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. He slams his arm down like a dull axe and stares through the dusty bottles mustered on the shelf.

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 eyes rattle when he reaches.

He’s no local, but he’s familiar with smoky rooms. He’s familiar with absorbing space, with liquor blazing through 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 worn out man. Her eyes stray from his face. She’s sees he was once formidable, a man who once would have seemed incapable of broken spirit.

The girl softens her strut. She wonders what could be.

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

She stopped judging long ago. All these men have an inner burn to tend to. 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 the tension unravel. She sees facades melt. Sees the realness inside. She feels the air become lighter as the night wares on.

The man’s once wooden eyes now smolder tiger-like above the empty glass before him. Bartender twirls her hair. She sees a man who now towers; a man so full of fire she feels she looks straight at the rising sun.

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