I walked in as I normally do, into the dimly lit bar. It’s lit by the soft glow of neon signs and the stale hue of the plain green and brown tables that vaguely remind you of an alcoholic’s cafeteria. On any given night you’ll see businessmen relaxing, reflecting over the day’s or week’s activities, young people trying to forget about their jobs altogether, and a generally friendly, all female wait-staff which quickly becomes the object of male attention, sometimes to the benefit of their gratuity, sometimes to the detriment of their dignity. Or somewhere in between. I walked into these familiarities to be greeted by equally familiar faces. Only there was one I didn’t recognize.
He was the archetype. Or anyway, he became the archetype, in the same way that Thoreau says we create our fate. Our conversation began amicably enough, quickly moving to the topic of politics and then to income redistribution, ending with a friendly “let’s agree to disagree” sort of resolution, despite his having jokingly referred to me a fascist. Perhaps this was the warning sign of his archetypical character; perhaps equating my beliefs with the greatest horrors of the twentieth century was an ironic way for a stranger to diffuse the distance between us, a playful transgression to break the dimly lit ice? But as the thaw continued, it became increasingly apparent that it wasn’t our getting to know each other acting as the catalyst, but his drinking.
The hum of people talking around us grew fainter. And the light of the neon beer signs converged in a spotlight on this increasingly garrulous man. Despite his still participating in conversation with others, all voices were subsumed under his, the certainty in his questions and answers and statements belying any traces of genuine discourse. A tyrant with words, every utterance began in earnest and seemed to blend into the next, to the point where there was no beginning, no spaces between statements or words; just a din that resonated with the bleakness of this, my favorite bar, unveiling its grey hues so conducive to quiet conversation and mediation, to reveal a loud black–no color, no solace, just noise.
And as this descent continued, as he continued to speak with slurred certainty, as the voices were drowned out, as grey faded to black, the female wait staff came into the realm of his conversation. It was one bar-tender in particular. A bartender I’d like to think I know, albeit superficially. She smiles to me outside work; she undercharges me at work; she’s my age, trying to get by. She’s also particularly beautiful, a fact quickly seized upon by this garrulous man, as he made it known that his expertise in the domain of women, the simple fact of his being a “man,” warranted his ugly suggestion to another friend of mine, an injunction that ended a night already thwarted.
“She just wants you to plug her little hole.”
The words came out of his mouth with vital fluids dripping down his chin–bile, and blood assuring that these were his true colors. The statement gushed out onto the floors, unknowingly flooding the bar and its inhabitants, who were unknowingly drowning in his male bravado. I sought respite but struggled to swim. I was gasping for air and swam for the door, passing tables full of people, passing the bartender, all oblivious to the rising waters. I thought, as I was struggling to swim, of this man as an archetype, his relation to women distorted by a sense found in certain men who have a poor relationship to themselves, a fear of death that manifests itself as a particular orientation to truth, an anxious ontology of claiming that seeks to reconcile one’s mortality through the certainty of statements that subordinate others, particularly women, to the psychic certainty of patriarchy. The resonance of his statement was filling the room quickly as it became clear that this attempted reconciliation could never fulfill itself; it could never find that higher relief in the dialectic of death and assurance. And so the bile and blood continued to effuse in the wake of his disgusting, self-assured assertion.
Finally, I found the door amidst the disgusting fluids of a garrulous man and found relief outside in the relative quiet. I lit a cigarette and placidly inhaled, watching my exhalation dissolve like our identities and mortal lives, seeing in the diaphaneity no words, no self-assertion, no pretense or certainty. And I walked home in silence, listening only to the rhythm of my footsteps, exhaling smoke into the night.