Monday, January 28, 2013

Amanda

Amanda died on the same couch Emily did. I watched her decline into alcoholism over the years that I knew her. She was funny and petite. She had a brother in Iraq, an ex-husband in jail and two little girls in middle school. She had a mother who'd always been a drunk and a grandmother that cared for her girls on the weekends.

She lived with her boyfriend in the house behind the bar. At first they'd come in together at night. She drank rum and cokes like water. She told me she'd switched from screwdrivers because they were ruining her teeth. I don't remember exactly when her drinking got so bad, but soon she was putting her kids on the school bus and stumbling to the bar, still buzzed from the night before.

She was an amusing, and exasperating drunk. She only lived a short way from the bar, but the walk home took her twenty good minutes as she zig-zagged her way across the parking lot. I imagine she thought she was walking in a straight like. We joked that someday she'd fall into the huge pot hole in the middle of the lot and maybe drown. She never did, but she fell down often enough. On one drunken occasion, as she attempted to walk forward, she stumbled backwards. She tried to correct herself and failed, stumbling all the way into the kitchen before tripping and somehow ending up ass first in the mop bucket, giggling until tears ran down her face. Have you ever tried to pull a drunk out of a mop bucket with wheels on it? It's harder than one would assume.

She was a child of the eighties. She'd play the jukebox and slam her hands on the bar in time to the beat. Moments after the songs ended she'd look at me, confused and hammered and ask why her hands hurt so bad. I'd laugh, because what the Hell else could I do.

We played cards when the bar was slow. She was surprisingly smart and lively when she wasn't too drunk to make sense. I'd have to kick her out on a regular basis. She didn't drive, but she had a tendency to get hammered and annoy the shit out of everyone in the bar. Her and her boyfriend would argue and I'd tell them both to leave.

She'd get all kinds of stubborn, like a small child and cross her arms and refuse to leave. I told her once that I would call the police to have her removed. I was lying and she thought she knew it...Until I picked up the remote for the TV that she thought was the phone in her inebriated state. Rolling her eyes and calling me a bitch, she vacated the bar and I laughed for the rest of the night. This may or may not have been the same day that she'd been pissed off because the jukebox wouldn't play her songs. As hard as I tried, I couldn't make her understand that she was trying to pick songs on the pinball machine.

Toward the end of her life, she kept trying to stop drinking. She'd come in and tell us that she was only having one drink, to stop the shakes. She'd end up hammered, passed out on the couch by 4 in the afternoon, when her boyfriend would come home. They'd argue about her drinking and she'd promise not to come to the bar during the day without him. As soon as his car left for work, she'd come stumbling across the parking lot for a drink to stop the shakes.

Her boyfriend wouldn't leave her any money for drinks, so everyone bought them for her. Or she'd steal his quarters. She traded her Marlboro coupons for packs of cigarettes from the boss when her boyfriend refused to buy them for her. She never worked and stopped receiving child support when her ex-husband went to jail for something or another.

We heard rumors of handjobs and blowjobs for drinks...but I can't attest to the accuracy of them. I would hope, even as she hit rock bottom that she wouldn't have given a blow job for a $2.50 drink. But it's entirely possible.

Amanda checked herself into the hospital for rehab and then checked herself back out the next day. She told me that she didn't like the way the drugs made her feel. She thought she could do it on her own. She told me that after she'd ordered another rum and coke, saying she was going to quit the next day.

She did.

On a Monday afternoon, six weeks to the day that Emily had died, Amanda's boyfriend burst in the door of the bar and told me to dial 911 because he couldn't wake her up.

"What do you mean, she won't wake up?" I asked him as I picked up the phone.

"Tell them she had a seizure earlier, but she seemed okay, and now she won't wake up at all." And with that he ran back to his house.

A fucking seizure? Amanda was not an epileptic. If she'd had a fucking seizure, something was probably fucked up. Why in the name of God hadn't they called 911 then?

The police chief told her boyfriend later that if he'd have taken her to the hospital then, after the seizure, they could have saved her life. She didn't have to die, alcohol withdrawal syndrome is entirely treatable.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Emily

     Emily was the first one I watched die in that place. She was far too young to die, and far too broken not too. She must have been beautiful once... before liquor and drugs and bad decisions took it away from her.

