You turn your head sidewise, away from your reflection in the mirror. For the last few hours, the image it returns gives back only guilt and given the state you’re in, that’s the last thing you need right now. You think to yourself “Fuck that shit…”

Your gaze turn towards the neon clock suspended above the men’s room door. The glare of the red and green is muddled and fuzzy and the hour and the minute hand seem to have been fused into one. You squint at the image and try to make sense of it. Somehow, it’s almost closing time and you wonder where the hours went.

The day started out innocently enough. A couple of beers to unwind, some sports on ESPN, a conversation or two with the regulars and maybe a tune or two on the jukebox to lighten the mood a bit. You’re a pro at this, you know when it’s time to go home.

After a couple of hours, the regulars know when to fold their tents and make off for the safety of home. They bid their goodnights in the form of firm handshakes or maybe a tentative hug and head off into the evening and the bosom of their families. Their last words to you go something to the effect of “You gonna be alright” and of course you answer in the affirmative. They ponder that same question as they weave their way through traffic and into their respective driveways and the safety of their homes as you sit there and watch the crowd dwindle away.

You call out to the bartender to bring you another beer and as she sets it down you figure “what the hell” and order a shot. After all, you got no place better to be and it’s still kinda early and there’s still a game on the TV. As you sit there in silence, the second wave begins to come through the door. You might know some of them in passing but these aren’t the same folks you normally shoot the shit with. You decide to get on their good side and order a round for everybody. You tell the bartender, “Make mine a double”.

Another few hours have leaked by. The second wave has repaid your generosity and is now growing tired of your shit. You’ve already paid your tab once but now decide to open another one and the bartender gives you a look that seems to say, “enough, asshole”. But, since you’re a regular she gives in and even though the place is fairly empty you notice that the service that was once so prompt has slowed to a crawl. The seats around you are abandoned and everybody but you seems to have better things to do with the rest of the night.

The third wave, if you can call it that, comes through the door. At first you think to yourself, “bunch a fuckin’ drunks” but then you think you recognize a familiar face. Next thing you know you’re all best friends and the decibel level of the conversation has gone up considerably.

You order yet another round and the bartender gives you a look that borders somewhere between shame, pity and concern. “Last one” says and asks for your car keys. “Whatever” you say and hand them over. You’d do anything for the bar to stay open just so that you don’t have to go home. The remaining patrons have suddenly become your best friends…until it’s time to leave.

You try and finagle one more out of the bartender but she too has grown tired of your shit. She’s wiped from running drinks all night and wants to go home. You demand your car keys back but she’s not giving them up. “Go home” she says, “Sleep it off”. You stand there in a nearly deserted parking lot feeling lost and forlorn. Inside your own head you hear voices that say that nobody knows your pain, nobody understands and worst of all, nobody fuckin’ cares.

You decide to try and find another place that’s open but all the barstools are put up for the night and as you try and negotiate your way home a car pulls up behind you gives a quick beep. You turn and look and through your foggy eyes and you see the bartender waving towards you. She rolls down the window and says, “Jesus Christ, get in the fuckin’ car.”

A few minutes later, she deposits you on your front doorstep and despite your advances hands over your house and car keys and leaves you to fend for yourself.

You fall asleep on your couch and wake up the next morning still in the same clothes. You wonder where the truck is that hit you last night before puking up whatever it is that remains in your stomach. A quick shower and some toothpaste and coffee for breakfast seems to bring back a semblance of normalcy.

You gather up the nerve to make that walk of shame, back to the scene of the crime and retrieve your car before anybody notices it’s still there. I don’t know if there’s a lonelier sight in the world than that of a solitary car sitting in an otherwise abandoned parking lot. A few hours later you muster up the courage to go back and try and reconstruct the events of the night before. News travels fast in your little circle at the end of the bar and your friends are already giving you shit about your actions.

Naturally, you blame the bartender. Claim you were “over served” but everybody knows better. In order to restore whatever dignity you have left you think to yourself, “Fuck it.” It’s then that you ask the day bartender to “Sprinkle the infield on me” and before you know it, the journey begins again.

“Over served?”

I don’t think so…

There are some things in life that despite all your efforts to place the blame somewhere else, you have to own up to.

Playing with fire is one of them.

Playing the fool is another.

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