||CHRISTINA AT KING EDDY SALOON
Tuesdays are Christina’s night
to tend the downtown bar
abutting Skid Row
at 5th and Main.
She greets me when I walk in
like I was a regular,
even though it’s my first time here.
I take a seat down at the far end.
She comes over and smiles
like she’s seen me before.
“I’ll have a draft, please, a Stella,” I say.
Her glasses are black and sort of oval.
Her hair is black, parted toward one side,
pulled back. Her black, thin-strapped tee
partially hides the tattoo between her shoulder blades.
She sets the beer down in front of me
and leaves me be.
I down half the mug in one pull.
That’s the kind of day it’s been.
Black Magic Woman’s playing on the speakers,
“got me so blind I can’t see.”
Before the song is over,
I finish the rest of the beer.
Christina notices when I need her again.
I like her.
“Another Stella,” I say.
She brings me another one
and again, she leaves me be.
I know what this looks like,
a woman alone drinking at the bar,
already working on her second beer.
But I stretch this one out
as Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic
rocks my gypsy soul.
I’m waiting for Chiwan, actually.
We’re going to have a pre-birthday-party drink
before his King Eddy Saloon birthday party gets going.
I have to go to the airport.
I can’t stay for the party, that’s why I’m here early.
The last time I had a drink with Chiwan,
which was also the first time,
he rescued me by asking the waitress
to take away my third Rusty Nail.
I’d only wanted a scotch,
but the guy next to me said,
“Have you ever had a Rusty Nail?
Try one. They’re great.”
So I tried one. It was delicious,
but sweet, the opposite
of a straight scotch,
too easy to drink.
Anyway, when Chiwan gets to King Eddy Saloon,
he introduces me to Christina, officially.
She pours him his drink,
a whiskey straight up,
which he didn’t need to order.
We toast, first to his birthday,
then to mine, barely a month ago.
The birthdays have been flying by it seems,
and there’s not much I can do
to slow them down.
Van sings, “Let your soul and spirit
fly into the mystic,”
so I hoist my beer for a third toast.
“Into the mystic,” I say,
and we clink glasses again.
Then Chiwan, drink still in his hand,
begins to tease me.
“Hey Christina,” he says,
“do you know what a Rusty Nail is?”
Of course she does.
She lists the ingredients:
Scotch, Drambuie, twist of lemon.
With a nod at me, Chiwan says,
“She got so drunk on them last time we drank together
that she doesn’t remember anything.
I had to get the waitress to take her third one away.”
Not exactly true that I don’t remember anything.
I remember to be very careful of Rusty Nails.
Thinking about the sweetness of that night.
I imagine how the brownness of King Eddy Saloon
would look through the haze of two-and-a-half Rusty Nails.
The portraits of Bukowski and Burroughs
on the far side of the bar would mash-up
with each other.
Between those two paintings
hangs a painting of a woman in red,
the kind of damsel in distress
you’d find on the cover of a pulp novel.
I imagine Bukowski and Burroughs
taking turns with her,
while around them
the red vinyl booths would
bleed into the brown walls.
O-o-h Child would be playing on the speakers,
would make it seem
like I was dancing,
not trying to remain upright.
“Oh, poor baby!” Christina says,
putting her hand on the bar next to mine.
She gets it right away,
gives me an understanding smile,
like we’re two babes in the same foxhole.
“It was the Drambuie,” she says.
“It’s too sweet --
You didn’t stand a chance.”