“Nobody should experience anything they don’t need to, if they don’t need poetry bully for them.”
“Me? I’ve sworn the stuff off,” he scoffed through the thickening air of the bar. The cigarette beside him dripped smoke into the dimly lit atmosphere, punctuating the evening with nicotine clarity.
The bartender, with apparent indifference, flashed practiced graces and queried him further.
“I honestly can say that I don’t need it. There are so many other pleasures that make life worthwhile; it just did more harm than good. You know what I mean?”
Puzzled, the bartender took the man’s momentary silence as a request for more of the same. Reaching finely tuned fingers to the appropriate notes, he poured his guest another drink. The liquor seeped through his smokey mind and shone through his eyes, broadcasting his determination.
“Perhaps in small doses you would enjoy it more thoroughly?” chimed the bartender through the fog, eyes fixated on a persistently soiled glass he had been polishing mindlessly.
“Perhaps,” conceded the man, “but the temptation always worries me. Once you’re an addict, you’re always an addict; thats what I always say.” He tugs at the false advertisement of his baseball cap, trapping toxic thoughts his own words had conjured, as if they were not suited even for the ears of his anonymous confidant across the bar.
Lifting his gaze through the meaningless banter of the bar, the bartender noticed a solitary soul drifting across the unseen floor. Masking panic with a 12 watt grin, he advised his guest to leave immediately.
“But I’ve hardly touched my drink,” insisted the man from his lilting bar stool, unable to catch the the caution in the bartender’s voice. At last, he gave in to his curiosity, twisting the unwilling stool, which protested in a high pitched whine, to find the stranger had mounted the stage.
“I dedicate this piece to the all the lovers who will never meet; the greatest of modern tragedies,” cooed the stranger into a long-stemmed mic.
This sentence was fractured by the slam of the bar door, causing the poet on stage to shift his gaze outward.
Outside, November air sobered the baseball-capped man, as he argued with Temptation under his breath. “I don’t need it,” he persisted, “I’m much better off without it. Poetry is the coward’s way out.” He fumbled mindlessly through his pockets and lit up another cigarette.