The Saloon Is Closed

The saloon where I realized we were more than a one-night stand is closed. Where I thought I was merely humoring you by letting you hang out with me for a day. Where I allowed your vision of me as some sort of goddess/whore to perpetuate itself by fucking you in the bathroom. The bar was an offshoot of a hair salon, for some strange reason–though in Brooklyn, non-symbiotic fusion businesses didn’t need a reason to exist. When I passed by it the other day, I had to do a double take to make sure it was truly closed. How could it be closed, but not the hair salon? How could it have transformed into a far less honest version of itself called something as bourgeois as Have & Meyer, a wine bar catering to the new era of clientele populating this particular pocket of “neighborhood improvement.” People didn’t even like to say gentrification anymore–it was a word so overused that it had lost all meaning, like “love” or “normcore.” I stopped outside of it to tie the back of my sandal, which kept coming undone and which I shouldn’t have worn, but decided to anyway in spite of partly wanting to listen to my better judgment. That was the problem with me: I never listened to the inner voice that told me what I should be doing instead of what I actually did. I guess that’s how I ended up obliging your request to hang out after a one-night stand anyway. I didn’t really want to, knew inside somewhere that to let someone in past a night was a recipe for the disaster called emotional involvement–but I did it regardless, figured I had nothing better to do and no one else to spend my hours with that day. And that was another thing, I had grown so accustomed to being alone, to whiling all my time away without a companion, that I was almost more irritated than pleased to have to engage with another human for a prolonged period. But I did it because I went against my better judgment.

So there we were, sitting at the bar–at that point, much dingier than it looked as of this moment. Back then, you used to drink more heavily, as though doing your best to fulfill your potential as an insouciant youth. Later, as you came to evolve–mutate–you would look upon drinking as a puerile folly and frivolity. I could never seem to outgrow it. That was, I later assumed, one of the things that drove us apart. I think I suited your lifestyle in this epoch, but when I couldn’t be molded to fit it over the years we spent together, you felt it was time to cut me out of the deal we had made. The deal to be two against the world like all those other overly romanticized couples. What people so often fail to take into account, however, is that these couples are toxic to one another: Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. The latter of which is proof that the way couples come to be known, name order-wise, isn’t necessarily a product of sexism, so much as what works best on a sonorous level. Maybe all great love has to turn toxic in some way–the intensity of it too strong to sustain itself, inevitably doomed to transform into something more than slightly unhealthy.

Yet that day at the saloon, we had not gotten on this path, the trajectory that would lead to a schism I couldn’t prevent, no matter how hard I tried to throw down surfeit amounts of glue on it. “Stop trying so hard,” all my friends would tell me. Worst of all, “If you love someone, set them free.” You must have felt too free during our first non-nocturnal encounter, and you wanted to experience a touch more stiflement. This, too, like drinking, was what you believed should be done with one’s mid-twenties, with one’s life at this point. Maybe you wanted to convince your parents that you were a grown up or something. They did play such a key part in all the decisions you ended up making. So you secured a relationship, with me. Me, usually so skittish and unattainable. And I knew you had me that day at the saloon. If memory served (and it generally does in reminding me what happened between us, but it also doesn’t in not allowing me to forget), we exchanged “I love yous” that day. It sounds stupid and childish now–to have acted so impulsively and honestly. The thing was, when I said it, I didn’t even mean it. I was just drunk and going along with what I thought I should say and what you wanted to hear. I didn’t really believe you loved me either, your expression of it and desire seemed too cartoonish to be plausible. What’s more, no one had ever shown the same amount of zeal for me as you had. It was terrifying–because I didn’t want to get used to it, let my ego re-form into something overly burgeoning. But I guess it did. I guess that’s why it pained me so much when you informed me you had to move, that New York was deader than poetry. The exigency you had in leaving came at an especially inopportune moment, as my grandma had just died and I really needed your specific shoulder to cry on. You planned the departure well for yourself though, you who had suddenly evolved into a person so vexed by emotions and the time consumption they involved. Human drama and entanglement really is all risk and no reward. That’s why I shouldn’t have casually decided to go with you to the saloon that day. This all could have been avoided. Just like me needing to stop every twenty steps to tie my sandal when I came across the establishment in its new incarnation again.

Later on in our romance (or what was left of it), when you came to my small town of origin, we would go to a saloon in a hotel with my mother there. It was empty save for the three of us. Every time I go back home, I always try to get her to return there with me. She never wants to. All the saloons I valued in my life are closed to me, much in the same way the relationships that I value are.

I finished double-knotting the tie to my sandal and walked away from the building. There’s no point in lingering, in dwelling on its absence anymore.

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