One time, a young girl cried so hard about her ex, he brought her to me. “You’re good with words,” he said, “can you talk to her?”
Her & the ex sit at opposite ends of the bar now.
I was not cheered up.
But one time he drove past me in a van, when I was buying groceries in my pyjamas, and shouted at me in Turkish until I saw him.
And honestly, it’s the only thing keeping me sane at the moment.
And for an hour we laughed about the rumour that The Pickle put a piece of candy up a girl’s arse. And I think it’s a Candy Corn, but PD reckons a lollipop.
And my Turkish barman friend walked over & hugged me in silence. & I left without saying a word. Because you can do that somewhere ure always going back to.
But of course I feel someone standing behind me, and it’s PD having left work early.
“Your eyes,” he eventually says. “I think because of your eyes.”
It’s not like these guys ask women about themselves anyway, so it’s easy to avoid saying anything.
Paint It Black plays. I think it is the live version. I leave before PD can arrive.
“I don’t want to know, man.” I say.
The Dog Whisperer rubs her shoulders and she tells me about her recent abortion. “It’s my first day back in the bar.” She says. “I don’t know why I told you that.”
I tell her, “This place has that kind of affect on us.”
But this is not a love story.
“Don’t,” he tells me, sad, “just don’t.”
They overpour and under charge. That’s how you know you’re a proper local—when your bill is only a quarter of what it should be.
How I turned physical page after page scanning for stray commas. How I sat in the bar for days on end, and everyone knew to leave me alone during those long hours.
And when I was, I shouted FINISHED across the bar. And they poured us all shots. And they toasted to the book.
PD moves bar stools around to sit with me. No one mentions the conversation from the last time we met.
When I go to the bathroom, Zaza’s friend takes my chair and PD gets so mad at the guy I think there’s gonna be a fight for a moment.
I catch Turkish Barman’s eye and he mimes snapping PD’s neck. I laugh so hard, squeeze to tight, and nearly choke PD out.
He is red and breathless and laughing.
PD kisses my forehead when he leaves.
The weather changes outside. Everything is too cold to feel.
Usually a group of unremarkable interchangeable women play ABBA on the jukebox. Which I pretend to hate.
The Dog Whisperer and his girlfriend are fighting.
The guy who dresses all in black has his big headphones around his head and taps away on his laptop.
The Owner tells me the guy PD nearly fought over my chair two days earlier, is his business partner who slept with The Owner’s girlfriend. “I just leave him to his own shit when he’s here.”
I don’t like The Pickle. He is nearing 50, small, weedy almost, and wears metal t-shirts with the sleeves cut off.
“Spent my thanksgiving in hospital with my dad,” he tells me. “Looks like he’s not gonna make it.” And he shows me a picture of his old man in a hospital bed.
And he pushes his chair back and tries to start a fight with an unresponsive man, “Step outside, buddy,” he says, before giving up.
“Yeah,” The Owner laughs, “because you haven’t worked out how to hurt them yet.”
The Owner ties his long black hair into two braids, his fingers tattooed appropriately with the words LAST CALL.
“You didn’t go home?” I ask.
“Where is home?” he says knowingly.
I am back for only an hour when I walk into my bodega, and see PD buying cigarettes.
Shocked, I think about walking out, when the guy behind the counter shouts, “My friend! Long time!”
“What are you doing here?” He asks. “I still live here.” I say.
The Pickle is hitting on a young girl and barely notices us sitting there.
The room smells like hot apple cider.
“I need a drink,” he told him, head in his hands.
She took his car keys, left the bar, and crashed his car into an Uber.
He went home later that day with a puppy. He nearly bought two.
Later, PD puts his coat on to leave and leans forward to kiss me.
I move away. “Sorry,” he says, and kisses me on the forehead and walks out.
I wonder if by home he means Brooklyn, or the bar.
It’s been about six months and there’s still no sign of him.
My first clear memory of him is still that time in the backyard when I saw him staring when I walked out.
But then he brought a chair over, launched into the most self deprecating humour, and then left.
Thinking about it, there’s not been a single time since that we haven’t sat together.
But that was months ago. And I sometimes think about texting him when he’s not here. “We know where to find each other,” he once said. What’s the point beyond that.
He’s good friends with The Owner, and The Pickle, bonding over Sicilian and Italian upbringings, with The Owner being half Italian himself.
The Owner laughs and remembers a time they tried to shoot a drone down from the bar with a BB gun.
Id rather not fucking think about it, I tell him. And he laughs. Even these days I don’t hate him so much.
Instead, I give him a cheap beaded bracelet I found that looks like the one he had broken. “I can’t tell you how happy this makes me.” He keeps saying. But I won’t look at him.
I think of all the different ways we love. I think about all the different ways PD might have meant it.
The Pickle is surprised white supremacists showed up to Bed Stuy. “They’re Nazis,” I say, “they already don’t have shame.”
It’s probably in my best interest to mention that me and The Owner used to date. A while ago.
I want to scream these words: You don’t remember saying you love me? You don’t remember saying I’m one of your favourite people?
“Oh god. No. Was I mean or did I overshare?”
He is still wearing the bracelet I gave him.
I don’t look in his direction when he says goodbye.