This guy, he asks if he can drive the pedicab. And yeah I should’ve said no but what the hell, right? I was tired and if the dude’s gonna pay to drive me around, shit. So he starts up the sidewalk and splitting pedestrians and making couples unclasp hands and dive in opposite directions. And I’m yelling, dude, dude not on the sidewalk. And I’m yelling, dude, dude you still pay full fare.
But yeah dude, not in good judgment letting the guy drive. I should lose my permit for that, you know? He was in a hurry I guess. No time to walk and not about to let me drive all proper. Craziness dude, craziness. I should lose my permit for that.
Did I ask him for money? Naw, naw, naw. Kid just sat on the stoop there and he reeked of well scotch all terrible. Myself, sure I do have odors about me. Like sour feet, I been told. But the kid had some cheap shit on his breath trumped all that came off’a me. And he said this, tell me a happy story. Just straight off he looks me in my eyes and said something to that effect. And I said, do I look like a fella’ with a happy story? I said, kid don’t be acting foolish.
But he don’t head nowhere. So I gave it but a couple and then said, maybe fifteen years back. Back when I was only slightly a’mess. A day once when I took my daughter to that hot dog shack on eighty-sixth. That was happy. And so the kid nods and runs off to hail one of them bicycle rickshaw thingies.
So I see a guy hop off a bike and just puke all over the sidewalk. I mean floodgates opened. Then he shook off a long string of spit and walked right up to my counter. I could’ve guessed before but the guy smelled like my Auntie’s kisses. You know, the sauce. Because that’ll do it. Once, it was my birthday, and I drank a fifth of rum and then sprinted naked for five blocks. Like sprinted. Like naked. But as soon as I stopped I let loose the fifth and then some. Exercise and licks will get you every time.
But right, the guy. He asked for three franks with relish and I figured he just meant to replace whatever it was went right out of him. So I serve them up and he goes to the counter. Eats each dog in four even bites. Twelve bites later and he walks on out, steps over the pile.
It comes with the territory, this I know. But the same way a doctor must tire of patient after patient asking about an ass rash is the same way I tire of drunk after drunk crying all pathetic in my ear. A bummed out alkie is essential bar décor just like a dartboard and a jukebox, this I know. Even so, nights come when I wish these assholes would grow a pair.
But the guy was relentless. Ordered just so he could bitch about what-have-you when I poured him one. Boohoo, some broad. Boohoo, some job. All that time ordering the cheap stuff so not even a good tip was coming my way. And finally I’m done with it. Like a doctor fed up with asses. But a bartender fed up with asses. I said to him, buddy, lots of guys out there with no broad and no job and a whole lot less beyond. And these guys, they can find a way to be happy from time to time.
True it’s not much to look at. But I’ve lived here thirty-five years and the apartment’s rent controlled. To leave now would be ridiculous. The gentleman in 4C though, he only moved in last fall. And paying two grand a month for a box like this, I can’t imagine. Still he does. His business.
But always a quiet neighbor. Never even knew his name. Always quiet except that morning. Or night, depending on the hours you keep. I had been awake since four, had my coffee and was heading out for a paper. And up the stairs comes the young man, smelling awful to be sure. Whiskey and sweat. Or meat and stomach acid. As I passed he grabbed me. Not to hurt, not to scare. More like he was pulling me to safety. And he says, kill your priorities. Then on his way and on mine. Isn’t that the strangest bit you ever heard?