The hardwood floor seemed like it had needed a sanding down and refinishing some years back, as if just walking barefoot, I'd come up with splinters embedded deep within the soles of my feet. The walls had a dark and slick look to them: I imagined that they would be sickly sticky to the touch. A stale scent of death pervaded. I slowly made my way to the bar and saw a man, presumably the bartender, with a rather large hole in his head.
I went back behind the old, hand hewn bar and found the largest bottle of vodka that I could find.
Ciroc, Skyy, Absolut, Monopolowa, Finlandia, Dursk.
I settled for the Monopolowa.
I took five shot glasses and lined them up in front of me at the bar.
I sat down gingerly and poured the drinks.
I ran my fingers delicately against the deep finish and grain of the bar, imperceptibly, sensuously along the side of the first glass and up and along the rim, wet from the vodka. A steady chime sounded, and I could feel the chemical sensation of the alcohol against the tips of my fingers.
I raised them to my lips, and noticed, for the first time, that my hands were shaking.
I steadied them, absentmindedly, it seemed, observing the lines and freckles on the back of my right hand. I bit at a piece of loose skin along the edge of my nail, simultaneously tasting my own blood and the bitter tang of the Monopolowa.
My lips quivered in a sort of lustful desire that I had not felt in quite some time.
I returned to the task at hand, taking the shot glass firmly in my fingers and raising it to my lips.
I paused for a moment before I took the first shot.
The second and third came rather easily after that.
As I raised the fourth drink to my lips, I was jarred, as the light flickered on, a rather large, old fashioned overhead fixture with a large, low wattage bulb that emitted a dull yellow light; the color of jaundice, I thought at the time.
I looked up, then, startled, when the jukebox turned on, and an old 45 followed the motions to its destiny.
INXS, Never Tear Us Apart.
I didn't realize that there was a 45 for that single.
I felt the presence a split second before I heard his voice.
"Nice night," he said.
"Didn't mean to startle you. I noticed the light on, so I moseyed on in and helped myself."
He had a rather large bottle of Jim Beam and drank from a tall glass. It seemed as if he was drinking warm tea.
"Actually," I said, swallowing slowly, "the light wasn't on 'til you got here."
He gave the most imperceptible of nods and said "That might very well be the case."
"And did you turn on the jukebox as well?" I asked.
"It would appear so," he drank half the glass quietly.
"How did you do all that so quickly?"
He furrowed his brow "You're not asking the right questions." He seemed somewhat distressed at that.
I shrugged, assured that this was the beginning of an alcohol-induced hallucination, and finished the fourth shot and took hold of the fifth.
"You know," he said, "that stuff will rot you from the inside out." He took a rather large swallow of whiskey.
"Pot. Kettle. Glass houses," I looked at him dubiously.
He laughed, "Do as I say, not as I do."
We sat silently for a moment.
"So you a big INXS fan?" I asked him, as it got to the part about two worlds colliding.
"It'll do, but you're still not asking the right questions!" He seemed exasperated.
"Let me ask you something?" he began, "What on earth, or in hell, or heaven above, possessed you to stop for two days?"
"A girl... Why?"
I took the time to look at him for the first time and began to doubt that he was a figment of my fevered brain.
He was tall. His skin was the color of powdered porcelain. He was delicate in a way that was incomprehensible to me. He had thick, jet black hair that seemed to have a life of its own. The man seemed powerful, yet soft in a strange way, almost as if he was a warrior of a long forgotten time, when the strong still got fed rich diets loaded with fat and meat and lustful desire. He seemed so intense, eyes like obsidian gazed at me, and I felt as if he was observing me like some scientist whose curiosity was peaked by something on a slide.
He was beautiful.
And in a strange way, he seemed worn, like a Greek statue worn down from acid rain and a thousand years worth of hands touching and pawing at him.
He wore linen trousers and a light cotton shirt. There were two large stains on his back. They appeared to be blood.
"What happened to you?" I asked.
He tightened up. I was amazed that I even noticed it; the change was so infinitesimally small.
I stepped closer to him, he seemed surprised. I thought maybe it was the vodka on my breath. I touched his shoulder, and said "We need to find some medical supplies."
"No need. I've been like this for quite some time"
"You've been bleeding like this for a while now?!" I could tell I was beginning to get obnoxious, "How long?"
He laughed, almost lovingly. "Seems like Aeons now."
I looked at his rather wide back. There were two large stains, between the shoulder blades. When he moved, and the fabric of the shirt pressed against his skin, blood soaked through and wafted in the air.
"What," I was dumbfounded, "how?"
He paused for a moment, as if to collect his thoughts, "Something akin, suffice it to say, to stigmata." The song got to the part about cause we all have wings and I shivered for a moment; I couldn't see why.
He looked at his watch.
"Our time is nearing its end," he sounded like a shrink.
I could tell the Monopolowa was beginning to have its desired effect as I began to slur my words and sort of stumbled back to my place at the bar.
"How what?" he lit up a cigarette and sucked on it. For the life of me, I found it strangely erotic.
"How did you know about the girl?"
"I think you know why," he said quietly.
I cried, large, wet tears, and my heart hurt for it.
"I loved her so much."
"Yes, you did."
"I hurted for her."
"You're asking the wrong questions. That is a habit that will get you into trouble some day, I would think. One thing is for certain. You've dallied long enough. It's time to move on. I would say, in a day or two, you will be too late."
He looked at me for a moment, and for the briefest of instances, he seemed to me like a repentant angel, and, as he stood up, he brushed himself off of me.
He walked towards the door as the song faded from memory.
"Yes?" he asked.
"And... The girl?"
"Oh." he pursed his lips and walked to me.
He stood next to me and placed his large, beautiful hands on my shoulders, and I felt so loved and nurtured in that moment, in that place, like I had never before.
He sighed, and said "You will never, ever see her again, but it is the most important thing in all of creation that you look for her. After you finish what must be done."
He looked at me with sincerity and pity and walked away.
I gazed at myself in the mirror, my eyes raw and red, and I threw the bottle at my reflection. I laid my head on the bar and closed my eyes for a moment.
The next morning, I awoke, and left for home
End of Intermezzo