Happy Hour

‘Fuck it.  
All this time I kept my eye out for the belly dancer. They got out of the sedan and staggered away, leaving the car doors open, clinging to each other, their hair flying around their faces in the wind. I was after a seventeen-year-old belly dancer who was always in the company of a boy who claimed to be her brother, but he wasn’t her brother, he was just somebody who was in love with her, and she let him hang around because life can be that way. But nothing could be healed, the mirror was a knife dividing everything from itself, tears of false fellowship dripped on the bar. He never did—it was the secret of his success, such as it was. ‘You’ve got to have a destination.’
‘I’ll get off at the library, then,’ I said. When we woke up in the morning he didn’t say anything.  
The day was ending in a fiery and glorious way. I paid you that quarter. The sun lowered itself through the roof of clouds, ignited the sea, and filled the big picture window with molten light, so that we did our dealing and dreaming in a brilliant fog. ‘Today’s payday. She was very frail. ‘Take the quarter,’ he said, very loudly, now that he could see I wouldn’t touch it. ‘Yeah,’ she said to him. Angelique herself said nothing. What size is that? I stood at the window looking at the apartment building’s parking lot while the brother brushed his teeth, and watched them leave with my money in a green sedan. All of you.’
‘Hey, I wouldn’t fuck you around over a quarter.’
‘All of you, every last one.’
‘Do you want a quarter? During Happy Hour, when you pay for one drink, he gives you two. ‘Your zipper,’ he said, ‘is open. ‘No, right, yeah—three dollars. I wanted to find her because, despite her other involvements, she seemed to like me. And what are you going to do to me now?  
Just the night before, she’d let me sleep in the same bed, not exactly with her, but beside her. I tried inside the Jimjam Club. Do you know when it’s the end?’
‘Eddie, Eddie,’ the Indian said to the bartender, ‘did you find any dimes and nickels down here on the floor yesterday? ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I got twenty- four hours left in this town.’
The weather outside was clear and calm. Did you sweep up? ‘Where’s your boyfriend today?’
‘Who?’ she said innocently. This virginal sadness wasn’t all fake. I reached down quickly and zipped my fly. It’s bullshit. How did I do that? ‘You can’t just sit on the bus,’ she said, talking to me in her rearview mirror.  
I was sitting on the city bus—this was in Seattle—later that morning. She seemed to be thinking about something far away, waiting patiently for somebody to destroy her. And it feels good, even if it’s not gonna last.’ He looked at her. Nobody could have swallowed that thing. Most days in Seattle are grey, but now I remember only the sunny ones. Something embarrassing had happened in the library. Souls who had wronged each other were brought together here. I usually do. I gave four dollars, almost all my money, to one of the college girls and her boyfriend, who didn’t speak English. The bartender said, ‘Do you want a drink?’
‘He doesn’t have money to drink.’
I did, but not enough to drink for the whole two hours. Happy Hour lasts two hours. I recognized her. Drink the whole beer.’
‘Wow. They don’t make horse pills anymore.’
‘They don’t?’
‘Not anymore.’
‘But if they did,’ I said. But she was still in love with a man who’d recently gone to prison. I need the money.’
’What kind of pill?’
‘It’s psychedelic mushrooms all ground up.’
She showed me. Thanks.’
‘You’re welcome,’ he said. I’d liked her the minute I’d seen her the first time. ‘That’s the biggest pill I’ve ever seen.’
‘I’ll sell it for three dollars.’
‘I didn’t know they made capsules that size. The ships on the Sound looked like paper silhouettes being sucked up into the sun. Wash it down. They were going to get us all some Taiwanese pot. ‘That’ll be fine.’
‘I know it’ll be fine,’ I told her. Number One?’
‘It’s a Number One, yeah.’
