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The path to solitude at Charlie's Corner Bar. Along the way, I pass the party store where I'll find the beer and cigarettes I've been instructed to purchase. It can wait. As I approach the bar, blaring neon beer slogans light up the darkened windows. A couple leaves the bar, and through the open door seeps the sound of laughter meant to impress.
As I walk into the bar I see the laughter stems from the mass of hairy chests, tight dresses and bleached hair surrounding the jukebox in the corner. I make my way to a seat at the end of the bar and raise my hand slightly to get Charlie's attention.
"What'll it be tonight?"
I lay my money down, "Ah, the usual Charlie" -- double Vodka on the rocks (harder to trace on the breath). Taking a sip, I briefly scan for an interesting life among a room scattered with rhinestone diamond earrings, quaffed brunette curls over Mayboline eyes, and fermented grain vapors pushed past lipstick and chapstick. I have an almost psychotic habit of staring at strangers and wondering if they could be anything like me. Occasionally, I spot what I think could be a kindred spirit and find some comfort in the fact I'm not alone.
I skim over the tight dresses in the corner, "Nothing like me," and catch sight of an interesting specimen, partially hidden by shadows, sitting adjacent to the pool table in the back of the room -- "Huh, he's new." There's an obviously intoxicated man playing pool, and while aiming for a phantom ball on the table, a swift and drunken move of his cue stick causes his beer, sitting on the table behind him, to fall in to the lap of the stranger. The debouchered fool attempts an apology as the man slowly rises from his seat. "Looks like the beginnings of a brawl," I tell Charlie, pointing towards the table. "Huh, brawl. I always wanted to say that at a bar, but I never actually wanted to witness one." The stranger blots himself dry with the towel Charlie has brought to him, and he turns to the drunk in an effort to accept the apology. Other than minor frustration, the man seems unaffected by the act. I wonder if his dry-cleaning bill will be received with the same response.
His composure intrigues me. Most of the men I've known would have pounded the drunk for his carelessness, but the expensive suit he adorns is my first clue that this guy is definitely not like most men I've known.
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"I'm Not Alone." 123HelpMe.com. 21 Jan 2020
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The man looked my way from his place in the corner, and I quickly shifted my gaze back to my Vodka. The one rule I have about staring at strangers is not to get caught doing it. I checked the time. I'd been at the bar for six minutes. I had approximately eight minutes to pick up the beer and cigarettes and ten minutes to get home. I've kept my weekly trip to Charlie's a secret for about two years now, so I had the timing worked down to a science. If Ryan ever found out I sidetracked to Charlie's I'd surely lose all rights to the car -- losing the car would mean losing the only freedom I had. I downed the Vodka, bid goodnight to Charlie and made my way to the door.