A quick one at a bar I go to sometimes. Weeknight, it’s slow, a few tables straggle. The busboy announces last call, even though it’s early, then bends toward us. Whispered, “Not you.”
The stragglers leave; the busboy locks the door and turns out all the lights except one. We follow the pale glow to the bar. The bartender pours a round of drinks, which threaten to spill over the sides but don’t. We toast.
I taste my drink and watch for the signal. It is given. The pulse of conversation quickens as smoke rises to the ceiling. We begin to lose ourselves in the near-dark.
The stories come one on top of the other, jokes edge toward the ribald. It’s a relief to laugh out loud. Then, a perfect line of shots appears on the bar. We search for another toast; I seize one. “To bar culture.” It is agreed. “To bar culture.”
I stay longer than I should and relish every moment.