Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Papa in the Tempus Fugit.

Another late night last night, and another night where I taxied not to my apartment, but instead to the cozy and humble incandescence of the Tempus Fugit. I walked down a jumble of hallways, passed through a gauntlet of galvanized steel doors and up and down a Tower of Babel assortment of stairs. In short order, I had situated my obliquity on the worn red leather of my favorite bar-stool, one in from the end.

"Again," the bartender said as he pulled me a Pike's (the ALE that won for YALE!) in a six-ounce juice glass, "Again, you are without your canine better half. You must have straight from the office come."

"Yes," I said downing my first glass of suds and tapping it for a refill. "We are working day and night."

He filled me in a trice and slid over a small wooden bowl of salted Spanish peanuts, which I pushed away as I always do with the lugubrious epithet, "a pound in every nut."

The bartender began polishing the polished mahogany with a well-worn and only slightly damp terry. He cleared his throat, removed his lit corona from the one's tray of his cash till and began:

"It was very late," he said, "and everyone had left the cafe except an old man who sat in the shadow the leaves of the tree made against the electric light. In the day time the street was dusty, but at night the dew settled the dust and the old man liked to sit late because he was deaf and now at night it was quiet and he felt the difference. The two waiters inside the cafe knew that the old man was a little drunk, and while he was a good client they knew that if he became too drunk he would leave without paying, so they kept watch on him."

I took the prose in. Rare to hear good prose recited, and I killed another Pike's.

"Papa is here tonight," I said.

"He is here every night," the bartender said, drawing me a third. "Just as Ray Charles is with every musician and Nat Cole was with Ray."

I nodded in agreement, nursing number three. 

"Our souls are deep and dark like the inside of the muzzle that Papa stared down, before with his giant prognathous toe he pulled back the trigger that sent his amygdala crashing against the worm-eaten pine-panelling."  

"You don't exactly sound like little Mary Sunshine," I said, staring into my clasped hands.

He wiped the bar ever-cleaner and pulled a drag on his cigar. The atmosphere filled with a Gary, Indiana of blue smoke.

He continued his disquisition. 

"Turning off the electric light he continued the conversation with himself, It was the light of course but it is necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. You do not want music. Certainly you do not want music. Nor can you stand before a bar with dignity although that is all that is provided for these hours. What did he fear? It was not a fear or dread, It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all a nothing and a man was a nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee. He smiled and stood before a bar with a shining steam pressure coffee machine."

"You're putting in an espresso machine?" I asked putting on my coat against the cool outside.

"Go home," he said. "Go to your clean, well-lighted place."

I shoved two twenties at him across the polished hardwood. He took them, opened the cash register with a ring and gave me back four tens.

"On me," he said.

And then, as I left, he recited some more.

"He would lie in the bed and finally, with daylight, he would go to sleep. After all, he said to himself, it's probably only insomnia. Many must have it."

I walked home, in the still, fully, as usual, awake.


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