It Was Late Enough, Fine
A friend told me to check out this bar while in Barcelona. Absinthe, she said. The real deal, she said. Hemingway, she said. I was staying only a few blocks away in a crumbling hotel, so it wasn't hard to find. Past the farmacia, past neon, past pizza/Indian buffet/bar/screaming, past guys dissolving in doorways, past more neon. Corner of two alleys. The place is shabby, graffitied garage doors locked in place: who has fled?
A girl, a womanI never know how to categorize these thingsmaybe twenty-years old, stands off one of those doors, jittering her leg. She's wedged herself into white jeans, high heels, her thick black hair pulled back hard. Just over her right shoulder that graffiti swirls on the garage door. A pink, voluptuous bubble R, as if it is the girl's mark. Her makeup is big and dark around her eyes, then fades away, the swirls and fades behind her. She smokes like she knows what she's doing. Jiggles her leg, glances at me, back down the alley. The girl is younger than me.
Should I ask her if the bar is ever open? Knock my hand against that bubble R: Abra la puerta? is all I could think to say, which I think means something like, Could you open the door? Like she owns the place, just chooses to hang outside, jiggling her leg, making eye contact with those passing us by. Hemingway? is all I could say. From a distance, say the perspective of the three crumpled old men, discarded paper sacks, milling on the opposite corner, I could be trying anything. She looks pained and serious like how they do on TV.
The girl hisses something in Spanish: What are you looking at? it could be, or You're not here for him, so what are you after? However that is translated. I say nothing in the darkening alley, and I feel suddenly like I don't know what to do with my hands like they are someone else's hands.
Her words linger, the smoke from her cigarette. I lay my language inelegantly next to hers, tell myself that she insists I am beautiful, that I am something fast and sure, something like what once was, how it used to be. That finding this bar, strolling inside and sitting down angrily or sweatilly and drinking some stupid absinthe would alter me. Would make me understand what that bastard felt.
She looks away down the alley, jiggles her leg in the night. In the distance dark forms and figures, heads, shoulders. Someone makes a sound like a hyena would. Is this all that is left?