    She'd lost a brother to suicide and a husband because she wasn't fond of getting her ass kicked. She had two gorgeous daughters that were high school age, but still too young to lose a mother they only barely had.  

    She'd come in one afternoon and stay for days at one of the neighbors' houses. Eventually her boyfriend or sister would come to collect her and take her home until the next time.

     She was bubbly and funny. She was so damn smart and lively. She was broken, but she didn't sit at the bar and whine about it. When she was down, she'd order rum and coke and in less than an hour, she'd be up, dancing and laughing, trying to play pool and the jukebox. She brought light to the place, even when she was drowning in darkness. She'd go to sleep it off at one of the neighbor's houses, reappear in the morning , wearing the same clothes but probably showered. She'd down a shot or two and hit the ground running for the rest of the day. Sometimes she'd nap and sometimes she'd eat. By the third day, someone would show up to drag her home and she'd be all giggles as she stumbled to whichever car waited.

     Ed called her a whore. I don't think she was. People would buy her drinks and shots all night long and sometimes she'd go home with them. But more often than not, she could be found on the same couch she died on.

     The last binge lasted for more than the customary three days. She did more than drink. She didn't eat anything but Xanax, or maybe some other sort of drugs. She changed clothes a few times in those last five days, but she didn't wash or brush her hair. The last time I saw her, she was trying to swallow a few bites of soup before she downed her last drink, grinned at me and said she needed a nap.

     The next day, as I pulled into work, the ambulance was in the drive with the police cars. She wasn't dead yet, but she would be pronounced as soon as she arrived in the ER.

      Obviously, I haven't seen her autopsy results or her toxicology report, but from what I understand she had depressed her central nervous system so much with the Xanax and the alcohol that it stopped her lungs from breathing, her heart from beating. By the timed anyone realized that they couldn't wake her up, it was too late. They worked on her all the way to the ER.
   
      When it was all said and done, her parents buried their second child, her sister buried the last sibling she had left, and her children lost the only mother they would ever have. Her sister and father buried her mother without her shortly after she died, and her children went on to have babies without her.


Introduction to Dive Bar

Names have been changed to protect the innocent and any assets I may eventually gain, in the event someone wants to sue me.

It was a run down building. Most people passed it everyday, unaware that it was even a tavern. People drove by, absorbed in their every day lives, blissfully unaware of the dramas and heartaches and celebrations contained in the white building on the corner. They stopped at the stoplight right next to the place, never realizing how close they were to the breaking and the broken people inside, the dying and the withering souls. I envy them. I envy their unbiased view of the world, of life and of how people should live.

I bartended there for entirely too long. I was tired of the sorrow and the despair, but unable to leave anyway. They were the lost souls of the world. The broken people; the drug users, drug abusers, wife beaters and alcoholics that simply didn’t care anymore. They were felons and veterans and bikers and blue collar workers and mothers and deadbeat fathers. They were sons and daughters, sisters, brothers, wives and husbands, and I can’t help but remember that once upon a time, they were the same as you and I. Life had crushed them, or they had crushed themselves. Whatever brought them there, they were the best and the worst this shitty world has to offer, and for those seven years, they were mine. I knew their pain and their fears. I knew their quirks and their rages. I knew their weaknesses. I knew their kids and their wives and the parents that picked them up when they’d had too much. I knew what brought them there.

The guy that sold cocaine donated to every charity he came across. The guy that beat the hell out of his wife every Friday night swore he’d kill anyone that fucked with me. The boss that pulled his dick out at every other bartender on staff gave me $100 for a  wedding present, a huge deal, considering at some point he refused to buy bar napkins because “people kept using them”.

The place changed me. I don’t know if it was for the better or for the worse. I see people differently, I suppose. I see the cowards behind the bullies, the pain behind the angry people. I see the vicious circle of addiction and alcoholism in people that have distinct imbalances in their brains, and in people that can’t live with themselves sober. It’s heartbreaking and disgusting all at the same time. They were the un-fixable people in this life and they came there to die, in soul if not in body, and I want to introduce you to them.