Cowardice

Void: language claims that it has no space, that it is utterly vacuous and vacant. A place empty of thought and free of judgement. However, the void seeks acknowledgement, and it will not be ignored.

The lack of my lover’s presence for the past month has brought out my restlessness. I could have ignored it and turned it into some dreamless, shitty sleep, but I was just too stubborn to pull the covers over my head and close my eyes tonight. I don’t set my own salary and it doesn’t matter how I perform my physical labor job even with a good night’s rest anyway. As long as you make it to the job site, no one really cares how bloodshot your eyes are. I popped an upper and went out in search of the void. I followed the path of least resistance and went to the bar where I also moonlight as a doorman/barback. If you know where to go for the cheapest and strongest drinks only twenty paces from a light rail stop, then you know where I work.

I ordered a pint of Brooklyn lager and spited the New York Yankees, who had just been eliminated from the MLB playoffs, and grabbed the stool next to the familiar clear plastic cup of cola and double shot of Jack Daniels that I knew belonged to the man I’ll call Clint. I knew it was Clint’s birthday, Facebook had told me so. I had seen him in a very uncharacteristically dark state of mind the previous night while I was working. When he returned to his drink it was apparent that his demeanor had not changed. I jovially said to him, “According to the internet, I know it’s your birthday. Happy birthday.”

Clint’s head turned slowly. With hatred in his narrowed eyes, he told me that he had been the victim of a strong arm robbery in the alley behind the bar, I don’t recall how long ago, maybe a year. Despite the fact that there were several witnesses, none of them would come forward to the police when he asked them. The bar never even called the police the night it happened. Clint explained to me that he had no choice but to do his own own P.I. work if he wanted justice. Even city detectives who felt his attacker wasn’t a fish big enough to fry had told him “this is your case.” He found the “piece of shit,” who just happened to be a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, largely by tracing his stolen flip phone, found in the criminal’s possession when he was apprehended. Not only was this man found guilty for his crime against Clint, but was brought to trial and convicted of a rape charge in New Jersey.

“Does anyone give a fuck in this bar about me? I was bulldogged out back of this fucking bar and took a scumbag, racist, rapist motherfucker to court. I challenged a bullshit white trash mafia when no else had the balls and won. He’s in fucking jail. I’ve never said shit about it before, I’ve never bragged about it, does anyone give a shit? There were witnesses that didn’t do shit!”

He began singing the happy birthday song to himself in the style of Marilyn Monroe: “Happy birthday Clint and all his acquaintances that aren’t really his friends, happy birthday to youuuuuu.”

I started to speak, but Clint cut me off. I motioned towards a bartender for another pint and listened to him rant. He was getting louder and the curious eyes of other drinkers were moving our way. “No, shut up. You’re not talking. I’m gonna make this whole bar feel uncomfortable. I’m a nuisance for a change! You know the asshole who fucked up my face was here last night? I watched him get served and have a good time.”

I remembered back to about a month ago. Clint’s head was bandaged and he asked me if i knew anyone named Rick. I didn’t know who he was talking about at the time, but I caught a glimpse of the guy from behind while I was clearing empty glasses from a table last night. Clint was yelling at Rick as he walked out: “You’ll be thinking of me soon, motherfucker.”

I got a chance to speak again as he finished his shot. “Hey man, you know I don’t carry a picture in my wallet of every asshole that’s done some bad shit here.” Clint glared at me and ignored my disavowal of responsibility as he rotated his shot glass on the bar. “I’m an actor, and now I’ve got permanent fucking scars on my face. I wear makeup like a woman now to hide them. Well I’m done acting. I’m gonna have to be the one who rids the earth of all the scumbag fucks because everyone here is a coward.”

The bartender who worked on the night of that particular incident quietly placed a guiltily poured double Jack in front of him. “Oh, a free fucking drink. Thanks a lot. That fixes my fucking face. I was left bleeding outside of your bar that night.” The bartender shrugged and insisted that it happened after the bar was closed. “It’s not like that, man,” he said. Clint was adamant. “If the bar was closed, then how did I get a handful of bathroom paper towels for my bloody head? You still serve drinks to a local mugger. Why don’t you sleep tonight, go ahead and sleep tonight.” The bartender stammered some vaguely apologetic phrases and moved on to another thirsty customer. I downed the rest of my beer and went outside for a cigarette.

There is a reason why there is very little written about what goes on at this bar. Usually, it’s limited to a blurb in the City Paper about their infamous men’s room condom machine or the temperature of their draft Boh. Clint was tired of living with the reality that he habitually and often lovingly patronizes a bar where questionable activities go down and it’s understood that they go down unpublicized.

I returned to my seat and ordered another beer. Clint was still pissed. He told me to look him in the eyes and tell him there wasn’t someone I didn’t want dead.

“I don’t need anybody dead,” I said.

“But you want somebody dead.”

“I do want to see one person suffer, I’d give them about 900 dollars worth of suffering,” thinking of the bitch who put my rent payment up her nose a few years ago.

“Ahhhhh, so torture is your game. Well, at least you’re honest about that. I’m tired of this shit. Some people need to die, and I’m gonna take a few scumfucks out. Bukowski once wrote that there was no better death than riding through Times Square on horseback with a stick of dynamite in your mouth.”

The self-righteous suicidal vigilante talk annoyed me. “Yeah, he also writes a lot about how purple his dick gets.”

“Fuck you. We’ve talked about poetry before and whatever bullshit lyrics you write. You’re a cute fucking bard at best.”

I laughed. “I can’t disagree.” I got up to smoke again. Clint followed. The other bartender was out on the front stairs just finishing her smoke. She had overheard most of Clint’s tirade. As she headed back inside, she weakly smiled at us and said, “there are so many bad men in this world and nobody gives a shit.” Damn, she can be an instigator. The door closed behind her and Clint exhaled the smoke from a Maverick light. “I will paint this bar red with blood, and there’s nothing you or anyone here can do to stop it,” grinding the last few words between his teeth as they exited his mouth.

I felt like I should give a shit about keeping Rick out of the bar. Clint’s right about not wanting to share the place with somone who damaged his face enough to affect his livelihood. I stared across the street for a few drags, thinking that the only way I could actually get the guy barred from coming in again was tricking him into starting a fight with me. Trip him down the stairs or something and do the who me? routine until he swings on me. I tossed a glowing filter towards the street and looked at Clint. “The only thing I regret is that I didn’t work the night that guy fucked up your face. Rick won’t be drinking here any night that I’m here working,” I said, hoping that it sounded tough and that it was the truth.

Clint didn’t care. “Shut up and fuck you, coward.”