I go to this little bar sometimes. I go there when I get bored. I don’t go enough that I’d be thought of as a regular. Nobody knows me by name. They barely know me by face. I’m not the guy that gets included in a free round. I’m not that kind of guy that gets a free drink, just for being me. And that’s the way I like it, overall.
Last week I was in there standing at the bar, nursing my bottle. Some guy came up on my left to order another bottle for himself. He had tattoos all over his neck and arms and hands. He was deeply tanned. There was a space where some of his lower teeth used to be. He had the look of a baseball catcher. Or, if he was a boxer, he’d be a slugger, not a dancer. He looked solid.
He was waiting on his beer. Our eyes met. We nodded. He held out his hand and we shook, even though we were supposed to using extra precautions during this pandemic or crisis. In fact, when I came in the place, I asked what the rules were. I asked if we were allowed to stand at the bar. The owner said we couldn’t sit but as far as he knew, there wasn’t any rule against standing.
That’s how we got to standing there together. So we shook and he said his name was Kenny and it was nice to meet me. I told him my name and said it was a pleasure meeting him too.
Though Kenny looked like he might have seen some trouble in his days, I liked his demeanor. He seemed chill chatting with the barmaid. He struck me as the kinda guy who was okay being Kenny. He struck me as the kind of guy who maybe didn’t need to be KENNY.
Another guy walked in, somebody I’d seen in there before. Everybody else in the bar knew him and asked how he was doing.
“Just working,” he said in a raspy voice. “Fifty-six hours this week.”
Somehow I recalled from before that a big part of this fella had to do with how much he worked. And for some reason I thought I knew it was at the meat processing plant in town.
He made the rounds, hugging and shaking hands. Then he saddled up to the bar on my right. This one immediately struck me as a KENNY version of a Kenny. But that was okay. There I was between them. Maybe Kenny would counterbalance this other KENNY if he got too KENNY.
So I’m between Kenny and the hard working KENNY or DANNY or MIKE – whatever his name was. Whatever it was, these two knew each other. They shook hands over top of my beer, agreeing they hadn’t seen each other in a while and how it was good to run across each other again.
Kenny said he was doing good and it felt good to finally be out of jail.
KENNY said he was spending most of his time working. It seemed to me Kenny was expecting that answer.
Somehow they got to talking about their ages. Kenny said he just turned forty- eight. Me and the other guy were surprised. Kenny looked younger. The other fella said he was fifty. I thought about keeping it to myself but it was just too much of a coincidence, so I added how I was forty-nine.
So there we were, lined up at the bar – 48, 49 and 50 – with me in the middle at 49.
“Well, if we aren’t two balls with a swinging dick in the middle,” capital KENNY said.
That was a helluva observation, I had to admit, even though I was the dick – by age and physical proximity between the two of them. It was too damned good not to give it its just due with a hearty belly laugh.
Maybe that broke the ice. Kenny and the other guy kept talking with me in between. It was loud so I couldn’t make sense of everything. Somehow Kenny and the other fella got to talking about all the drugs they’d done. Kenny said he’d done it all, including heroin. He started making jabbing motions at his arms. Then he rolled his eyes and started smiling as the heavenly, make-believe narcotic made its way through his arteries and veins. They went back and forth about their drug habits. It turned into a sorta Waiting for Godot-type scenario between them. I could only make sense of bits and pieces, but most of it had to do with dope.
The other fella, loud KENNY, declared cocaine was always his thing. He said he loved himself some cocaine and asserted this thing about himself with the conviction of something I knew better than to contend – like a guy you know for damned sure doesn’t wanna hear that his sexual orientation or his brand of beer or truck or religion or family or politics isn’t the best.
Kenny eventually excused himself, saying it was nice to meet me and how he’d see this other guy around again. That left just me and loud KENNY, aka Mr. Cocaine.
Mr. Cocaine got his beer and went on talking about how he once cashed out more than 60 grand of a 401K to pay for child support. He said he took 20 grand to pay for the child support, another 20 grand for a bunch of “Air Jordan shit” or “Air Jordans and shit”, and the last 20 grand he spent on a mound of cocaine. He made this gesture like that mound of cocaine was like a giant pot of gold or something, and he seemed to have no remorse about spending 40 grand on Air Jordan shit and cocaine. In fact, he seemed quite proud. In the moment, I imagined him imagining himself as a prince. And why not? Everybody’s got to have something, I guess, whether it’s a garage full of vintage cars or a basement full of rare and vintage wines. Or race horses or exotic animals. Investment portfolios. Wives and girlfriends. Sports or military memorabilia. Whatever.
Like I say, it was loud, but he started talking about what all a fella can do with a 20 grand mound of cocaine. He started talking about all the pussy you can get with a giant mound of cocaine. He started talking about what losers his friends were who came around trying to impress him with their 8-balls, while he put them to shame with his 20 grand mound of cocaine. I heard the word “dealer” a lot too.
There was some talk about all the girls he fucked. There was a lot of talk about the wives and girlfriends of guys he knew that he fucked or got head from, because they all wanted a taste from his 20 grand mound of cocaine. There was some excuses for fucking around with a friend’s wife or girlfriend. There were excuses that it wasn’t a big thing – it was something to be expected – especially and since there was so much cocaine involved.
Mr. Cocaine’s story was good enough. It was better than most. A million times better than the regular busybody bullshit you get everywhere else. And even if Mr. Cocaine’s story was all bullshit, it was worth hearing once.
But there came a point when my ability to play along started to wain. This one sided conversation started to become awkward. I could only pretend to agree and pretend to understand for so long. I had little to add but “yeah” and “okay” and “sounds good” or “sounds about right”. We got to that point. That’s when he let me off the hook by going off somewhere else.
I went to work on Monday. People who I like but people who don’t go to those sorts of places asked me about the weekend. I told them about it, including hanging out and having a few beers at a bar, but I didn’t tell them about the guy and his story about his 20 grand mound of cocaine. I sorta wished I could but it didn’t seem like a good idea. So I’m telling you – now – instead. This is my story. I hope you’ve enjoy it, even though it’s nowhere near as good as a guy’s story of 20 grand in Air Jordan shit and a 20 grand mound of cocaine.