“A sinking ship it all is. There’s no denying that,” Audrey offered, as she prepared a takeout drink order for another regular customer of the bar that seemed to be losing his mind from not being able to sit in public anymore amid fellow sloths and undercover alcoholics posing as being “stressed.” Her boss, Devin, wearing a Metallica face mask, shrugged as he replied, “2020 is the Titanic but less glamorous.”
Audrey retorted, “I guess you’re old enough to know.”
Devin rolled his eyes at her, accustomed to the “fossil” jokes that came with being both actually old and overly physically wizened as a result of staying in New York for more than two years–four years max. No, instead Devin had been living there for twenty-one, opening up three bars in the North Brooklyn area that, once upon a time, made him feel endlessly powerful but, now, just sort of made him feel like he had made a huge mistake. For the essence of what a bar meant–a place for people to fraternize and commingle freely, without inhibitions–was in direct contrast to pandemic conditions. The type of conditions that stipulated one had to wear a face mask and maintain at least six feet of distance apart. If the bar ever did open again, it would look like a fuckin’ joke to have essentially three barstools available for usage in keeping with the “keep ‘em separated” mentality that was taking hold over the new decade. Which already felt endlessly old, played out to a nauseating degree. As old and nauseatingly played out as Devin felt, for that matter. He had kept up the pretense of fighting the good fight and going through the rigmarole of setting up the “drinks to go” gambit the same way every other neighborhood bar had so as to secure from the government that coveted small business loan. To show that his small business mattered, and was a fixture in the community. In truth, he couldn’t wait to use most of the money to extricate himself from this godforsaken borough. He didn’t care what the restrictions were on using the loan, he would find a way to get out, even if he had to leave Audrey in charge of everything. She was still young enough, therefore naive enough to “believe in New York.” That it couldn’t be cancelled, as so many were predicting. With just as many delusionoids coming to its defense with “think pieces” featuring titles like, “Sorry Haters, New York Will Never Die.” Though one is pretty sure it did after the mid-60s when the effects of imminent bankruptcy and decay were starting to become unignorable. When the glamor disappeared from the city as it had disappeared from all of existence in 2020. The thought of fur-bedecked socialites rubbing elbows with some of the twentieth century’s foremost literary writers at places like El Morocco and the Rainbow Room was a concept as anathema in the present as decorum. Or, say, “literary” writers actually living in New York.
Its most glaring problem, in fact, was that people kept trying to resuscitate it instead of just letting it fucking go up in flames. That’s what they had to do with Rome. Not that New York City is even remotely comparable in terms of accomplishments. After all, what had Devin accomplished? He opened a fucking bar. Not exactly the height of human progress. So much as facilitating the comfort in its deterioration. He was no longer comfortable with that. Jesus, how had his mind so quickly gone down this dark path of being unable to think of anything other than escape? All stemming from Audrey making her “old” joke. She did seem suddenly contrite about it though, touching his arm with her latex-gloved hand and offering, “Hey, do you want me to take over for the day?”
He sighed, unable to refuse the offer. “That would actually be great. I think I need to just be outside right now. Or maybe inside my apartment. I don’t really know.”
Audrey regarded him with concern. “Are you okay? Look, it’s all right to feel like shit. It’s 2020. We are all on the fucking Titanic and some of us are going down sooner than others, but we’re all going down.”
“Was that meant to be comforting?”
“Yeah,” Audrey assured as she resumed preparing a Mai Tai and a Piña Colada–it was summer, after all. People wanted to feel like it was with a little help from their beverage choice.
“Okay, well, I’m gonna take off then. You’re sure you’ve got it covered?”
She nodded in John’s direction as he walked back through the door from another delivery. “So long as I have John as my delivery minion, I’ll be fine.”
He didn’t linger after that, grabbing his backpack and an extra pair of latex gloves in case as he practically bolted out of the establishment. Things felt slightly better in the light of day. He reckoned he had missed out on years of viable Vitamin D benefits thanks to being stuck in a darkened bar at most hours of the day. Feeling whimsical, he headed toward the place that once felt like the edge of the world before it got so overpopulated and commodified, N. 5th Street and Kent. There, he got a ferry that was, of course, empty, with ridership having decreased exponentially out of the collective fear. Even now, as restrictions were starting to be lifted. Devin didn’t mind; the isolation was as close as one could get to “decadence” in New York. Never mind notions of elegant crystal stemware or sterling silver flatware, let alone the thought of the presence of a gymnasium or swimming pool on this boat.
No, the frills were not necessary to mask the looming “kerplunk” of everything. Why bother dressing in evening attire when the ship of society had hit one iceberg that it could no longer avoid? A massive wall of an entity that could no longer allow it to continue in its already weakened, sickened state? Devin took off his mask as he headed to the front (or was it the back, he never knew) of the boat for a view of the city. He held it in the wind and let it go.
As the ferry headed toward the direction of Manhattan, he couldn’t help but laugh to himself as it started to sink. Who knows why? Maybe it was something technical, maybe it was 2020. But goddammit, he kind of wished he at least had the glamor of an orchestra being present on board to play one final song.