(editor’s note: Beau/Brady are pseudonymous character names)
BarFlies Vol. 1
JEEPNEY, New York, New York -February 2017-
Nine O’clock P.M.
We were on our way to Saint Dymphna, the Conor Oberst bar, when I saw Jeepney, a Filipino place I used to go to with my ex, Justine, and suggested we drop by there instead. They have singular burgers, I’m back on beef, and their cocktails are especially spectacular. Beau shrugged and said, “Sure, I’ll go wherever, and if it’s good, I want to try it.” So we did. Standing at the hostess table, I asked Beau to do a sweep of the dining room. If Justine was there…well. Alotta pain, alotta history. So it goes. Beau sweeped the place, I lingered, scrolled Instagram, tossed a few ol’ tap-taps: you know, LA palm trees, cute cats, the whole thing. The hostess eyed me suspiciously. She said, “So are you guys staying or…?” I said, “My friend…hey, we’re checking something first.” Beau returned, did an A-OK with his hand. “We’re good, ma’am,” he said. I thought I caught an eye-roll as she led us to a table in the back. We ordered fried chicken with peanut butter gravy, and the burger, which has banana ketchup, and cocktails with herbs and gin and flowers from a truly lovely waitress who actually seemed like she wanted us to enjoy ourselves. The lights were dim. Music loud. Springy cushions. We were having the time of our lives. The drinks came and the food came and I Snapped all of it like I always do. Beau said, “I’ve figured it out. You listening? We’re gonna write a column together, reviewing bars.” “Genius,” I said, “wait, we need a name. Oh, fuck, I’ve got it. Barfly. Or no, no, Barflies. Who’s ever heard of Barflies? Plural I mean.” Beau smacked my arm, a perfect flesh-on-flesh rapport, without even looking–he was staring past me, at the waitress I think. He said, “Even better. Look. Each column starts with us walking into the bar and ends with ‘Then I went home alone.’” “Oh my god,” I said, “that’s the most brilliant thing I’ve ever heard. The night’s crazy, we’re dancing. All of the beautiful people, the music, the alcohol. Then I went home alone.” Beau laughed, I laughed, it was a good time. He sipped his cocktail, bared his teeth, sucked in air, making a backwards hissing sound. “This night’s gonna get weird. And expensive…” Ugh-gree. We went halfsies on the chicken and beef, ordered more cocktails, and absorbed the scene. I chomped on a gin-slathered cucumber. “Wait,” I said, fisting fries, “the thing, now, is to figure out the writing part.” Beau’s eyes, bloodshot, sauced, flushed, flashed like light off an underwater wedding ring. “Dudeeeeee,” he said, “We do two columns. Side by side.” “Oh my God,” I said, “one story. Two perspectives. How you saw it. How I saw it. Like The Affair.” “This is amazing. The best idea we’ll ever have.” “Only downhill from here,” I said, “and it’s perfect, because we got that writing style. Our voices, which are quickly becoming so alike, just propelling the goddamn things along. And you, you’ve got the introspective side. I just write shit down, the way it actually happened, y’know?” “True,” Beau said, nodding, looking at a group of women, eating a coconut, at the table next to us. “We’ve got that beat, the same beat,” he said, snapping his fingers. “Oh man,” I said, “beat, the beats, that’s the name for it!” I snapped too, syncopated, we tapped our feet, the rhythm between us both. “It’s that voice,” he said, “it’s all those ‘ands’ and long sentences.” “The repetition, the movement. We’ve got it now.” And we did. Barflies. Kept drinking, imagining the thing, deciding that we’d write our first one about Jeepney on this Spring night in February in NYC, at 9 o’clock PM Eastern Standard Time. The air was sweet, the food was good, the drinks were doing what they’re supposed to do. We’re up to heaven. I saw the table where me and Justine used to sit and prayed to that ghost of romance, our broken and beautiful relationship. Beau said, “We gotta start now,” and I said, “Tomorrow I approach Sweaty-Drew Virgo and propose to him.” “But we can’t tell anyone…” Beau lowered his voice, “…until it’s online.” “You’re right,” I whispered, conspiratorially, squintingly, scanning the barscape, sneering at all of my enemies. Then we cheered, Beau and I, we drank the night away. I forgot the whole thing, then remembered it, smiled and smacked Beau’s Barbour-coated back. “We’re gon’ be fammis, Barbour Oberst,” I said, and would have winked if I could, but I can’t. In New York the bars all close at four. I went home alone.
