The piano played an indistinct song at the far end of the bar. My whiskey was a bit warm for my taste, but it was 101, so it was just the medicine I needed. It had been a day, one of those that just seem to stumble from one fuck up to another. Just when you think you’ve turned a corner, it’s just another shit sandwich that fate force feeds you. 

But now, between fate and yours truly, all is forgiven. I took a sip, the burn spread through my body, relaxing my muscles one by one. I rolled my shoulders and rocked my head from side to side. I loosened my tie even more- just for good measure. The barkeep asked if I wanted to refresh my drink. Normally I’d say something about how it was refreshing me so I’m obliged to return the favor, but that jovial shit is just a bridge too far today. 

The amber liquid flowed from the metal spout into my glass. I raised it up in mocked cheers with a word of thanks for the barman. I took a dose and put the glass to my forehead. I rolled the faux-crystal over my brow. 

I looked at the door behind me. She was late. Whatever, I’m not really in the social mood anyway. And I showed up early. I was going to run by the library and return my books, but that was out of the way and I just wasn’t going to bear the crowded subway for another minute.

I reached into the bag hanging on the back of my high chair. I pulled out a volume of verse. Tang dynasty Ci style. It didn’t resonate though and I ended up reading the same poem three or four times before I just sipped the booze and spaced out. 

The sunset was oddly visible through the basement windows. The subterranean bar had the odd style choice of having curtain windows that look directly at the cement retaining wall three feet away. The gap was covered by too-green astroturf and a few chairs for the smokers to puff away outside the bar. 

I kept glancing at the spiral staircase that led down from street level. No sign of those nice legs carefully descending. She didn’t like the staircase. She was convinced it was a trap to prevent drunk people from coming in. I guess she had a point, but what bar wants to keep away drunks? Even so, as luck would have it, this drunk is the high functioning type, and nimble on spiral staircases. 

The piano kept playing, but the melody was nothing special, just like the listener. The sign next to the stage said the pianist was from Korea, and that later he would perform with a scarf magician. 

Scarf magician? What the fuck. This is a jazz bar, I can’t stand for that type of shit here- or anywhere really. I’ll have to leave before that tomfoolery starts- I’m sure I’ll be unable to not heckle, and I like this bar, I don’t want to get kicked out. 

I took a solid slug and almost gave up all faith in humanity when, in the bar mirror, I saw those legs descending, carefully, down the stairs- and all was right with the universe. 

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