The next 10 minutes will be make or break.
That’s the way my stomach feels, at least. It’s creeping up into my throat so I can taste the stale popcorn and the hot whiskey and that tinny, I-need-to-burp-but-I-can’t-make-it-happen from the 7up.
The lights in here are hot. That’s gotta be what it is. And the strobe is making my head feel funny and Sheila has that look on her face that’s so kind but sort of worried at the same time. She’s telling me, “I’m here for you, and I love it, but, well, maybe shouldn’t we probably like head outside and have a cigarette and just sort of gather ourselves for a second and then I’ll talk you in to getting in an Uber…”
It always slows down like that when I’m drinking. Shiela’s smiling so big the wrinkles at the corner of her eyes make a tie-die pattern in the party-time lights. Blue, green, yellow, red. Blink, blink, blink, blink. Technicolor wrinkles like those hippie light shows at a Jefferson Airplane concert or something. She’s smiling and the little drops of spittle flying out of her mouth while she sings along to Journey with the plaid shirt mustachioed guy on stage in front of me are disco balls. She takes a concerned breath whenever we make eye contact. A count-backwards-from-five sort of inhale/exhale that starts way down in her hips and rolls into the back of her throat and out through her smiling teeth. I can tell.
“Man, they’re vibing!” Plaid Shirt yells past me on his way to the bar.
“Yeah! Wooo!” I yell back. He’s leaning into a blonde in a Notorious RBG shirt by the time my voice hits him.
His face is buried in her neck. He doesn’t turn around.
“LADIES AND GENTELMAN!!!” The MC, Tyronne, is a real ham. We made out once, outside of the downstairs bathroom. Mac, the owner, keeps all of the empty Keg shells down there, and it has that sickly sweet Asian bakery funk that you get when you walk past a dive bar in the bright heat of the early afternoon. Except all the time. It keeps the weekend set away, so Sheila and I always use it if the place is busy.
Tyronne tasted like cigarettes, and when I put my hand on his hips I could feel his abs disappearing into his waste band. His phone buzzed just when we started to get comfortable, when he pulled my hips into him and kissed my neck, and it somehow broke the spell. He pulled away and grabbed his phone and started swiping around. “I’ve got to take this, babe, I’m sorry,” he said. And that was that.
“ALL THE WAY FROM THE BRIGHT LIGHTS OF BROADWAY TO RIGHT HERE IN OUR HUMBLE WATERING HOLE…” Tyronne always makes some wild shit up when he calls me up to the stage. He looks back to my perch at the top of the little stairway and smiles, like he’s impressing me with his wild creativity. I smile back and wink.
“GIVE IT UP FOR BIIIITTTCHHH ROMMMNNEEYY!”
“Very nice, Ty,” I mouth at him.
Then my song starts.