The itch, arising from a desire to feel alive again, compels you to leave this dusty room and get out into the night air. It’s been too long since you’ve enjoyed yourself.
Go have some fun for fuck’s sake.
You gather your keys and wallet, phone and knife, and get out the door before you dwell upon how broke you are. Caution got you into this drudgery. Perhaps a bit of compulsivity will shake you out of it.
The night is drizzly. The moon holds a steady gaze to observe your excited steps. A deep breath expands your chest and releases hot vapor out into the dark blue haze.
You marvel, for the millionth time, how street lights cast a striking glare on every surface. This is especially amplified by the streaking glimmer of freshly-slicked rain. The knife-edged shadows lend a contrasting appeal that compliments the glowing orange blooms.
This was a good idea.
In your car, you try to ignore the stale smell of whatever’s dying in the grocery bag looped over the gear shifter. You should probably throw that out at your first opportunity. It just seems so awkward to do so in public. Hence the bulge and odor of the neglected receptacle. Anyway, this is not what you came out to do. You’re on your way to have a drink, and with any luck, get some tail while you’re at it.
Off you go.
Parking in the city is always a pain, especially on a Saturday night. You circle around like a hungry shark until you spot a spot, so to speak.
This district is lit up and crawling with high-heeled potential. With their slicked-back heads on a swivel, collared shirts roam the sidewalks in packs.
Nothing like a little competition to keep it lively.
You double check the street signs around your vehicle to ensure it will be there upon your return. Adjusting your own collar, you step toward the brightest and loudest door within the confines of your awareness. Above that door is a big wooden sign that reads “Calamity”.
Just what you need in your life.
The steady rhythm of 90’s hip hop pulses outward and explodes as you open the door. Laughter and yelling accompany the familiar radio hits of a time long past. Multi-colored lights swirl and shift across the walls and floor.
The sensory overload has you in its grip as the door man throws up that timeless hand signal with straight thumb and curved index finger. His stern face implies an air of fortitude.
You comply immediately, reaching in your pocket for identification. He pops a little flashlight on and scans it briefly before handing it back to you saying “Ten dollars.”
Shit, who carries cash these days? Only the prepared, you suppose. With a subtle expression of defeat, you ask, “Got an ATM?”
He gestures brusquely at the three lit up letters practically under your nostrils. You smile sheepishly and nod appreciation as you step past him gingerly toward the automated teller machine.
Thankfully, this one dispenses in multiples of ten.
Past the door guard, you’re free to enjoy the debauchery that lay beyond. Girls are dancing together. Guys are sipping drinks while leaning on the bar. They’re eyeing the candidates on the dance floor. A drunk couple is making out shamelessly under the twirling laser lights.
The DJ speaks up jarringly through his badly-tuned microphone, “Aiight aiight, whooo da FUCK is having a blast toooniiiiight!?”
The crowd cheers and lifts their drinks in the air. You turn toward him and give a smirk in response. This is your way of appearing cool in case anyone happens to be looking at you in that instant. You push away the semi-conscious shame and head to the bar for a much-needed refreshment.
Trying to get your head past the outer edge of the bar proves to be quite the challenge. The backs of larger men and roaming women provide a shifting barrier to your salvation. You dart in half-heartedly before retreating again. Then you raise a hand and attempt the subtle card-flashing technique. In a last ditch effort, you give waiting patiently a shot.
All these turn out to be less-than-effective strategies.
You resentfully regard freeloading chicks getting pampered by chumps with loose wallets. Acknowledging your financial inadequacies, you orbit the scene until…
A hole opens enough to fit your narrow frame into. This is phase one of your quest to get some quenching bubbles into your gut.
Phase two involves staring at the overtly hot bartender in an attempt to get her attention by way of eye contact. This is equally as annoying because upon deeper scrutiny, you see her initial hotness fade with time.
Her makeup is too thick. Her arms are too thin. Her nose is awkward…
Why are you staring at this poor woman!? You just need a beer!
You use this time to look over the ale selection. You decide on an IPA of medium quality to your subjective tastes.
Finally, her eyes connect with yours.
She approaches and leans in looking at you expectantly. You lean as well and tell her, “Hopped Up Gorilla.”
She nods and swiftly grabs a bottle from the lit cooler. She places it before you with a thud, then pops it open with an opener from her butt pocket.
“Six dollars,” she says with zero regard for your rapidly dwindling account balance.
You wince as you hand over the card.
Over the pounding music, she asks by way of body language if you want to keep it open. You consider this for a moment, weighing the options heavily. Then you gesture a negating message that hopefully doesn’t convey the fact that you are embarrassingly broke.
You sip the ale straight from the bottle…
savor the bite in your throat…
place it on the napkin provided…
receive the tab…
add a dollar to the already inflated price…
then sign your name hastily to be rid of the whole exchange.
You turn your back to her once she’s moved on to the next patron in need.
You sip slow and shallow, knowing you won’t be buying any more before you leave. Another insanely familiar jam from your childhood spins from the DJ’s table, pounding from the gigantic speakers on either side of him.
Lights whirl above from orbital fixtures. They’re mesmerizing you. Circles of light slide and distort over every inch of the establishment. They glitter off the intriguing decor hung everywhere.
Chrome engine parts, circular saw blades, wrenches and hammers adorn the walls.
You suddenly realize that you’re looking pretty lame standing there literally staring at the walls.
You’re supposed to be getting laid, remember?
Shit, well it seemed so likely back home. But now that you’re in the thick of it, by your current estimation, the likelihood of that sure has plummeted. You’re alone and without a wingman. Everyone here is with someone else. What are you supposed to do-interrupt an engaging A&B conversation to intrude your awkward self upon some unsuspecting victim?
Maybe this was a bad idea.
You sip deeper with greater rapidity.
Halfway through the beer, a retreat instinct begins to rise. Scanning the crammed room, you watch as people of all shapes and sizes laugh and engage each other with such ease.
Wondering how they do it, you lift the bottle to discover that you’re draining the last sip.
Time to go.
You weave through the crowd and deposit the empty bottle on a vacant table as you nod past the bouncer.
Outside, the air is fresh and crisp with a pleasant mist that tingles your thirsty skin. You breathe it in deep, glad to be rid of the Calamity.
A pang of regret strikes your chest as you long for an evening companion. While you were in the bar, there were a few looks from hungry eyes in your direction. But as usual, at the moment of detection, your timid inclinations shoved your glances floorward. Of course…once you realized what had happened, the moment was lost forever.
More missed opportunities.
You fight down the self deprecating voice before it gets a foothold. You head across the street toward your car. All things considered, you still had a good time. At least you got out and joined the masses for an evening.
Next time you should maybe have a few extra bucks in the bank. It would also help to have a friend to bounce the awkwardness off of.
There’s always next weekend.
For tonight you’ll ward off the shadows and breathe through the stress.
Brian Relay is a digital artist with ten years of random work experience that loosely relates to his field of study. He lives in New Hampshire with his transient musings and collection of half-resolved issues. Together with his un-imaginary friend, they’ve successfully completed their very first comic book. Also, he recently picked up his novel-in-progress (NIP) that was collecting digi-dust for an embarrassing amount of time. He’ll let you know when it’s done.