Thursday, May 21, 2015

ONE OF THOSE NIGHTS

A long time ago, somewhere in the mid-80s, I frequented this bar—I can’t remember the name of it right now—along the Halifax harbor. I became quite familiar with the manager and every weekend, when I went on my little excursions in Halifax, I would visit him for a beer and a chat. He was like an old friend, someone I could confide in.

One summer afternoon I went to find him for one of our little chats. When I walked in, his wife and children were there and he was having an argument with his wife. One of the regulars waved me over and gave me the jist of what was going on. Apparently, he had caught his wife with another man. After a few minutes, she stormed out the door with the kids. I went over to offer my help.

“Dirty, filthy bitch,” he said. “Oh, I could just ram my hand in her chest, haul out her black heart, and make her eat it!” He poured himself a shot of Johnnie and downed it, then another, then another.

“Hold up, there, buddy,” I said. “Too early in the afternoon to get wasted, and besides, people do the craziest things when they’re drunk.”

He took one last shot, put the bottle back on the shelf, and then poured me a cold one on tap.

He told me that he had closed up early last night; no one had been in the bar for a couple of hours, so he decided to close up and surprise his wife.

“Well, surprise her I did,” he said. “I got in about quarter past one. The house was silent. I took off my coat, my boots, even went to the fridge to get a snack. Heck, I sat down at the counter and ate a piece of cold chicken. Then, I went upstairs; I was a bit surprised to see that Bobby and Rachel weren’t up. I checked Bobby’s room—he wasn’t there, then I checked Rachel’s room and she wasn’t there. So then I headed down the hallway to our bedroom, and that’s when I heard the noises. I knew right away what it was and my heart just sank. That cold hearted bitch. I stopped for a moment, but I couldn’t handle the wails coming out of her. I pushed the door open and there she was, facing me, on her knees…”

He couldn’t talk anymore. I didn’t want to hear anymore. I was pissed. I felt for him. I felt bad that he felt bad. How do you console someone in that kind of situation? What could you possibly say? I took a drink of my beer and waited. I just let him vent.

He went on to say the guy left with a bloody, possibly broken nose, that she wanted a divorce and custody of the kids, and the house and the bar. Plus, alimony and child support.

I had known Harry for a few years and knew that he loved his family and was a very hard-working man. I had seen how his wife treated him and how much of a twat she was. She was judgmental and critical to him and the kids, and was very narcissistic and selfish. Nobody liked her, but everyone loved Harry; he was a good man.

After he spoke with me he had to go see a lawyer, so Jenna, his second-in-command, tended the bar.

“Man, I sure hope he doesn’t lose the bar,” she said.

“Yah, I know, a lot of people would hate to see it go. So many regulars, and the Saturday nights here are awesome.” I said.

I finished my beer, said my cheers to the regulars, and was off. I went shopping and browsing and caught a movie, but I couldn’t get Harry’s predicament off my mind. I went home and got ready to go clubbing. I called a friend and she came out with me. We went to every happening joint along the waterfront, and our final stop was Harry’s. By then, we were pretty tipsy. Well, more like slurring words and walking a crooked line.

My friend, Melanie, and I were on the floor dancing to a funky beat when I noticed that Harry’s wife was on the floor; my blood grew hot in my veins. I grabbed Melanie and we went over to the shooter bar where we gulped Sex on the Beach and Zambuca shots. I rambled on about Harry and what was going on and how his wife was a whore. Melanie was just as drunk as I was and agreed with me, and as we partied the night away, my anger grew.

The next morning, I woke up with an incredible hangover. I puked my guts out, my head was inhabited by rhinos, and I drank a two litre bottle of Lime pop—that I threw up later. As I was coming out of the bathroom, Melanie was heading in.

“What’s that on your hands?” she said.

I looked up at her. “What’s that on your face?”

She went to the mirror. Then she threw up. After a few minutes of hugging the toilet, she managed to get to her feet. I studied my hands.

“What the hell did we do last night?” she said.

“I don’t have a clue.” I said, with my eyebrows lowered. “The last thing I remember is shots at the shooter bar.”

We went to the kitchen, made coffee, and tried to figure out why we had car grease, or oil, all over ourselves. We went back to the bedroom, coffee in hand, and examined our clothes. Mine was full of oil, as if I had performed an engine oil change. Melanie’s was more torn than oil stained and her nylons were shredded, with grass on the knees. My hands were black and Melanie’s face was dotted with oil stains. We then flipped our purses out on the bed, but there was nothing to tell us about what we had done. There was change, blush, and lipstick, but nothing else. When we looked at our shoes, they were full of mud and grass.

“Holy, shit, Melanie, what the hell did we do last night? I don’t remember a thing.”

“Me, neither, I don’t even remember leaving the club or how we got home. Did we take the ferry over or did we take a cab?”

I laughed. “I don’t have a fricken clue!” 

We looked at each other and just laughed. What else could we do? We were in our twenties for cryin’ out loud! We just assumed we had fun and that was it. We went to the living room and watched a movie, forgetting about it, and nursing our hangovers.

The following Saturday I took Melanie to see Harry. When I walked in, I was surprised to see Jenna tending bar.

“Hey, girl, what’s up?” I said. “Harry’s not in today?”

“No," she said. She leaned in close. “He’s at his wife’s funeral.”

“What? Oh, my God! What happened?”

"She got into a car accident last Saturday night. Mick was tending bar, Harry was with the kids. Apparently, her brakes failed and the guy who was driving her home, lost control of the car at the intersection of Robie and South Street, near Dalhousie. She was killed on impact, and the guy is in critical condition at Victoria General. Harry said the mechanic who checked the car said that the brake lines had been tampered with.”

When I looked at Melanie, she was white as a ghost.

“It’s a good thing he was with the kids, or else he’d have a lot of questions to answer,” she said, and then went to serve one of the customers.

I grabbed Melanie, who was about to faint, and left. We rode the bus back to my place, neither one saying a word. We were torn about what to do. Could we do something like that? Could we be capable of such a thing? We chatted all afternoon, analyzing the situation, going over the scene at the bar, trying to remember, but we were utterly blank.

Just then the phone rang. We froze. I went to pick it up.

“Don’t!” Melanie said. “What if it’s the Police?”

I considered it, for a moment, then called her crazy and answered the phone.

“Hello?” I said, barely breathing.

After the conversation, I hung up, sighed, and fell into the armchair, laughing.

“Who was it?”

“It was Mick, the bartender at the club. We stayed until closing and Mick was going to give us a ride home, but his car wouldn’t start. When he opened the hood to see what was wrong, we started acting like mechanics and started fiddling with the engine and stuff. We got grease all over ourselves. He said that we were laughing and giggling and falling down all over the place.” I laughed some more.

“But how did I get all torn up?”

“He said that you needed to pee so you went into the bushes, but it was more like a muddy hole, and you were crawling around in there. He said that we had to haul you out. Then he called a cab and he dropped us off here and went on home. He just called to say that he had the money we lent him.”

“I don’t remember lending him any money, do you?” she said.

“Nope, but I don’t care, because I didn’t kill anybody!”

We were both so relieved that we got out a bottle of Vodka and mixed a couple of Screwdrivers. We swore that we would never get that drunk again. Later, we got ready to go out clubbing, both of us feeling pretty damn good.