, after I kicked over the table and pulled her into my vise-like embrace. Our mouths, a live art installation, opening and closing, a dance of sorts, a tango or a waltz, you decide. Just the two of us in unison, with frolicking tongues, syncopated in perfect timing, and timing is everything, isn’t it? Who said that?
“I’m employed but it’s not anything really worth talking about. I’d rather hear more about you.”
“Well, as you know I currently tend bar. It’s a little place called Anne Bonny’s. You may have heard of it.”
“Is it a shithole?”
“I know the place. What else do you do?”
“I am an actress who doesn’t act.”
“That’s wonderful. I’m a writer who doesn’t write.”
“We were made for one another.” She didn’t actually say that but I swear I heard it.
“My glass, look, it’s empty,” said Mcloughlin loudly from his seat at the bar, shaking his glass, and turning it upside down. “Mine’s broken.”
“The service here has been in a decline,” said Brennan. “A sad turn for the worst.”
“Pity,” said Segal.
“I have to go enable the drunks. Give me a minute. I’ll be right back. I have a million questions. Hope you don’t mind?”
Not at all.
I wanted to tell her everything. I wanted to tell her how I could remember the first time I saw her, what she was wearing, and how she put a spell on me. I wanted to confess that she was the reason I kept coming back to the bar. Glory was the reason. I wrote bad poetry about her. I imagined our life together, married and I picked out names for our kids and pets. Does anyone else do this or am I the only weirdo? It wasn’t a conscious decision to invest so much thought into her. I had no control over my obsessions. And I was weary of ruining the image I created of her. No one ever lives up to the images we have of people in our heads. You will always be disappointed.
I could never tell anyone the things that cross my mind. It was almost always pure madness.