Stars like match heads


December 21, 1978

            The night sky is bright tonight, glittering stars looking like ignited match heads, each dim enough to keep from being blinding. I shiver as I stare up at them, the dark parking lot filled with cars as music throbs through the walls of the Red Baron, an old barn turned rock club where I spend too much of my life being miserable and lonely, and never getting lucky.

            So to me the stars seem to suck up the darkness with the same hollowed eyes I sometimes see in the men’s room mirror when I washing up after too many drinks. Perhaps pretty women I admire in the club look at me as too desperate to bother with, since at times I can be painfully shy. Sometimes I feel like a shooting star, streaking across the sky only to burn out and fade away before I get to where I want to go, too ashamed to admit the real reason I come to this club and too shy to ask for what I want.

            The sky is not completely clear. There is a haze on the horizon that covers the face of the rising moon – or it is sinking – I might be too drunk to tell, though I have seen too many sunrises in this condition, standing on this spot as the stars fade.

            The rain surprises since it comes before I notice the stars are gone, slapping the ground and kicking up the sea of cigarette butts and used condoms that decorate the spaces between the cars.  So I step just inside the back door reserved for members of the band, drawing a look from Tommy the bartender, who grins and makes some crack about me being all wet and asking if I need another drink, and I say, I do, his hands never ceasing as they collect old glasses, empty ash trays and smear the bar top with a wet rag leaving a dirty trail only I seem to be able to see.

            People saddle up to the bar for refills, pretty women, savage shark-like men, and the walking wounded men like me, who grip their glasses and cling to their stools like sailors on sinking ships, their eyes bloated in the glass bottoms as they empty the contents and beg for more – while I intentionally sip mine in order to distinguish myself from them when I really can’t.

            The ice tinkles in my glass, the bottom filled with spoiled dreams the alcohol makes tolerable.

            Some of the other men glance my way and nod. We all know each other because we see each other more than we see anybody else, sad, shy, pathetic men, some overweight, some down and out, some lost in some limbo of after work blues. We’re so full of self pity we don’t have room for anybody else.

            We all look at the same women and envy the same men, we all pan for gold in the urinal as we let “what ifs” fill our heads as we pee.

            We all blush deeply if by accident one of the women we stare at glances back even by accident, a moment in time we carry to closing like a hot coal we know we can count on to keep us warm when we get home.

            It is a strange feeling drinking alone with such a crowd, and I ache to go outside again, and eventually do, standing in the rain searching dark and cloudy skies for stars I know still burn behind above, aching for sunrise and the release that will allow me to go home, pained by the fact that like always, I go home alone.


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