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Robert owned the bar that night.

He sat there at the end of it, the bar that is, not the night, seemingly caught up with the patterns swirling at the bottom of his bottle and occasionally singing along with whatever the jukebox was pumping out. ABBA never sounded so good as it did coming out of that particular mouth, and Freddy Mercury, in all his finery, would have to have mumbled an intoxicated 'not bad' before completing his eventual rotation. It was that kind of night.

Robert couldn't sing to save his life. In all reality he could barely talk most of the time, his lips planted firmly around the rim of a glass or of a beer bottle, mumbling secrets to the amber liquid he would sell his nights for.

But tonight was just too much, it looked like. The bridge and tunnel crowd refused to play anything good on the box and we were groaning under the pressure, waiting for them to just leave, damnit, to leave us to our solitude and our songs, the hopelessly intoxicated left slouched on their stools and remembering when that song was actually on the radio; remembering when a Number One Hit meant something even vaguely concrete. So many good songs were being left in their cradles, little plastic circles of potential ready to grab some hopeless bystander by the throat and shout "REMEMBER?" until the dances ended.

He started low and somber, his voice resonating in his bottle, amplified unto the heavens in a desperate plea for salvation from bartenders who'd heard it all before though, admittedly, not quite like this. The guy sang like he knew Fernando. He sang like his Last Dance was seconds away and he needed to find his excessively floppy hat. He didn't know the words and the melodies were vague, even to him, but he owned them, made them his own in such a peculiar way that no one dared to join him; no one even dared to interrupt. It was just him and a song, lost in a memory he wouldn't dare share with any of us, swimming in a moment so thick as to be transportive and real, realer than anything we'd seen in years.

He sang and we listened, and the tourists slipped out the door for more hospitable climes. We listened, snapping along drunkenly and watching this man, torn between genuine respect and empathy.

The song ended. He looked around, his trance ending with the fading strings. No one was left but us, the people he had just thrown himself in front of the train for.

His voice resonated in his glass. "One of you fuckers owes me a drink."

And the amber flowed, thick as syrup, until Robert could barely stand. And we loved him for it: the man who took the bullet for Tuesdays everywhere.




For R.C.

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