St. Marks & 1st

St. Marks & 1st
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Picture Credits: Ruslan Alekso

A bartender leans against the counter of the bar she tends, explaining to a man on a stool how she prefers remaining sober on dates. Because when she’s drunk, she says, everyone’s attractive. Then, after she’s hooked up with whomever that other person happens to be, she doesn’t know if it’s because she actually liked him, or if she was looking for something else. She keeps it at that, and the man on the stool nods in appreciation. Whether his gesture is genuine or not, he is outwardly captivated by the introspection she displays. A third man, sitting some nine or ten feet away, next to a friend he’s just gone to see a matinee film with, wonders distractedly what relation the man on the stool has to the bartender. What position does he hold in her esteem such that she’s decided to volunteer such a glimpse into her character? A co-worker, perhaps? A friend awaiting the end of her shift? A hopeful romantic lending his ready ear? Thinking, You can stay sober with me. I can get on board with that.

This third man’s friend, having just finished expounding on a particularly enlightening idea regarding the film, stands to go to the bathroom. Alone, the third man pulls his phone from his pocket with the half-hearted intention of seeing whether he’s received a text from his wife. Or maybe in his inbox he’ll find an email from somebody. Or, if all else fails, perhaps there are some photos in his gallery he might swipe through.

A chorus of shouting arises from the other end of the counter. The third man doesn’t look up to see the gesticulating arms and expressions aghast on the faces of the sports fans, their eyes glued to the flat screen television.  He’s always held certain disdain for unconditional idolatry of athletics, the steadfast fealty to a team. Long ago, however, he crossed the threshold of age at which those initially inclined stop admiring blanket condemnations of things like professional sport. When the witty diatribe is no longer taken as keen or original but is received as the bitter yammering of a self-righteous fool—a fool who never made it himself, no less. At least the athletes knew what they were to society, shaped most of what they did around credence, and based their lives on tangible objectives. No, at a certain age it is better to bite one’s tongue.

The screen of his phone yields very little. There is no text from his wife, just a promotional email from an organization he donated to until the credit card he’d used to sign up expired. The photos in his gallery are somehow displeasing to him, trite. They make him feel, in an instant, very small.

His friend is back, standing over him. “Shall we?”

He stuffs his phone back in his pocket—uncertain of why he pulled it out in the first place. The bartender has left her station behind the counter. It dawns on him that he’s afforded himself little design to guide a now weary mind through what remains of the day. Besides, he is stuck thinking of the inadequacy of his gallery, of the maddened, charged person he used to be.

Jeff Gabel

About Jeff Gabel

Jeff Gabel is a writer from Colorado. After moving back to the States from New Zealand, he spent a number of years traveling to and working in such places as Seattle, Missouri, Texas, Southern Oregon, and California. In 2016, he and his wife moved to Brooklyn, NY, where they remained until recently relocating to Denver. They now have a little daughter, whom they spend their evenings with cooking and listening to music. His fiction has recently appeared in Literary Orphans Journal. Learn more about him at jeffgabelwrites.com.

Jeff Gabel is a writer from Colorado. After moving back to the States from New Zealand, he spent a number of years traveling to and working in such places as Seattle, Missouri, Texas, Southern Oregon, and California. In 2016, he and his wife moved to Brooklyn, NY, where they remained until recently relocating to Denver. They now have a little daughter, whom they spend their evenings with cooking and listening to music. His fiction has recently appeared in Literary Orphans Journal. Learn more about him at jeffgabelwrites.com.

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