Now Playing: Eden (Hozier)
“The usual, sir?” the bartender asks, turning his back on the balding, slightly muscular man who had just taken his seat, his usual one, the third stool from the left. “Keep it neat today” the man says, with a half grin. The bartender smiles. Of course. It was Friday night. Gin-and-tonic guy often ordered it neat on two Fridays a month, the days he met his 7 year old daughter in Hayden Park around the corner of the street. It had been the same routine for the past 5 years. The bartender almost felt sorry for Dr Newman. Divorcee, early forties. He was one of those nicer guys, you know. And he really loved his wife, you could tell. Pretty thing she was, too. He had seen the picture of her Newman kept in his wallet, when he paid for his drink. Redhead.
You always need to be wary of the redheads.
Tonic guy was handed his drink. He took to drinking it, one sip at a time, while glancing around the bar. The bartender looked toward the door. She was five-minutes late today. He found it strange, almost disturbing…Ah, there she was. Miss Bloody Mary. She had a Caesar too once in a while. Oh no, it was Friday night. It would be bourbon on the rocks today. In she struts, on five-inch stilettos and places a hand with a huge rock on the ring finger on the mahogany bar counter. It is a pretty piece of furniture, well made too. You couldn’t say the same about the entire place, though. It was almost six decades old. Now they were renovating it. It was only yesterday they had finished fixing all those new-fangled lights. Track lights or something. Much use of a light if you couldn’t even see the faces of your customers well. “The usual, Martin,” she begins, “but…” “…don’t you dare add too much ice to it. I would order it neat if it weren’t for that stupid doctor of mine” the bartender completes the sentence for her, laughing. “Now, don’t you act too smart, you” hisses the lady with some feigned contempt. The bartender looks apologetic, and goes ahead to prepare her drink. He will add all that ice he always does when Miss Reagan ordered whiskey. Let’s just say it was a favour he did to the all the people who would meet her, post her drink. And too humanity in general, bless his soul. Whenever she had too much of it, that Irish blood showed up, in all its fiery glory. The lady was almost sixty but she still had that fire, she did. You could say she was like those last glowing embers that remained of a dying fire. What do you think happens if you pour some whiskey on it?
She was muttering something about the weather when the bartender brought her drink. She took the glass and gulped down quite some of it in one go. Sat the glass down with some force, proceeded to put one elbow on the counter, lean her head on it and stare at the ring on her other hand. She was bored. The bartender took a step back. He smiled again. Mrs. Reagan had gotten married for the third time, earlier that month. Second time in four months. He had been invited to both of those weddings. He knew the signs. A fourth one was well on the cards.
The bartender felt peaceful. Joel was on a holiday to Greece. He was the Martini guy. And so his bar was now complete. It was Friday night, and Dr Newman and Mrs. Reagan were his regulars. He remembers that Beatles song, the one that goes, “…all the lonely people, where do they all come from?”
He turns his back on his customers and goes about doing some tidying-up. They were happy for the time being, unless Mrs. Reagan suddenly decides that she needs another one. Everything was swell. But something was unusual today. And Martin didn’t like it. He couldn’t exactly pin point who, or what, but…Dr Newman. Yes, that was it. He was a bit different today. He had looked up when Mrs. Reagan had mentioned the words “stupid’ and “doctor” together and almost immediately had gotten back to his drink. Martin had glanced at him then. The doctor had that look in his eyes, that look of tired anxiousness. As if he was, waiting, for someone. The oddest thing was that he almost looked happy. Now that Martin thought of it, the doctor had worn a t-shirt today a size smaller than he usually wore. It showed off his muscles. He had his back towards Martin. It was even easier to see that he was anxious now. People’s backs are very, very interesting. They tell you a lot about a person. Sometimes, almost a bit too much.
But wait. Somebody else had just entered the bar. On a Friday night? Odd day indeed. It was a handsome young man, six feet, chiseled jawline. Disheveled hair. Blonde. The soles of his shoes made a pleasant sound on the hardwood floor. Martin smiles again. This was the Vodka (keep ‘em coming) type. Young, too much in love, heartbreak, and a new customer at the bar. Two months, and he should he out of here, or maybe back with some cute chick to order vodka shots together. Longer than that? Eh, those usually graduated to the stage Dr Newman was at now. The Gin-and-tonic stage. The young man comes up, takes a stool and looks up at the bartender. He has been crying. “Vodka. Keep ‘em coming”. As Martin turns to get that order, the doctor gets up, grabs his coat and leaves. He usually wishes Martin a goodnight, but today was Friday. It was different on Fridays. Martin gets the young man his order. He doesn’t drink it immediately. Just sits there, staring at the floor. The tears well up in his eyes again, Martin could tell. Before they could stream down his face, he gulps the spirit. The bartender isn’t watching him now. He is looking at the door. It was made of glass, the upper half. He was looking at Dr Newman standing just outside it. He had a visitor. A lady. Well, that explained all his anxiousness. They were speaking of good things, lovely things, he could tell. They had their backs towards him you see.
The young man looks up from the floor at Martin. “I thought bartenders were supposed to be chatty blokes. Got some advice here for me?” he says, with a cheerful grin. Martin is still staring at the door. The lady had had a hat on, and he smiled as she took it off and let her waist length, lustrous red mane flow. He looks at the young man and smiles.
“ Advice,eh? The redheads, my friend. Always be wary of the redheads”.