28 Mar

There were reasons not to walk alone down High Street.

Some of those reasons were unwashed, unemployed and armed with Styrofoam cups labeled “Fill Me!” Threateningly, they shook these in my general direction with a menacing clink of quarter on quarter. An indigent dwarf who lived near the Newport used to have a habit of bursting from concealment, beard and rags flying, to demand change from passersby. Refusal earned you curses and a kick or two in the shins. I’d heard (with some relief) a rumor that he’d passed away, but it’s the sort of thing you never know for sure. I made sure to walk on the other side of the street as I passed.

Beth wanted me to meet her and her friends for karaoke at Havana. Havana was a bar in the Short North that I knew vaguely: the name, really, and nothing else. To conserve gas, I decided to walk the two miles from my house to the bar. Panhandlers accosted me every quarter mile or so. The implicit assumption that I was somehow less unemployed than they were offended me, but I suppose it was understandable. I had not yet abandoned the visible accoutrements of middle-class living: cell phone, tinted aviators, etc. Also, I wore the best of what remained of my fraying finery. Of all my corduroys, these had worn the least. I’d pulled the knot of my Italian-designed thrift-store tie down a careful and casual inch. I’d bought my messenger bag in Tokyo. I’d chosen the glasses because they covered most of my face.

Not that I mind my face, but it’s bad for poker. Somehow I had an instinct that I might need the glasses.

Here is another rule of internet dating: trust your instincts.

Beth had suggested eleven as a good time to meet, so that is when I left the house. I reasoned that she might have actually arrived during the half hour it took to walk there. As I walked up to the bar, knots of young men moved slowly about outside, smoking and talking. Since the Ohio smoking ban went into effect, the immediate outside of bars has in some respects become more social than the inside. There is always something to talk about, with an immediate and apparent point of commonality. I envy the society of smokers.

I pulled the door open, and for some reason, I thought of Tony.

Inside, the bar was long and open, surprisingly well-lit, with the bar itself to the left and a raised, carpeted area with tables and couches to the right. A small, empty stage with a microphone was located in the back of the bar. Two men played pool in a small room beyond the stage. An unfamiliar song played on the music system, but the singer was unmistakably David Bowie. I scanned the room. No Beth. No loud, laughing clot of girls that might be concealing her. No girls at all, actually.

I checked my phone to see if I’d managed to miss a call or a text, but I had no messages. My remaining options were leaving or whisky. My legs hurt. I leaned on my elbows, resting my foot on the foot rail, and ordered a beer and a bourbon. I played idly with a coaster while I waited for my drinks. Someone ran an inquisitive finger down the crack of my ass.



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