Story: Bartender

I stand behind the bar, watching. Interested. The herd have just arrived, it’s 12am, all the other bars have just closed and I’m looking at this group of well dressed, nicely smelling twenty-somethings, and all I can call them is the herd. They shout at each other in sync as they saunter in, blending into one. I can hear them over the music, over the chatter of the other groups and the wide berth between me and them.

‘Lads, LADS, did you see that bird earlier? Couldn’t say anything coz all the others were there but, my God. She was class. Why’s that the first time I’m seeing her?’

‘Em, cos she’s Clancy’s ex, you idiot, and Anna-Rose doesn’t like her, they went to school together.’

‘Oh right, coz that matters. Don’t be so ridiculous. What are you having?’

Their faces appear almost identical, of course, they aren’t, but that’s how they appear. It’s dark and they’re all wearing black; jeans, t-shirts, shirts, boots, the uniform. Their gestures, idioms, drink orders, the same, it’s tiresome. Nobody stands apart.

‘Gin and Tonic.’

‘Vodka-soda-lime. Please.’

‘Pint of Heineken. Make it three, no – four actually. Yeah, four.’

‘Oh, wait, are you guys still serving cocktails?’

Yes.

Something different.

‘We are, what can I get you?’

‘I’ll have two of these ones’ she says, pointing at one of the signature cocktails on the menu, a Gurka Frasa. Most popular with women under thirty. Vodka and lime based, real original.

I start making them, taking my time, so I can really look at her, beside all of her friends. She hasn’t had as much to drink, she’s more composed, steadier on her feet, her eye-liner hasn’t run. She doesn’t talk so much.

That’s the worst about them-their incessant talking. The nonsensical dribble they repeat week after week. It’s dead, it’s boring. Every Friday and Saturday night, it’s the same conversation biting away at the edge of my consciousness; how everyone’s week was torturous, and how he or she is ‘So. Fucking. Annoying,’ they just couldn’t waiit to get out of there on Friday evening.

Adding the final touches to the cocktails, she smiles at me, card in hand, ready to pay. I like her. She’s… lucid.

‘Thank you so much.’

‘You’re welcome, that’s twenty-four.’

I look at her again as she’s entering her pin code. She catches my eye.

‘Crazy busy in here tonight..’

‘It is indeed, even busier in about an hour. There’s a hundred people more booked in.’

‘How do you do it? Is this your — I mean, are you in school as well?’

‘Yes, Trinity.’

‘No way! I just graduated’ – she stops, turning to pass the second drink to her sloppier friend. ‘I couldn’t have worked in a place like this while I was studying.’

Really? Because Mammy and Daddy would have been only too pleased to pay for all the drinking, clothes, accessories, shoes and… other things she was buying.

‘It’s fine.’

I turn to get the next order off one of her friends and watch her saunter off into the thick of the herd. While I pull this guy’s pint, she and two of the pack take the stairs to the bathroom.

I’m disappointed. I know exactly what she’s going there for, I expected more.

It was senseless. I was senseless to actually believe she could set herself apart from her friends, to be an individual.

But no, the allocation of Daddy’s money was about to go towards a night’s worth of fun. I continue serving while keeping a sporadic eye on the stairs waiting for confirmation, waiting for the idea I had had of this girl for a whole three minutes to be shattered, for her to collapse into this singular entity, the herd. She arrives back but is yet to confirm my suspicions. She walks and talks the same. She seems the same.

She looks at me and there’s something different.

There’s an indescribable air about her, something unusual about how she’s holding her drink, how she’s walking, how she’s talking.

She spies a group of men along the balcony paying attention to her, and pursing her lips before giggling at her friend’s comment, she rubs her hand over her nose, big sniff. A big gulp of her cocktail. She comes back over to me.

‘Can I please have a glass of water?’

‘You can, yes.’

I think I stare at her as the faucet runs. Her nose red, her lipstick – the tiniest bit smudged.

Handing her the glass she smiles again but doesn’t look at me, she’s embarrassed. We both know what she’s done, and I assume my knowledge is displayed all over my face.

I know that inside that upper jacket pocket is a tiny bag of powder – silly girl, didn’t even bother to pull the zip the whole way over.

‘LADS, another round. You’re buying Rob.’

‘Four Heinekens is it?’ I shout as they reach the counter, the music appearing to have reached another level. I thank the Dj silently for the drowning out of the incessant dribble.

‘Yeah, sound, yeah.’

Photo: Deposit Photos. 

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