Having another person in your bed every morning is a change for the average promiscuous bachelor, and was disturbing my sleep habits. I was sleeping three or four hours a night despite drinking six hours a day, and often woke up in that delirious state between inebriation and coherence, crowded in the corner of a bed that was once my personal pasture. But things were getting more tolerable with Vanessa backing off my less desirable habits and not hassling me about my lack of employment ambitions. The money still poured freely from her pockets and showed no sign of slowing, so I had every opportunity to channel my drunken thoughts into writing.
I wrote about the homeless, the hopeless, and the disenfranchised, stories about loss, lust, and violence. All things close to my heart. But my apartment felt as confined as my bed did now, so I started spending more time at the bar. I was in the middle of writing a paragraph that afternoon that featured a teenage runaway being raped by her former schoolteacher when I abruptly stopped and marched out the door, looking for a bar stool to warm up. I went two blocks west, across the empty lot near the pawn shop to the nameless bar that was known only by the neon white pony out front.
The place was as familiar with me as I was with it now, although not a single soul knew my name. They had the good sense not to ask around here. It was the kind of bar that was popular with anonymous strangers that wanted to stay that way, a windowless refuge with few patrons and fewer lights, where the flash of a cigarette lighter gave birth to long shadows that briefly populated the lonely corners. A great place to do some serious mid-day drinking.
The door squealed it's alarm and unwelcome light flooded in as I was finishing another whiskey and in walked a bald old man with a young whore in tow. It was only when the sunlight came in that you realized how thick the smoke was and it was revolting to me. I had almost every bad habit imaginable but I never understood cigarettes, even thought I tried hard to get hooked on them when I was a kid. The pair sat at a table behind me and loudly ordered a beer and a soda, then discussed how much nicer the bar would be if they added some more lamps and a jukebox. I was physically biting my tongue to avoid regurgitating obscenities all over them. So I decided to distract my mind with an ambitious amount of hard drink.
I had turned slightly on my stool to keep an eye on them, but couldn't hear a word they were saying now that they acclimated their volume to the silence around them. All I heard was whispers and the clinking of ice cubes from the girl's straw as she playfully swirled it around the glass. I wondered how young she was. She looked like a kid, and he was old enough to be her father. Or her schoolteacher.
They dominated my thoughts for the better part of an hour as I grew drunker, dwelling on his grinning face and her reciprocal half-hearted smile as this asshole made incoherent small talk. Before I knew it I was standing over him, looking down on his bald crown. I'm not sure what I said, but they both looked startled until the guy stood up and defensively put his open hands out between us. He was over six feet tall, not quite my height but tall enough that we would look like an even match if we ended up explaining ourselves to the police.
The already quiet room became noticeably more silent until the bartender grabbed me by the shoulders and said something that sounded to me like he was speaking underwater, and I momentarily lost my balance before regaining my full height. Then I hit the guy, sending him falling across the table in a symphony of crashing glasses punctuated by the wailing of his younger companion. I looked down and saw that I miraculously still had my drink in my hand, unspilled, and took a sip while I watched the young whore go to his aid. It was a good clean hit but I hadn't expected such a chaotic result, and was surprised when he started to get back up. But before he got upright he lunged into my hips and I crashed to the ground, a flash crossing my vision as the back of my head bounced off the wet concrete. Before I regained my composure I realized I was in handcuffs, and my attacker was pulling a long shard of glass out of my wrist from the whiskey glass I had been holding. And he was reading me my rights.