“Cider burns your tummy.” He said, “So much so that it’s not worth it.” He shrugged. “Simple.”
“Simple?” I was on vodka. Straight, with a twist of lemon. Only in DC can you find vodka bars. Well, and everywhere else. But there’s something special about a vodka bar in DC. And it’s not just because I was born in this retarded town run by Republican interns, disenfranchised niggers, and cracker assholes bent on Nazism.
Something moved through the vodka in my brain. “Did you say tummy?”
My old college buddy James. He smiled. He leaned back. He tipped up his Nationals ballcap and huffed down his nose. “Aye. I did, I did.”
“Tummy’s a gay word.”
“There are many gay words. Such as foliage.”
He nodded, pursed his lips, and laughed softly to himself, “Oh, baby, you are deep in the chute.” Making quotes with his fingers, he turned to the bartender and said, “Foliage.”
The bartender nodded.
“Can we have some foliage?”
The bartender narrowed his eyes.
“Or,” James continued, “Another iced cider and vodka whatever he’s drinking.”
I cleared my throat. “I’m just drinking vodka now.”
“Jesus, is it that late?”
“Man, we’re on the vodka clock.” He looked up at the bartender, who remained motionless, “so if he’s just drinking vodka, I’ll have a double shot of cold Bushmills to chase the cider.”
“You only live once.”
“And you only have one stomach.”
He waved his hand in my face, “It’s almost 2008. They can fix anything. I’ll get a metal stomach when I turn 50. Just like my grandpa.”
“You have a grandpa?”
He glanced sideways at me as his cider and whiskey arrived.
“I mean, you we birthed of man and woman and did not spring forth, fully formed, from a bottle of vintage brandy?”
“No, I did not spring forth from a bottle of brandy.”
“You passed through a vagina!”
The bar was suddenly silent, several people turning to look at me.
“I passed through a vagina! Out through the in door.”
“Well, really, it’s an out door.”
“It’s an in door, too.”
“It’s an in door for the purposes of becoming an out door.”
James waved both hands in the air and made a funny cooing animal sound, “Okay, Father O’Reilly.”
The bartender came close to me, “You’re cut off.”
“What the fuck did I say?”
“You just did say it.”
“Dude,” James said to the bartender, “Nixon 08. Am I right? It’s on your face.” His voice rose into a high pitched scream: “Blood, blood! Cambodia!”
“Check pay let’s go and then,” I whispered.
James nodded, slammed down a C-note, then pushed away from the bar. I followed him out with unsteady steps into the warmth of an October drought, the noise of Georgia Avenue and Bonifant and a small, shuddering laughter from over on Thayer Ave. James grabbed me and dragged me back towards downtown Silver Spring, this gentrified suburb of America’s grand capitol. When next I became aware, we were in a place full of Columbians, two full bottles of Heineken in front of me.
“Drink,” James hissed in my ear.
A karaoke bar, and we were the only English speakers there. James asked for a song and actually got it. What the hell the Columbians were doing with the album he wanted was beyond me.
I tuned out, slammed both beers, and was rewarded with a waitress in her 60’s who slid two more bottles in front of me. I snapped to when James stepped up onto a table, the lights turning on him, microphone in hand, and he spoke in a shuddering voice:
“Number three is Khu, the Guardian Angel.” A meditation. “He, she, or it is third man out…depicted as flying away across a full moon, a bird with luminous wings and head of light. Sort of thing you might see on a screen in an Indian restaurant in Panama.” He bowed his head for the rush of music. “The Khu is responsible for the subject and can be injured in his defense — but not permanently, since the first three souls are eternal. They go back to Heaven for another vessel.”
Seven Souls. I found myself laughing quietly, the vodka and beer in my stomach like a boiling mass of Nickelodeon slime.
James pointed at me a minute or so later, and I was somehow in tune. “Number six is Khaibit, the Shadow, Memory, your whole past conditioning from this and other lives.”
He grinned, the music stopped, and it was just his voice, “Number seven is Sekhu. The Remains.”
The Columbians seemed to have picked up on something as James weaved back to my table. I was mindlessly drinking the second pair of beers before he seated.
“We’ve thrown too much away.”
I nodded, losing interest in the remains.
“So this is 2am.”
I checked my cellphone. Yep.
“So this is where we are. 30-something and thrown away.”
“Lost and lonely in this weird life, forced to conform and deal with this neurotic city all for the golden dollar.”
He took a deep breath, then turned on me and leaned across the table, “How’s the beer?”