All the smokers are packed behind the glass of the only smoker-friendly restaurant in
I wait for a flight I would rather not take.
On the other side of that flight there is family and tears and a funeral. There is a casket in some dark back room of a funeral home with a body that used to be a man that is my father.
For now, I run my fingers along the base of the beer mug. The water condensation from the cold beer is making a mess of the napkin underneath the mug. I make a wet ball from the napkin and roll it towards the back of the bar where it stops just short of the edge and quivers and stops. I study the moisture on my fingers. I rub my right thumb and right index finger together to create friction and I hear a faint squeaking sound.
I think of a Sunday afternoon two weeks ago when I dialed his number for last time. I didn’t really know what to say to make him feel better. I think he knew it was the last time to say something special, but his condition would not allow him to make much sense at all.
The bartender lures me out of my own head and back to the present when he asks if I need another beer. I say, “Definitely.” A luxurious cacophony swirls around me: kids screaming, workers laughing, couples fighting, and couples reconciling. There is a basketball game on the TV above the bar. There is a smell of beer and bad airport food. “Why are airport bars so bright?” I wonder to myself. At that moment, the lights dim slightly and a neon Bacardi sign casts an orange glow across my face. I scoot my barstool closer so my chest presses against the bar. The clock on my cellphone says I have thirty-five minutes to go.
The bartender is a wrinkled man with gray thinning hair. With a slow gait, he approaches with another beverage for me. I dig in my pocket for a wadded collection of ones and fives. I give him cash, he gives me beer, and we make our exchange silently. He knocks twice on the bar to signal his thanks and walks away with the same slow amble.
I think of flying in low over the water with the lights of
I am joined at my left by an older woman with a bad blonde wig, shiny leather skin, and aqua-blue eye shadow that looks like it was applied with a roller. She smells of gingerbread cookies and whiskey. She orders a double Jack Daniels on the rocks. She catches me sizing her up and says, “I can’t fly without a little drink. I’ll be a nervous wreck once I get up in the air.” When it arrives, she puts it to her glittered lips and snaps her head back violently, dumping the contents down her waiting throat. In awe, I turn my attention towards my beer and sip quickly.