Benders, Bartenders, Broads (You Can’t Find Love in a Dive-Bar)

by Charlotte E. Wilde

You sing a pretty sugar sweet high-note when its last call and your lonely’s looking at the bottom of a rocks glass or the backside of an ill-advised text, but at closing time on a Thursday nobody’s listening. When push comes to proverbial shove your preference for this shit-hole pool hall centers on convenience: the lack of mirror in the bathroom and a patronage of few words and many shots combines winningly with a barkeep who looks to hold strictly to a one for one policy: one for you, one for him. Tonight only the dregs are left, all straddling the line between fucking each other and just plain fucked up and you’re not ashamed to admit there’s a certain solidarity to rum-soaked regrets. You’ve always liked feeling like you’re part of something and for now this place will do. Tonight’s already cashing tomorrow’s check but a bender is a one way, last stop kind of train and you are many things but not a quitter– so with a nod you relegate yourself to the beginning of the end.

That’s when you spot salvation’s lazy-eyed stare floating down the bar smooth as a shitty juke-box country song. Curling red hair hangs down her shoulders and pools dangerously in the crook of an arm that would look way better draped around your neck and she looks starved… for affection, clearly, or she wouldn’t be throwing indian-giver glances your direction. Not that desperate hadn’t ever stopped you in your tracks before but women like her could smell disinterest a mile out. It lassos them faster than John Wayne’s hips and just because you hadn’t planned on fishing doesn’t mean you didn’t bring your pole. Ego boosts and a moment’s fancy aside this girl’s nod and smile are certainly no different than the ones that came before, but the promise of self-depricating mornings-after twinkling in her low cut tank top feels as comfortable as an old pair of Nike’s. She’s middling fare: on a scale from 1 to Miley Cyrus you’d peg her at an even 5 (does preference even figure on a scale from one to suck?). At this hour of the night beggars cease to be picky and you’re way beyond quibbling over titles so you accept it and move on…on down the bar, that is.

Yes, the pendulum has swung and you’re back riding high on a horse named Slum-dog. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly have merged into that three-headed self-serving hellhound of congealed charm and parroted phrases calculated to lower lashes and hands to your leg in the record breaking span of one cigarette. Mediocre Miley over here isn’t selling herself with her choice of Bud-Light Lime but she seems willing enough to pander to your ego and stroke your self-esteme (among other things) with some eyelash-batting bullshit and frankly, you’re about two and half drinks beyond caring. It’s this or a night spent wandering the halls of girlfriends past so when she shows you where to sign you scrawl your name on the dotted line of her collar bone– opening one tab as you close another. Some still half sober part of your brain begins to twitch its disapproval and suggest you take a hike but your libido calls the shots when your already 6 deep: the only skirt that’s getting hiked is hers. Whatever, we’re all adults here.

On the way back to her apartment her mouth is moving but the the words are melting as soon as they hit the ground. Fortunately when you remain silent she fills your mouth with hers instead.

And so it goes, with the investment of nothing more substantial than some mental pocket change and a spare hour between metro rides you’ve managed yet again to snag yourself a barfly consolation prize. Another night smeared with fickle 3AM affection belies the goal of hanging memories out to dry as you both try to bury your lonely in the heaving sigh of sweaty skin. Briefly you wonder how you got here, calling in favors to the whiskey-dick gods in the bed of this woman whose brown eyes reminded you briefly of hers. Nowadays what little dignity you have left gets cashed in on strangers and hangovers– blending the pain of heartache and the head-aching remains of another unsuccessful night trying to reconcile the space between who you were and who you you’ve become.

Until you meet again.