A few days after the fiasco at Flowers with Toby, I’m kickin’ it around downtown  and I run into Brian again, this time coming out of The Whiskey Bar. It’s around 5:30 pm, the sun peeking from behind the clouds hasn’t gone over the horizon yet, but it’s making tracks, making the light reflect on the buildings in such a way as to make them seem a bit surreal. Windows gleaming, metal shining, concrete glowing, trying to keep up with the other mediums around them. I’m sure they are even more surreal to Brian, if he’s been at The Whiskey for any length of time. The thing with Brian is that you never really know how much he’s had to drink or how if he’s toasted yet. He holds his Beam-and-Coke-no-ice pretty well. Many a time I’ve had conversations with him at some party or bar or other and later he doesn’t remember seeing me at all due to his inebriation…and I was sure he was lucid at the time. But then there’s the whole thing last week on the bus  where I run into him Whiskey_google DaveEdit (2)and he’s clear as a bell that he saw me at Toby’s more than a week previous to that. I shake my head thinking about it. You just never know with that guy. The only thing you do know is that he’s usually scoping some girl out.

“Hey, Brian” I say as I come up to him on the sidewalk. “Sorry about the other day on the bus. Didn’t mean to cut you off and bolt like that.”

He pulls out a smoke and offers me the pack. I take one and lean towards him, passing the tip of the cigarette through his Zippo flame and pulling the calming stimulant deep into my chest. What an oxymoron, I think in passing. Calming. Stimulant. Fuck Nicotine, man. One of these days I had to quit, but not today.

He blows out his own grey cloud of death and smirks. “Oh, no problem. I know, wrong bus, whatever. I do it all the time…” We walk together for a bit and I ask him about the two girls from his story last week. He frowns in concentration, then, as if smacked on the back of the head, suddenly brightens.

“Oh yeah! Those two….almost forgot. Yeah, they were pretty crazy. We went back to one of their apartments, I don’t which one’s it was, somewhere on Capitol Hill…I think it was up by The Canterbury, but I could be wrong…maybe it was on the other end by down by The Comet , I dunno. I lost track after a while. We hit both at some point during the night and the one girl…the blonde…had a car.” He laughs, remembering. “Dude! A blonde and a red-head…together! Hey, let’s go in here…I’ll buy you a drink.”

We walk through a little metal gate separating the outside smoking area in front of a bar from the sidewalk and he pushes open the glass door under a dark green awning. Oh, I knew this place…two dollar happy hour well drinks. Looks like Brian was willing to forgo Jim Beam in favor of cheaper well whiskey, but I didn’t care one way or the other. A drink was a drink, as far as I was concerned.

We order at the bar and take our drinks over to a big circular booth by the front door. It’s already full of a plethora of persons: a dread-locked bike-messenger type, an older hippy guy with graying hair, a geeky-cute girl with horned-rimmed glasses and a lip piercing, a gothy hippy girl with tribal tattoos trailing down her arm and a few Indonesian silver beads braided into bits of her hair. Although they all seem normal enough to me and just like anyone I would know, I don’t know any of them. Brian seemed to, though, so they scoot around to make room for us. Brian names them off, gesturing to each one with his drink, but I don’t really catch all the names. And it’s not like I really am going to remember them or need to anytime soon, I tell myself.

I look around the bar at the artwork on the walls…some sort of surreal Dali-does-Japanime stuff in muted dirty pastels and charcoal hues on small- and medium-sized canvases, mostly. It’s not bad stuff, way better than anything I’ve seen done by Toby, and I lean closer to the one closest to where I’m sitting to get a better look at the artist info. Damn! They want how much for this one? I never even heard of the guy before. But someone obviously thought it was worth it…more than half of them had sold stickers on the info cards under each piece.

“What do you think of that one?” A voice in my left ear is asking me. I turn toward it to find the horned-rimmed girl looking at me, her eyebrows slightly raised as she sips from a glass of what looks like cranberry juice with vodka. On the spot, I shrug.

“It’s okay, I guess. I mean…I dunno…”

“You don’t think it’s a bit trite and trying too hard? I mean, what’s with the skelton birds on the telephone wires? And the pink panda sitting on the curb?” She takes another sip and gulps it down before going on. “And the whole fractals in factory smoke pouring from a skyline of smokestacks in the distance. What do you think the artist is trying to say…is it an environmentalist statement or just a bad acid trip?” She tilts her head at me, waiting for something profound to discredit her synopsis of the painting sitting on the wall just above our heads. She was wearing a t-shirt…white with lime-green baseball-style sleeves just past her elbows…with some cheesy 70’s-esque glitter iron-on design. Her hair looks like it used to be a pixie cut, but it grew out rather quickly since the summer and now its varied shades of dirty blonde and honey curl a bit into her ears and eyes, making her fidget with it a lot, sweeping it out of her eyes from behind what look like vintage eye-glass frames…tortoise-shell with slightly dulled rhinestones at the corners. A skirt of indeterminate color hinting at the khaki spectrum…maybe a faded café latte?…and a pair of well-worn Vans round out her ensemble.

“Uh…I dunno. I don’t really think about art…too much.” I start off, somewhat haltingly. “I mean…I don’t think that I’m really qualified to judge…what the artist was thinking when they painted it, I mean. Or what statement they’re trying to make… if any.” She looked at me kinda weird, so I go on, stumbling ever closer to the precipice that was me looking like even more an idiot than I felt. “I mean, I like art…and I guess I kinda like some of this stuff here…but…I don’t try to pick it apart…really…”

She gives a little laugh, a cross between a chuckle and a giggle.

“What?” I asks her.

“Oh…nothing.” She sits her empty glass on the table and goes to dig her wallet out of her canvas book-bag, a smirk on her face.

“No …what?” I press her for an answer. I guess I just don’t get girls; they tweek me out, and this one is starting to get on my nerves. She stands up to go to the bar and order a drink, so I move my knees out of the way so she can get by.

“They’re mine.” She says matter-of-factly and leaves me watching her walk away, totally confused. Her’s? So she’s the artist…is that what she’s saying? I looked at the name on the artist info card.  Steve. See, she’s full of shit, it’s a guy. I do a double-take…wait…Stevee?  What kind of name is that? And what the fuck was all this what-do-you-think-about-blah-blah-blah about then? Was she fishing for compliments or just fucking with me for fun. Either way, she’s pissed me off.

I look over at Brian; he’s totally talking to the hippy guy, no plans to leave anytime soon, it seems. I catch his eye and gesture something about thanking him for the drink, that I have to take off, I’ll see him around, okay? He nods, mouths something that looks like “sure, sure” and raises his hand in farewell as the hippy guy talks his ear off.

I’m through the door and on the sidewalk before the geeky artist girl can come back to the table, walking at a good clip toward the nearest bus stop to take me to Capitol Hill. It’s about to pull away as I run up to it, banging on the sides as I try to catch the driver’s attention to keep him there long enough for me to get on. Then while walking down the aisle to find a seat as the bus lurches forward, almost knocking me over, I catch a glimpse outside of that girl again, walking down the sidewalk. Not the artist one from just now; the weird one from the other day last week with pink hair looking for the bus tunnel. What the hell? Why does she keep popping up…in person, in conversation…? It’s really beginning to get on my nerves! I flop in a seat at the back and pull my hood up to block out the world. I just need to zone out and clam down…I’m not making any sense, even to myself…

 © 2008 D. Kessler

4th & Pike