I love the hours of the bar right before closing. In the half hour before I call it quits for the night. A couple of customers still scattered across the bartop. My regulars.
One’s a CPA. It’s tax season. He’s tired. Tired and grumpy and nursing his beer. He rolls his eyes at something he hears from the man at the end of the bar, and I chuckle as I polish the endless array of wine glasses splayed out before me.
A couple of the night staff, who got off a little early, are bitching about the woman in Malibu who made them drive the half hour back to her house to deliver the side of ranch they had forgotten to put in the bag. They’re resting there against the bar, overworked, underpaid, taking just a moment.
The husband and wife, who snuck in a little late, are in a corner booth, laughing the night away. They’re stressed about a lot of things, and these martinis are helping them forget.
I untie my hair and empty the sinks. Restock the beers in the fridge, slice some limes for the morning shift. And I stand there, looking fondly at these people, grateful they’ve chosen this time, this night, this bar.
Because we’re all tired. And we’re all stressed. And we’re all overworked, and underpaid. Mucho trabajo, no dinero, the dishwasher says as he drops off another round of glasses I need to polish. I buy him a beer when he gets off.
I’m lucky. Sure, I get a lot of assholes rolling through here, but that’s par for the course. It’s a minor inconvenience. A whole blog’s worth of them.
But what I also get is moments of connection. Moments in which I get the privilege of making you forget that an entire world of deadlines and paperwork awaits you, because those things don’t exist here. With the trickle of the liquor over ice, I make you forget. I whisper love and healing prayers over your martini like swirled vermouth in a glass. I refill your drink like I refill your spirit, taking only from your stresses, and never from your hope. I’m not in the liquor business; I’m in the healing business. I’m the medicine man, here behind this bar, between the hours of 8:30 and 9:00. I’m repairing what the world has so expertly destroyed, with every pop of a cork.
This is my gift. I treasure it, as I treasure each of you. And when you leave my bar, I hope you leave it lighter. I hope I’ve managed to alleviate some of the burdens that hang heavy on your shoulders. I hope you sleep soundly tonight. I hope your soul’s at peace. I’m garnishing your glass with goodness and with life, can you feel the contents whirl about within the pit of your tired soul? That’s my magic working. There’s plenty to go around.
So, when you’re tired, and you’re weary, and overworked and overburdened, come on by. I’ll pour you a drink, and you can give me your burdens. Sounds like a fair trade to me.