‘Look at it! Her fake brother slept on the floor. I was in love with her, too. One of the other dancers, a chop-haired, mannish sort of person, stayed close to her and said, ‘What do you think you want, boyo?’ to a sailor who offered to buy her a drink. Then only the demons inhabiting us could be seen. I walked over and stopped in at the Greek place. She was resting at a table between numbers in the Greek nightclub where she was dancing. I was in Pig Alley. ‘Just trying to get over,’ the sailor said. The rapist met his victim, the jilted child discovered its mother. With what, exactly, would you expect to frighten me? A little of the stage light touched her. I rode around on the bus for three or four hours. Probably it fell on the floor.’
‘Do you know when that’s it? Two dimes and a nickel.’
‘Somebody’s gonna get fucked up over this.’
‘Not me. I stayed in the library, crushed breathless by the smoldering power of all those words—many of them unfathomable—until Happy Hour. Her name was Angelique. Sometimes I think I’m not human.’
‘Would you have another dollar? A woman across from me held a large English-literature textbook in her lap. But he turned away. ‘The paste is so sticky the horse can’t spit it out. And then I left. I looked in all the worst locations, the Vietnam Bar and so on. I was down front, in the long seat that faces sideways. ‘Okay. Is it for horses?’
‘It’s gotta be for horses.’
‘No. I put the quarter right by your hand. Pig Alley was a cheap place. Who cares?’
’See?’ the guy said to me. A guy, a slit-eyed, black-eyed Nez Perce, nearly el- bowed me off the stool as he leaned over ordering a glass of the least expensive port wine. This one’s kind of wrinkly.’
‘I never swallowed a Number One before.’
‘It’s a big cap, for sure.’
’The biggest there is. I sat next to a uniformed nurse with a black eye. For horses they squirt a paste in its mouth,’ she explained. Did you sweep anything like that, maybe two dimes and a nickel?’
‘Probably. Just die,’ I said, pushing off. I could have gotten him around the neck right then, right there in the library, and killed him. I wasn’t in town.’
‘And then you never paid me the quarter? There was a part of her she hadn’t yet allowed to be born because it was too beautiful for this place, that was true. She was staying with three college girls of whom two had Taiwanese boyfriends. It was directly on the harbor, built out over the waters on a rickety pier, with floors of carpeted ply- wood and a Formica bar. The motor traffic was relentless, the sidewalks were crowded, the people were preoccupied and mean, because Happy Hour was also Rush Hour. But she was mostly a torn-up trollop. ‘The way they charge for these drinks, you think you’d be half-complimented.’ ‘She doesn’t need your compliments,’ the older dancer said. Stranger things have happened on this earth. His big forehead made him seem thoughtful. ‘I gave him ten dollars and he disappeared.’
‘Last week.’
‘I haven’t seen him.’
‘He should be more grown up.’
‘He’s probably in Tacoma.’
‘How old is he, about thirty?’
‘He’ll be back tomorrow.’
‘He’s too old to be yanking people off for a dime.’
‘Do you want to buy a pill? ‘You make me so tired,’ I said, ‘I can hardly move my fingers. It’s like an egg. She wasn’t there. An older gentleman had come over from the checkout counter with his books in his arms and addressed me softly, in the tones of a girl. I thought I’d better tell you.’
‘Okay,’ I said. By then a huge Jamaican woman was steering the thing. ‘Quite a few people were noticing,’ he said. I said, ‘Hey, wasn’t I shooting pool in here with you yesterday?’
‘No, I don’t think so.’
‘And you said if I’d rack you’d get change in a minute and pay me back?’
‘I wasn’t here yesterday. They ran into a phone pole before they were even out of the parking lot. Some days I can’t even count!’
‘Here goes.’
‘Just keep drinking. People entering the bars on First Avenue gave up their bodies. Indians from Klamath or Kootenai or up higher—British Columbia, Saskatchewan— sat in a row along the bar like little icons, or fat little dolls, things mistreated at the hands of a child. It’s like an Easter thing.’
‘Wait,’ she said, looking at my money. But they told me she’d left town. I had two doubles and immediately it was as if I’d been dead forever, and was now finally awake. The cigarette smoke looked un- earthly. Next to her sat a light-skinned black man. ‘She’s tired.’
By now it was six. You owe me a quarter, man.’
‘I gave you that quarter.