i'm not the only one who had the bar's phone number trapped in my head. franticly tapping the digits into my cell phone and ordering two pitchers before last call.
the rabbits, the bar's more regular regulars, had already fallen off barstools and were now sitting in slushy urine drenched pants, head on the bar. the owner had already been guided to his apartment upstairs, slept some of it off, and was now back. stumbling around wide-eyed looking for women to hug.
we are doing math: calculating intake times drinkers times shot-gun technique. how many pitchers do we need to order at 12:59 a.m. before the bartenders suggestion that she's closing turns into a threat. before she is typing the code into the bar's alarm, she's setting a bomb, and we have 15 seconds to sprint out the door.
my friends were thrilled when bar time fell back, giving us an extra hour at some point in the early 2000s. i was worried. like i said, we were already sprint drinkers. an extra hour wouldn't give us a more relaxed, leisurely drinking schedule. an extra hour would make us an extra hours worth of drunk.
afterbars that began at 1:35 a.m. would now begin at 2:35 a.m. by the time my landlord had slopped together cheeseburger hamburger helper, doled out the mismatched bowls, and played his complete nitty gritty dirt band collection, the sun would be up. we would be clutching cans of natural light, squinting out the window while children lined up at bus stops and 9-5ers commuted to work.
that's no way to live. but we did it, and a few nights a week i'd wake up on my landlord's couch -- or splitting half of his bed -- wrapped in a thin and nubby vikings' comforter that smelled like feet and basement.
tuesday night reminded me of this. chuck and i made a last-ditch decision to hit quinlan's. if you already know you are going to take a cab home, there is no point in passive drinking. you should just attack. you don't want to be sitting in the back seat of a cab thinking: eh. maybe i could have driven. that's just going to lead to six dollars worth of remorse. no, i say do it right.
and it's like we've walked in late to a movie. the pool table is busy; a wilco fan has taken over the juke box; an older couple is using consonants so sloshy that they sound like vowels.
an older man, short, is trying to create a looming presense over a 20-something boy who is alone and hunkered over his drink.
the older man puts his face inches from the boys, asking rhetorical questions and then challenging him to a fight. the bartender is poised a few feet away, listening with his eyes while pretending to not notice. i'm staring, but i'm a gawker. chuck is tuned in, like the bartender.
"... take this outside?" the man challenges the boy.
the kid ignores him.
the man has his arm clenched around the boy's head now.
at least one tv is showing ultimate fighting.
"have you ever noticed how things start to get pretty gay in bars around 1 a.m.?" i ask chuck.
"those ultimate fighters have been in the missionary position at least three times already," he adds.
the old man loses the cigarette he has cupped behind his ear. and eventually the two go outside. a young girl keeps the men separated.
"enjoying the show?" i ask the sloshy couple when i go up to the bar, indicating the empty bar stools of the would-be fighters. the woman nods enthusiastically. i giggle. it took me 13 minutes to drink my first beer. my second takes a bit longer. the third is a bit shorter.
when the men return, they keep a stool between them. a friend joins the boy. and we lose track of the older man. another another wilco song follows another wilco song. and our cab ride is worth it.