On Vice


By Aaron French
Written at a bar

Half gone bottles half filled with amber tones, half putrified, the color of thirsty soil. Half empty of scotch and bourbon and whiskey, the foretold spirits luster insipid tales.

Wooden eyes fill the wooden man who lumbers to the bar. Slams his arm down like a dull axe, stares a mile through the bottles mustered behind the bar.

Pin-up bartender, rolled up sleeves, pours the drink stiff with her slender and inked-up arm. She feels eyes on her ass. She’s used to it. Half of her violated while the other half flaunts.

She slides the whiskey. Counter sparse of sawdust, the glass stops half short. His hollow eyes rattle when he reaches.

He ain’t a local, but he’s familiar with smoky rooms. He’s familiar with absorbing space, with a blaze of liquor in his veins. Some aroma cues a nut in his brain to crack. He cracks his neck, cracks his fingers, cracks the glass with his grip.

He sips it slow. He savors.

Bartender sees a jaded man. His stature strays her eyes away from his face. He’s formidable. Such men seem incapable of broken spirit, nonetheless he wallows. The girl softens her strut. She wonders what could be.

These men come often. They come alone. They walk in android-like; men seasoned to the bar scene’s choreography.  The others —the married men, the uncorrupted, the puritans— they don’t have that empty swagger; they are fish out of water, their eyes flop all around.

She stopped judging long ago. All these men, they just want a hit off the pipe. She wants the same. She runs miles after work, she sweats it out. Some dance, some explore, some hide in books, some scream at strangers or throw rocks or piss in public. Some work to death, some paint, some murder. Men without vice aren’t men. Men without outlet for their consternation are void. She don’t trust men who masquerade, men holier than thou, men who lead the pack. These men deceive. She sees through charlatans; sees through men without chaos.

That’s why she loves the bar. She sees tension unravel. She sees facades melt, sees the real men inside. She feels the air become lighter as the night wares on.

The man’s once wooden eyes now smolder tiger-like. She twirls at her hair; pops out her chest at a man who now towers; a man so full of fire she feels she looks straight at the rising sun.

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