You know how hard it is to find an empty bar on a Saturday night? I do. Too many reasons to drink. The end of the work week, or having to start on a Sunday. Not getting laid, or getting laid off. Girls, girls, girls, and the Motley Crue song of the same name that makes strippers out of sorority sisters. And then, of course, the worm in your gut called alcoholism, that turns your stomach into Jose Cuervo’s private stock. You don’t find an empty bar on a Saturday night. No. Like the black-dressed, bare-shouldered mess of running mascara, it finds you.
The Lonely Heart is a little pub down on Dundas Street that gets its name from its location, wedged like an ingrown hair between an antique book store and a flower shop, that should attract worn elbows to sticky table tops, as drones flock to pollen. The Lonely Heart, however, a dying breed, daring to live up to its name, is full only of its emptiness. I tug at the door and feel it resist me. Even with my vision narrow as a tourniquet, I can make out the letters. Pull, it says, but nothing gives. I push instead, and find myself inside. I’ve always had this talent for understanding jokes, so with one mirthless syllable of laughter that expands into the lack of clientele, I express my genuine approval. Even the bartender is absent, which makes it that much easier to make myself at home.
The dim orange lighting overhead buzzes at the same frequency as my brain, low and full of implication, without anyone to receive it. The bottles lining the wall make me feel like a game show contestant. For a moment, I wonder if the place is even open, but immediately realize that I don’t care. Then, from out of the corner of my eye that’s shrunken to a slit, I catch the pale fire of her bare wrist, flickering like treasure from behind a mahogany pillar the colour of dried blood.
I consider calling to her, but the words are as children playing hide and seek, or the liquor sloshing around inside of me, refusing to come out. Instead, I take a seat alone at the counter. You know how hard it is to find an empty bar on a Saturday night? I hold my head in my hands to give my sore neck a rest.
"Can I get you anything?" a voice asks me, soft and sensuous as the low tide. I look to my left without lifting my head, to where the woman from earlier would have been seated if I could see through wood. "Hey?" The voice tugs at me, like a lighthouse.
"Yeah," I say, but only after meeting her eyes. There’s a quality of despair there, so well-hidden that I can’t miss it, so familiar that it connects me to her as a tree to its branches, and so profound that we must remain separate as its leaves.
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