A good night to go home



The piano rollicks in the distances with an odd beat rhythm.

It moans like an old sad poem.

I keep staring at the beer stains on the bar top as if I can read my future in them, each fizzing bit of fading foam suggesting some additional doom my bad marriage and my crappy job hasnít brought me yet.

The bartender sweeps them away at regular intervals, like a battle surgeon stitching up my wounds but only temporarily.

I order another drink figuring to drown out whatever thoughts Iím thinking.

I keep seeing her face in the mirror behind the bar. But I look up; itís some other barfly smiling at some other Joe instead of me.

The one Iím with is in the toilet, and Iím scared sheís gonna do herself in, since thatís all she talks about.

A whole night of how she ought to and would if only she got gumption to do it.

Half way through the first salvo, I encouraged her, then caught myself and ordered both of us drinks to make her stop.

I still hear her solemn tones like sheís singing her own dirge.

I guess for the first few hours Iím grateful, her misery making mine seem tame.

After a while, hers and mine mingle, and I feel as miserable about being with her and wonder if it can be any worse for me at home.

And on rattles the piano, something straight out of the movie Casablanca, only I donít have the chops to even pretend Iím Rick.

Iím nobody.

Just another Joe stopping in every night for the night cap that makes going home bearable.

But with this chick in the toilet, Iím wondering if any place is safe: for her or me.

She says sheís considered suicide before, and I believe her, wondering if maybe her talking about it keeps her from doing it.

Or maybe all this talk drives Joeís like me to do instead, after which, she goes home to get a good nightís sleep while we end up in the funeral parlor.

I wave to the bartender for another drink, then ask if he can send somebody into the bathroom to see if the chick is all right.

He nods. Heís heard as much about her plans as I have, although just keeps wiping the beer foam Ė I guess figuring beer foam is better than blood.

With a wave of his wet rag, he calls over some other bar fly, whispers at her until she nods, too, and then we both watch the wiggling fanny make its way to the ladyís room door, and vanish behind it.

I keep thinking about the stories sheís been telling, about her lustful father, who beats her and rapes her, and beat her again for being such a whore.

I keep hearing her talk about the four older sisters who suffered the same thing, but then warn her against making any trouble, dumping their debts on her because sheís still capable of working a good job when they canít work at all.

She pays the mortgage and gets beaten as her reward.

I make the mistake of asking why she doesnít leave.

She only stares as if she wants to kill me for such a question, so I keep quiet hour after hour, letting the horror story wash over me like Iím dead, too.

I keep thinking of her quivering smile and the dull look of death in her eyes, and the purse that seems to rattle with pills each time she shifts it to accommodate the next drink.

I keep envisioning her at the sink, putting on a fresh coat of makeup to stall long enough for the pills to work.

She must look pretty when we find her.

Then, the barfly we sent in comes strutting out, shaking her head, saying thereís nobody in the bathroom at all, only some scribbled message in lipstick on the mirror wishing the world good bye.

I hear the bartender mumble something about that dump bitch doing it again.

I empty my glass and rise, swaying worse than any landlubber after a good month at sea, my stomach not nearly as confused as my head.

The piano makes it worse, calling up the scene when Bogart sends off the love of his life.

Somehow itís not the same.

And Iím thinking my wifeís looking better and better to me all the time.




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