March 3, 2015 | Rome, Italy | Partly Cloudy 8°C

St. Nick's Bar & Grill

By Connor Crawford
Published: 2015-01-15

"Everyone in the bar wanted her, but no one could ever have her."
D

ale cherished the moments at the end of the night when he could just lie in bed and focus all the energy he had left on using one foot to scratch the athlete's foot on his other foot and vice versa. It felt so good, toenails rubbing the flaky skin away until they reached the tender itchy part. He had bought a nine-dollar can of ointment spray about a week ago but hadn't used it yet. He didn't want to.

It was about six-thirty in the morning by the time Dale finally fell asleep. His girlfriend Daisy had left for work at her bakery an hour or so earlier.

He slept until it was five o'clock the following afternoon. His head throbbed and immediately he leaned over and got a cigarette out of his blue jeans that were on the floor next to the bed. He lit it and lay there smoking in bed for a while. Then he got up, and walked naked to the kitchen to make coffee and toast.

Dale lived alone in a gutted-out building. Daisy slept over a lot because it was closer to her bakery than her bungalow across town was. Rent was cheap and he had tons of space. He had sequestered off his bedroom by hanging canvas drop cloths between old work ladders. These were left-behind items from a painting business that used to occupy the building. Besides this, the rest of the place was wide open. The side that faced the street was completely glass, and since it faced west, when Dale woke up in the late afternoons like this — as he almost always did — the entire space would fill with a very warm dusty natural light. Right along the exposed brick wall perpendicular to this glass was where he had jimmied together his makeshift kitchen, which consisted of a deep work sink, an old stovetop and a series of mini fridges. He kept his microwave and coffee pot on the floor.

Dale had one table in the whole place. It was a white door stacked on top of piles of cinder blocks. In the holes of the cinderblocks he had stuffed magazines and newspapers and all around the desk were stacked books and CD's, and lines of records came out of the wall nearby. His old computer and turntable were on the desk, but besides those two items, an ashtray and some notes here and there, it was relatively clutter-free.

Dale reached into one of his refrigerators and fished a pickle out a jar with his thumb and forefinger. He ate it quickly, then grabbed another one and went and watched the street go by while he waited for his coffee to brew. It was the beginning of rush hour and traffic was sluggish. The power lines that hung above the cars appeared wavy through the building's old glass. There were plenty of bikers and pedestrians about, as well. All of these commuters were ending their long days at the office, ready to go home and watch TV, eat dinner and maybe try to get laid. Lots of them would also likely end up at a bar.

Dale poured himself a cup of coffee and went and ate breakfast at his desk. He put the needle into the groove of a record and kept watching the outside. He lit another cigarette. He had gotten pretty used to this semi-nocturnal life, coming to terms with missing out on the world's waking hours. His breakfast and the crooning of Hank Williams Sr. were interrupted when Daisy got home.

"Oh hey, good, you're up," Daisy said, almost yelled, from the far end of the giant room. "I brought you some day-old cupcakes."

Dale trotted along the expanse of floor separating the two of them to greet her. He gave her a big kiss and ate one of the cupcakes in three bites. They walked towards the kitchen part of the building.

"Dale, I do wish you would put on some clothes, especially with the windows wide open like this. You're going to cause a wreck someday."

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