dive bar dissertation.

it’s midday and i join the other flies taking a break
from hovering around life in a bar that years before
i would’ve held in disdain. but i’m here now, because
it’s the only place in the world at the moment that i
can disappear without hopping a plane, train or bus.
this is where time, if it doesn’t stand still, stands
on its head long enough for you to get your balance.
or lose it. a dive bar always needs a set of curtains,
as if you’re shutting the world’s judgement out. the
bar needs to look as if it has weathered wars, the
projections of one’s thoughts and stomach and can still
bear the cuts one makes with a Swiss army knife. this
bar that i sit at is on the way there, looking as if
it once was the centerpiece of a Polynesian themed
restaurant in the middle of Carle Place.

i nurse my Heineken and think about things. the jukebox
plays Sam and Dave, but it doesn’t do much to rouse
the few people in the joint. that’s Carrie’s job.
Carrie is one of the dancers here. this is one of those
bars where strippers go to die. once the breasts sag,
once the lines of age show through all of the foundation
around the eyes, once the cellulite gains control of
the thighs…if the woman who dances and strips doesn’t
let go, it is the beginning of the end. only joints
like this will welcome her. the low lights and Miller
High Life make her young again. she becomes a siren
who lets her body sing with a muted voice. i’ve known
many women like Carrie. that’s for another round and
another time. she moves up to the stage and removes her
bra and gyrates to the music. smiles come after the tips.

places like this make you feel melancholy. they make
you feel as if you’ve hit the bottom of the bottle.
you start thinking about the past a bit too much. you
start reliving each moment. you begin to believe you’ll
never get out. the other bar patrons all have this look,
a cross between glazed indifference and sober thought.
which you wouldn’t expect during happy hour. i think
about my life at this point. i dress those thoughts up
in rags, feeling poor beyond words. the dive bar is
limbo for me. a purgatory with cheap drinks, the closest
thing to heaven for folks on the bottom rungs. Carrie
looks towards me, and grins. her nipples glisten like
the chocolate icing on fresh cupcakes. i grin back and
raise my beer in a toast to her. it’s my third one, the
one that brings me back to the shore of hope. i look
around at the construction paper signs and the pool table
bathed in fluorescent light.

the bartender saunters over, fresh off of picking at a
roast chicken dinner. ‘want another one, hon?’

‘no hon, i’m good. take care.’ i leave her a good tip,
raise up off the stool and slowly walk towards the door.
this walk always feels as if you’re wading through a
tide of molasses. i open the door and let the sun hit me
flush in the face. but i know when i’m ready to dive
into whatever is bugging me, places like this will still
be here.