A Seat at the Bar, with Richard Brautigan

A Seat at the Bar, with Richard Brautigan

It was the kind of place you stumble into, accidentally. The kind of place very few people intentionally seek out, more often discovered by those who are lost, who have taken a wrong turn, veered far off from their destination and seek that which they cannot name. The kind of place set apart from others, tucked in the middle of nowhere, safely ensconced in anonymity, which is why I entered.

Though it was more morning than night outside the bar's rustic exterior, inside it was dark. The faint smell of urine between the floor boards, decades of hard labored sweat and days when you could smoke indoors sat like a friend at the bar. That smell lured me from the threshold inside.

I noticed only the bartender and another patron sitting at the opposite end of the bar, studying the dark liquid in his glass, searching for answers or, already having discovered the answers, seeking ways to move forward. Either way, he was quite lost in his thoughts alone at the other end of the bar.

The bartender, perhaps noting my day dress or perhaps simply to make conversation and sell me a drink, asked, "Are you lost, Ma'am?"

"Yes, I am lost." I sat. "I'll take a look at your wine list, please."

This earned a chuckle from the bartender. "Brautigan, what do you think of this one?" The man shook his head and renewed his examination of his glass.

I meekly asked for a rum and diet. My order didn't appease the bartender. At the moment he begrudgingly gave me my drink, recognition hit me. I approached the other patron.

"Brautigan? As in Richard Brautigan? Oh, my GOD! You were my best friend in college! I've read everything I could find that you've written, like everything!"

I ignored the tightening of his jaw, the grimace on his face and sought ways to prove my devotion to his work. An idiot, I quoted:
"Fuck me like fried potatoes
on the most beautifully hungry
morning of my God-damn life." (Fuck Me Like Fried Potatoes - Brautigan)

He looked at me.

Another poem popped into my head and in lieu of an apology, I recited:

"Here is something beautiful (etc.
I have so little left that you
would want.
Its color begins in your hand.
Its shape is your touch." (Here is Something Beautiful, Etc. - Brautigan)

He avoided my gaze, clearly uncomfortable by my awkward recitations like a child reciting poetry for her parents.

Yet, I don't stop. Seeking his approval, I continued,
" She tries to get things out of men
that she can't get because she's not
15% prettier." (15% - Brautigan)

I caught the crease in his cheek and the faint indication of a mustache-hidden smile.

The bartender put a nondescript jug of dark liquid, a fresh glass for me on the bar and disappeared.

I sat next to Brautigan and started rambling, "I've always wanted to meet you. Your work is such an inspiration for me. I'm a writer, too." I dumped the contents of my purse onto the bar, dozens of scraps of paper fell, confetti on the bar.

He poured us both a drink from the jug. It was awful and tasted as vile as it smelled. I drank some more. And rambled.

I drank and talked until I languidly melted onto the sticky bar floor.

He joined me.

I poured a word story of pain, confusion and disillusionment into his glass. He was a gentlemen and drank it like I drank his vile, burning drink.

We laid on that sticky, urine-smelling floor like young lovers star-gazing into the sky on a moonlight night.

I kissed him.

His mouth tasted like 30+ years of nicotine and hard living. His kiss wasn't entirely horrible. I debated fucking him. Then, I remembered the dirt under his fingernails, his needed-a-trim mustache, his worn denim. I referenced the taste of his mouth and imagined the taste of his cock, the smell of his balls. He would never courtesy tap my head.

Without even a fair amount of preamble, his bear paw hand squeezed my tit. I pushed him.

He handed me a wrinkled, stained by his fingertips napkin.

I read:
"Pity the morning light that refuses to wait for dawn
And rushes foolishly with its mercury pride to challenge
A responsibility that knows only triumph and gently bends
The stars to fit its will and cleans up afterwards all
That poor wasted light, leaving not a trace behind." (Pity the Morning Light That Refuses to Wait for Dawn - Brautigan)

"You couldn't even give me something new, something original, something just for me?"

He leaned in close, so close I almost tasted his tongue again and finally spoke, "You haven't earned it . . . yet."

Tears pooled in my eyes. His stained fingers gingerly cupped my face, so unlike the previous awkward molestation, "You will. But you will write it. You will write it for you."

Brautigan stood up. I offered him my hands to help pull my still drunk ass up off the floor.

Then, the door opened, light cut through the darkness and he walked in.

He, the one whom I had been waiting to find me, noticed me on the floor, threw back his head and laughed, "On the floor again, baby?"

His eyes more green than truly hazel, burst with life and some other emotion, brighter than the light I wasn't quite ready to name but it warmed me. Without hesitation, he lifted me up.

Before we crossed the threshold and walked into the Technicolor world, I turned.
"Hey, Brautigan! I'll be fine. I'll be just fine."

He looked at me, his eyes smiled in lieu of his mouth, "Woman, that's what I've been trying to tell you this whole time."

After I left the bar, Richard Brautigan walked over to the paper confetti still haphazardly sprinkled across the bar, the poems I had written and so carelessly discarded. He read each one until he found it, the only one he wanted to keep:

"The words I had carefully selected are too often
discarded on the floor,
lost in the pile of clothing you ripped from me.
Our skin smacking together with a fierce punk rock rhythm speaks loud enough for both of us.
You leave.
I find words tucked in the mattress,
tangled in the sheets,
hidden amongst the couch cushions,
stuffed into my pockets.

I collect handfuls of unspoken words and build a monument for you." (I Build a Monument of Unspoken Words for You - Crystal Intini Alperin)

He tucked my poem into his pocket, finished his glass and left.

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