Every once in awhile I remember that morning. I’m not sure why. Maybe the memory is triggered by a smell or a light, a temperature or a sound. Maybe it only happens when I’m hungry or sleepy or both. All I know is that every now and again that morning pops into the top slot of my brain and I find myself back there not understanding why I’ve been summoned. It wasn’t an unusual morning. Nothing particularly exciting happened. It was just an ordinary day, like so many other ordinary days that never demand my memory’s attention. A day like hundreds of others. Yet for some reason I remember it.
A few of us stayed at the club after closing. We listened to music, played pool, bullshitted and drank until morning. Late spring/early summer, maybe May or June. The sun was fierce slicing through layers of dust and cigarette smoke drifting round the rafters. We laughed so hard our cheeks hurt, each word out of our mouths adding to the running joke. We drank everything I had and were waiting for the liquor store to open. It opened early, 7 or 8 a.m. I drove the truck out the road, four in the cab, because I appeared to be the most sober. Me, the girl with no license, always the soberest of the drunken drivers. It was me also who would go into the store and buy the liquor. Because I was the most sober. Because I had money. Because I was the one who shopped for liquor on a daily basis, filling big orders to stock the bar. Because he wouldn’t feel right about it, if I didn’t do it myself.
I remember walking into the Metro. It was quiet. We’d missed the early work crowd, arrived before the nine-to-fivers. One girl behind the counter. One customer playing the machines. It was cool in the store, the sun hadn’t come around to the big windows yet, the lights weren’t turned on. In the liquor store part the lights burned bright and the gush of the cooler seemed deafening. The girl behind the counter followed me round while I grabbed a case of beer, some rye and Coke. “How are you, Kel?” Meaningless chit-chat about last night’s non-existent customers, weekend plans, the weather, idle gossip. Always the same thing. Only I thought it was odd for me to be doing this kind of shopping on a weekday morning, and I did it all the time.
Boots clacking along the pavement, I remember exactly what I was wearing as I carried the provisions and loaded them on the back of the truck. Blue jeans faded nearly white, black cowboy boots, black belt, shirt tucked in, sleeves rolled up to my elbows, jean jacket over top of everything because of dampness in the morning air. One of the guys bailed while I was in the store, walked home. The owner of the truck decided he’s sober enough now to drive. I squeeze in between the two burly men and straddle the hump in the middle, while he drives to the other guys house where we’ll drink the rest of the liquor.
The house is just off the beaten path a bit. No visible neighbors. No view to speak of, back off the road, not close to the river. The sun higher and hotter in the sky. He has a pool table downstairs and we try to get a game going but nobody’s into it. We sit outside on the deck listening to the birds and the bees and Led Zeppelin streaming out the patio doors from the stereo inside. I shed my jacket as it’s too hot. Conversation lulls. They smoke a joint. I have many vices, but smoking joints is not one of them. First one and then the other excuses himself to the bathroom and doesn’t return. Their snores soon mingle with the music. One guy crashed in his own bed upstairs. The other downstairs on the leather couch beside the pool table. I’m welcome to sleep too, I’ll be safe here, but I can’t. I take so many drugs to stay awake that sleep seldom comes. My heart races in my chest. My mouth goes dry. My ears ring. My hair stands on end. My hands and legs fidget. My eyes turn glossy. My pupils dilate. But my lids rarely close.
There’s something unnatural about seeing day when you haven’t slept, when you’ve been drinking for a long time, but you’re not drunk. The world is brighter, brassier, louder. You notice tiny cracks in things that normally you would pass by without a glance. You wonder about blades of grass and dragonflies. You ponder dandelions and swallows. I sit on the deck all by myself, drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, growing increasingly more hot as the sun comes around and late morning turns to afternoon. After a couple of hours I decide I can’t stay there, my skin is too fair, and like the vampire that I am I retreat into the dark coolness of the basement. He’s still asleep on the leather sofa. In the bathroom I spend 15 minutes studying the red blotches on my face and wondering whether I’ve really sunburned or if it’s just the wrong side of the day for me. I wander around the basement poking through musty old boxes, flipping pages in photo albums, reading random passages in books, playing records, smoking and drinking beer.
Late in the afternoon his eyes open and he asks what time it is, how long he’s been out. It’s after 4, I tell him. About time for me to make a decision. Will I go home to shower and change before I open the club at 7. Will I go to his house, shower, put on some of my same clothes, borrow some of his, and go without make-up or hair. Will we wake buddy up, see if he wants to come with us. Will I call home and see if somebody else can open for me tonight. Will I just say screw it and not open at all.
We decide together. We’ll let him sleep. We’ll both go home. We’ll see each other later after I open.
I arrive home right at supper time. I don’t eat but have a cup of tea and smoke while I catch up with my mom about who was around last night, where I’ve been all day. I lay down for 20 minutes. It feels like a lifetime. Then I shower, do my hair and make-up. I have more tea while I sit in my house coat, looking in the mirror at myself as I get ready. Another pair of jeans, another top tucked in with the same black belt, the same black cowboy boots. I sling my jean jacket over my shoulder, grab my money bag and I’m off.
The sun is setting as we arrive at the club. I unlock the door. Raise the bar window. Put the cash in the register. Load the coolers with the liquor order we picked up along the way. I feed loonies to the jukebox and select my favourite songs. I grab a beer, twist the top and wash down two more pills as I settle onto my stool for another work night. I sit there for an hour before the door opens and someone comes in to save me from my loneliness. I serve. We chat. He tips.
Much later, after I turn off most of the lights and flip the sign to closed, a few of us will linger, drinking and bullshitting until dawn.
Drinking: chocolate chai tea
Listening To: refrigerator grumble
Hair: out of sight, out of mine