I cross the street when the little man and the swinging traffic light exchange colors to get to the Good Bar and it is a good bar because Nancy runs it. The guy in the dentist’s chair across from me doesn’t budge. He just sits there at the intersection, spilling out of his throne on wheels, looking at me and beyond me, the black trash bag tied to his chair flapping behind his head like a shredded pirate flag.
I hop and skip over rivulets of hot piss running down the footpath, sourced from a hidden corner. There’s a form under the cardboard boxes and newspapers stacked against the wall. I see a thick toenail rotting at the edges, sticking out of a hot pink sock. I breathe in deeply. It’s perverted to want to smell the sour urine, the curdling milky stench of puke, the decay of this human body. And yet I do.
The bar is covered in it’s usual set of bougie limbs, elbows teetering and arms resting on the marble surface clad in plaid, maori tattoos that are supposed to mean something, smart wool or organic cotton. White fingers trace the cold sweat running down Moscow mule mugs, push and pull the delicate stems of wine glasses. The couple in the left corner is definitely on a first date, a Swipe Right, perhaps a Swipe Right for right now. Jane Doe is hanging on to every word Jon Doe is saying. Jon Doe is feeling like the king of the world because Jane Doe thinks he’s funny and he gets to be with the girl with the big bouncy tits.
Nancy comes by and gives me a hug. I don’t take it for granted that she knows my name, that she smiles in familiar recognition every time I walk in. We talk about my new job, a startup, I tell her. Bold move, she says. It doesn’t feel bold. I can still pay the bills. I can still come to the Good Bar and pay for my drink.
I slouch, bony shoulders up and over me like an angel’s wings, an olive colored resting bitch face plastered to keep strangers away. Yet here he is, bearded and hipstered, sitting beside me trying to connect. He orders bruschetta, the chunks of tomato swallowed by the hole in his wiry pubic face – all except one angry red sliver accompanied by crumbs – little snow flakes, two, three, four, five, stuck below his line of sight, waiting for baby birds to devour them. He strikes up a conversation with the petite brunette in the corner, chest blown up like a hot air balloon, crowding her space with his form and his scent. I wonder how hard she’s trying to avoid the mocking tomato on his face.
It’s girls night out to my right – excessive wine and restrictive pushup bras create back fat spillage but satin blouses gloss over all imperfections, belly rolls and muffin tops disguised in elegance. Their Buzzfeed flavor of feminism is annoying. I judge them for the crackle and pop in their voices, the persistent need for validation that punctuates every comment. I know better but I’m too tired to be good tonight.
I sign my receipt and xoxo it for Nancy. She gives me leftover drip coffee from the next door cafe. I see Beard coming back from the shitter to his girl. The tomato is gone, as is his bravado. Mirror mirror on the wall, why are you smiling so?
Pioneer Square is washed in orange street lights with a quiet dark city of glass making room for what used to be. Yellow rain streaks my vision. A lardy woman stands in the middle of the street, stained white tank top pulled over her large smiling face, her massive teet generously offered to the world for a satiating suckle. Fat Lady Soprano dances drunkenly as she serenades the neighborhood.
I am mesmerized.
My foot catches in the gutter.
I laugh maniacally.
So does Fat Lady Soprano.
I offer her Nancy’s coffee. She chugs it.
On the other side of shame is freedom, I write in my journal that night.