By H.A. Luck
Need placed me on the first bus so I am on it as it glides to a stop at the Dead End. A bar, the last bar, the bar I went to when I had sworn off bars. It’s a beautiful place to cast off old dreams and dress up in new ones. Should the new ones fade there are rooms available upstairs for the equivalent of five dollars. You can go up, take a breather and come back down, like a boxer at the bell. The bus stops practically at the front door, where the leftovers from the night spill and stumble out and sure enough, a trio is there to greet us. They’ve got the night painted onto their faces, right enough. I used to wear that paint myself. Until it flaked. First onto the bus is a short man. I hear his friends call him Twinkle Dog and maybe that is because he is snuffling a bit, with a twitch and a shine in his eye. He’s got a go-cup sloshing and bounces easy on his feet. The next one on is a sweet-talking compadre with a devil’s beard and ‘stache to suit. He is chatting high, fighting the down. The third gets on and of her, what to say? Our compadre is trying to to close down a maybe less than successful evening, one that turned to chewed foil and the morning sun is shooting the lights out of the swaying girl he is trying to convince to enter ecstasy. Or his version of it. She isn’t all the way there yet, it seems to me. But the train station might just do it. There are options there. We arrive and the short man descends first, wading bravely through sleepy pigeons like it’s all newly discovered territory and he’s heading for the first cafes licensed to serve liquor at this hour. His compadre steps lightly and hands his likely lady down. Of her, what to say? I had watched her on the bus, stumbling to its grooves, all dolled up in smoke and loss and sex and sin. I dreamed myself right down the drain into a life as wobbly as her heels and who am I to know her song because the early morning hours were spinning their own strange wheels. These, though, these three, these are the ones I will cradle in my heart. She most of all, because she was someone I once knew better than I know myself now.
H.A. Luck was raised and educated in Baltimore, Maryland and attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He currently lives in Bern, Switzerland, where he is a writer and teacher.