Slow nights, they’re the worst. Don’t get me wrong, I hate work as much as the next guy but if you’re going to be somewhere for 12 hours, it’s nice to have a little something to do. Nights like this, you’re stuck at the bar serving whatever sad weirdo lays claim to a barstool. They’ve got you all to themselves. You’re topping them up with cheap beer. You’re listening to their bullshit. You’re marvelling at how anyone can lack such basic understanding of human interaction. How someone can ignore your screaming disinterest. How someone can be socially dyslexic. Most people, even meth-hoofing hobos, they’ll piss off once they realise you’ll only give back monosyllables and grunts, no matter how inspired they consider their tedious observations on life to be. Barflies though, they’ll just keep on spilling their asinine crap. And tonight’s is lord of the fucking flies.
He looks like Charles Manson, if Manson was a Russian used car salesman. That’s Manson who’s Russian, you understand. His cars are from wherever. Mexico. Fucking Delhi. Mr Manson, he’s real intense. He’s got too much hair and wears too much cologne. He’s way too loud and he’s way too close, practically mounting the bar to get near me. A real personal space invader. His breath smells like an abattoir next-door to a brewery and it hangs around like a beaten dog. His accent is a blanket European. Greek, Italian, Russian. Maybe Romany or whatever. And he just keeps on fucking talking. Segues from politics to TV to musicians to actors to parenting to work-shy youth, and most recently, to fucking street performers.
“So they just stand there! How is that work?”
I exhale. Charlie nods eagerly, interpreting my breathing as agreement.
“Am I right? I’m right! If you’re going to be a performer, you must perform! Not just dress like a nutcase and stay still.”
“Another?” I say.
He empties his glass, nodding eagerly. Flat beer spills out, soaking into his stupid, twitching rug-face. On a good night I’d cut him off, kick him out and get some room at the bar but it’s been a shitty week and if I’m going to make rent, I’ve got to squeeze as much as I can out of Mr Manson. He’s refused a tab, paying drink by drink, so the tips are dripping out good and steady. As I pour his beer I imagine these freaky human statues staring me down. All dead eyes and stiff limbs. Jerking around whenever no one’s watching. Folding themselves through impossible angles. Haggard, paint-peeled fingers clawing for your back.
“I gotta admit it, they do creep me out.” I mutter.
I instantly regret it.
He almost jumps over the bar.
“You see! You get it my friend! It’s no good, this statue act. It’s boring and like you say it’s…ah! Unsettling!” He shouts, punctuating the last word by slamming his hand on the bar top, so proud to have understood and labelled another human’s emotions. Well done Mr Charlie fucking Manson.
It’s goddamn impossible to keep quiet when some jerk’s spouting out stuff you agree with. You can’t hold out forever. You give them something eventually. It’s like we’re hard-wired to reach out to anything familiar, shitty people with our fucking in-groups. We make me sick.
He sits there till closing. He keeps on talking. He’s back the next night and the one after that. Fucking great. Fucking perfect. Now I’m Charles Manson’s favourite bartender.