The face in his mirror was his. Not necessarily the one he might have invented if such things were up to him. It was older more significant of those two old ghosts that had long ago bore him into the world. The asshole on the Internet was spouting his trivial in the next room on the old laptop. His last remaining companion. All the rest? Well. The voice had some comfort by way of familiarity. Such a fucking turncoat acting right wing but when he did his little bios of famous Liberal underclass types. A sense of reciprocity that in the context of the voyeur in that mirror was a hypocrite. That seemed to keep things balanced in terms of his own lack of current circumstances. The cigarette smoke was back. That previous week being worse than all the ones before. Come unspoken personality with kinky hair decided to buy some relaxer. At least that throat that had been burning from a lye type smell had calmed down a bit. But the coughing was still plaguing him. A whiff of smoke and he was nearly on all fours coughing his guts out. The liberal commentator had not rounded the corner yet with all his mock amazement. That on top of the choking was getting to be too much. Out the door before the summer Sun went down. A beer from the flagging universe of five dollars cash left in the wallet. It was the middle of the month and for the third month in a row was out of dough again. Five bucks would garner a beer and a dollar tip. That after a good long walk to the tiny tap that was distinguished by the fact of having the cheapest prices. Another little sliver adjoining a pizza joint that offered the American equivalent of the European, beer and a brat.
The keys and his wallet tucked into opposite pockets, he slipped the bottom lock on and slammed the door behind him. Downstairs the old codgers were sitting in their walking chairs soaking up the afterglow of the fading day. The parade of vehicles whisking by in preparation for the Saturday night ritual of a place to go. He started out in his five piece outfit of old worn pants and t-shirt, ball cap, mirrored shades, and sandals. The self that he projected mentally a far cry from the muffin top senior that still could surprise other pedestrians with the vigorous pace of his walking past them. Life after all was attitude. It didn’t matter if you believed it, 24/7. It just mattered if you could summon it when needed. Especially at those lowest times when stability was absent and pockets were next to empty. He calculated the necessary math for the evening as he passed various combinations of younger types. He was in possession of less money than they would spend as the local Italian beef joint. What did he care at this point? He had eaten thousands of pounds of steaks and driven autos that that the kids of today spoke in reverent tones about. Now it was different. A temporary situation until he got working again. Three years of resumes submitted weekly had proved that these times required more magic than art. But as far as he was concerned the persistence had not yet run out. He would keep on going if nothing else but the irritate those that believed that his kind should already be a memory in a grave somewhere.
The bar was next to empty which was surprising given that it was after six. Dark with four big screen LCDs blasting out the same pathetic visual assault of half-time rubbish and continuous ‘uh wah’s from some nineteen year old female pop star clone. He emptied his fiver out of his wallet and held it out hovering above the bar until the young Millennial bartender was ready to take notice of him. There wasn’t much conversation beyond ‘Miller Lite’. The Yuppie suburban guy in the Izod shirt two chairs down with his face pasted in a superior expression hovering a bottle of Heineken. What kind of half-paid for SUV did you drive the empty look in return momentarily mumbled? Perhaps it was apparent that like in all his other visits that they knew he was out of there to escape to plastic coated steel picnic tables just out front. He barely caught a glimpse of the bar life. But the prospect of somewhere between diffidently innocent and cynical did not bother to convince him. The rush of the motorway and the occasional trail of pedestrian wandering by was entertainment enough for him. The lower rent district of the premium ‘shruburb’ just opposite the highway always promised the true picture of everyday humanity. He wasn’t disappointed with two salt and pepper shakers blowing cones of smoke back and forth at each other engaged in what one might have speculated as a Tinder possibility. Another big hipped maiden walked slowly the other way smartly dressed in Summer attire that didn’t need to shout ‘whore; to inspire respectful if not admiring attraction.
The bottle of beer half shot he began to wonder about his own fate. Family dead or gone, with no job or prospects of same in the near future, and given his age perhaps never again. Funny how in the day and age you were spit out the door when the statistics demanded that you were no longer useful. “Fuck ’em!” It’s my life, not someone else’s!” But, it had become a life where he could no longer recall the last time of being excited or in love. Those feeling now as incomprehensible to him as fluent Japanese to an Congolese African. The space inside was hollow with nothing beyond the echo of stale memories to often well-repeated. No possibility of a spark to an otherwise long rusted heart. It was a wonder that he bothered to look when some young thing pranced by ever mindful out of the corner of her eye of possible attention to disdain. Why bother to play that game? His greater struggle was to twist up from the seat and not stagger back into the door wanting to trade his empty bottle for a full one. He had a Debit card with a little bit of cash on it. A spare dollar for the courtesy of service. One couldn’t stiff the help if one wanted to remain a future customer. The young Valkyrie approached him. Now at the end of the bar, he could get a good look at her as she approached. A slim well-proportioned vixen whose rack alone would up her tips by most at least two hundred percent. The the fissure atop her tight abdomen exposed by the purposely insubstantial midriff adorned by the jewel of a bronze colored baubble. Elegant but still hopelessly young.
“Hold onto the card?“, she said sparely. “Just one more beer.” he replied rather emptily. She frozen in the instant of though for the beat of a second hand. “Shh!”, her finger went quickly to her lips” as she pushed a fresh bottle of beer towards him. Caught off guard he droned a very unexpected, “Oh?” It wasn’t love at first sight but given the usual behavior of many of their age it was nice. A nice quiet little gesture to a stranger. He swiftly exiting to sit back outside in his accustomed place. Though his pride in near poverty still extended to always paying his way, he pondered that there were always exceptions to the rule. Not that we were talking about an extraordinary situation here. But something light and pleasant as he had once been occasionally expectant so many years ago. Some sense of self-awareness possessed him to sit up in his chair and untangle the knot of his upper back by twirling his spine and rolling his shoulders. Life was definitely a matter of attitude. One had to project quite dignity and respect and not just demand it as one might have though so much earlier in life. This beer nursed faster than the other and he was nearing the time to leave when the young bartender came out of the bar and stood before him. “Can I get you anything, because I am leaving my shift in ten minutes.” He shook his head at the model Aphrodite standing before him. He looked up at the brilliance of her youth as if peeing at the sun and asked if he had thanked her earlier? Much to his surprise she took his right hand in the two of her own and said, “Thank you/” and then quickly spun around and was gone. He turned back and stared back to the street nursing the silence in his thoughts. “I guess there are a few angels left after all?