We weren’t supposed to end up there, Jeepney I mean, and we questioned staying because something or someone from his past made him hesitant and nervous. I went in first because he wanted me to warn him if any of those lingering ghosts, women I mean, from his colorful history were inside. He’s paranoid like that. I didn’t mind being his canary because it was warm inside and it smelled good in there, like seared meat and sharp vinegar and the music was low, low, the voices loud, loose, the televisions off, and I was tired of walking because I’m always tired of walking. I did a sweep of the place and didn’t see her, and, as time proves once, and once again, his past wasn’t anywhere other than in his own head. He, Brady I mean, doesn’t have cancer or tuberculosis or gonorrhea or syphilis or any kind of bumps on his body, he doesn’t even have a common cold. So don’t let him tell you otherwise because he thinks he does, will convince himself of it. He’s paranoid like that. I like to reassure him, saying, whatever you’ve got, I’ve had for years. Whatever I’ve got, I’ll give to you sooner rather than later. So let’s share a meal, and hell, maybe even suck on the same fork. So we sat down in the back of Jeepney next to a table of six live women. Six, count um’, six live, live women and as Brady’s hand went in the air, waving at the waitress, hello, hello, desperate for a drink or two, all of the tattoos on his arms blurred together. She saw him and then the drinks came and then the idea came, this idea. The idea to write a bar review, write about drinks and drinking those drinks, with a kind of story each of us tells in our own way. More reliable that way. More fun too. And all because of that cucumber drink which a beautiful woman set down in front of me. I loved her for it and for other things. But during this process, do not take to heart all the times I say the word ‘beautiful’ and ‘love’ because I’ve fallen in love with every beautiful bartender and waitress that’s ever served me anything. And all this one did was smile and say the house specialty was some fruity cocktail with a plastic cucumber floating in it and I said, yes please I’ll have one of those, that sounds like exactly the kind of thing I always drink. I said it like a little boy too, yes please, please, please. And she set it down in front of me and I watched those six live, full blooded, full bodied, full appetite women at the table next to ours scraping their teeth on the shell of a coconut, passing one piece of white flesh all the way around the table so the last girl wasn’t even tasting coconut, she was tasting the five other girls tasting the coconut, and then she still said it tasted good and I agreed by speaking the word ‘wow’ into my drink. Then Brady and I ate something, a burger I think, with some banana sauce, I can’t say for sure. Blame the coconut. And I think Brady was taking pictures of the naked women painted on the walls, waving his other arm at the waitress, ordering us another round. Another cucumber drink. Uno mas, as we like to say. The drink was called the Avenue and I recommend it. And then I recommend it again. Get two. Then do it again. Yes, this drink tasted like sweet, silky grass and they went down fast and the ice cubes were too big to chew so Brady and I kept ordering them like we’d known about them for years. And all that stimulation got Brady and I thinking about summertime and Mexican beaches and sand and the color green. I told Brady I could talk about this cucumber drink forever, and that was the idea. Why not get drunk more often, but this time with a plan in mind. We will get drunk and eat because those are the important things and then we will write about those nights, those bars. Write separately, together. One yet the same. One and one. Eye and eye. Write with a beat. Be able to snap our fingers to it while reading it aloud. Write about the same things, the same bar, the same night, and compare the two brains of two great drinkers. Side by side. Maybe that way we can get at some kind of truth, by seeing what matches up, which thoughts correspond. It could be very entertaining, this process. And we should call the column ‘Barflies’ because that’s what we are. Our wings don’t hum or buzz in the old-school sense. No, we flutter from place to place, bar to bar, fly crooked, and sit still and are the easiest to swat at and crush. Yes, our wings don’t buzz at all in fact, they rub together and make a noise that goes ‘raw, raw’ just like a chainsaw. So let’s call the project ‘Barflies,’ Brady, let’s call it that and write about what we love and the things that are fun because that’s what we need. We need a breath and some fun. Let’s go for it, Brady. Through all these nights and bars, and drinks, and appetites we can come to a consensus, about what, the experience, the people we met, the food we ate, I don’t know, something, and we’ll say, at the end of every story, ‘and then I went home alone.’
(editor’s note: Beau/Brady are pseudonymous character names)
Original Illustration by Alexis de Chaunac.
Kyle Kouri is an MFA candidate in fiction at Columbia University. He also makes visual art. His most recent exhibition, “Long After You’re Gone,” opened at 7 Dunham Gallery in April 2015. His story, “Fuck Donald Trump,” was published in Cleaver Magazine’s March 2017 issue. He has a short story featured on horrorsleazetrash.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @kylekouri. He writes in the Chocolate Lab at Columbia with Nathan Fetherolf.
Nathan Fetherolf is a graduate writing student at Columbia University. He lives in New York City and writes with Kyle Kouri.