She tells me she’s been coming to this bar since 1996, when she was fourteen. She stows an unwieldy cloth bag with what looks like most of her worldly belongings on the seat of a booth already occupied by someone else. She laps the bar in exaggerated dance-like steps. All this within a minute of arrival.
How long have you worked here? she asks, instantly disappointed by my answer. Okay, I’m going to give you a choice: Mojito or Paloma. No mint, right, so Paloma.
I bring her drink and say Four dollars. She gives me a twenty and insists with a dramatic flourish of her hands that I keep the change. Then her male counterpart walks in. His skin is pulled almost as tight about his bones as hers but he has a mustache and is a lot less fidgety. He orders PBR.
A young couple sits down to the right of them and Ms. Paloma immediately engages the guy in what looks from a distance from body language like an inappropriate exchange. A second later, she’s removed the floppy hat off his head, draped it over one of the lamps that light the artwork on the wall and furiously snaps photos from various angles with her phone.
To their left are three women and a man. I know one of them a little. She used to live across the street from me in a chaotic building populated by men who drank all day while tinkering over broken down vehicles in the alley. They had frequent middle-of-the-night screaming matches. Apropos of nothing, the mustachioed man tells this woman that viruses don’t exist.
Instead of ignoring him, the woman—my former neighbor—engages him in debate. It escalates into shouting. Meanwhile Ms. Paloma is attempting to baby-feed some sort of leftovers into the mouths of various bar patrons. This pisses off her man at least as much as people doubting his scientific acumen. He doesn’t want her giving away his food. I ask him to lower the volume. He says it’s because I’m angry about his beliefs. I tell him I don’t care what he says, just so it’s said quieter.
The debate continues to include doubts about gravity. That’s when Preston has had enough and tells the man to get out. Mustachio reiterates that we’re discriminating against him for his beliefs. Eventually, he follows my former neighbor outside so they can continue their discussion. His woman pretends like she’s not involved and orders another Paloma. She tells me he drinks beer all day, smacks her around, and won’t fuck her. Then she asks for my number.
I say no but suggest she needs better friends. She doesn’t disagree. Tells me her man is a flat-earther and owns an arsenal of guns. Then tries to press a crystal into my palm.
After disappearing into the bathroom for about half an hour she leaves to join her man, who’s been loitering just outside the door the whole time. My old neighbor, who’d joined the woman in the bathroom for a long while, sighs and tells me how sad these two made her. Turns out she’s some kind of therapist who doesn’t know how to clock out.
She wants to save everybody. I just want them to drink their drinks quietly and leave.
I returned to the Salt Lake Dirt show to talk about the new book and read a couple pages from DeLillo’s Mao II into a microphone in honor of my book-release.
This Saturday, my show opens at Buena Vista Projects. The reception is 5-8pm. Then, Sunday, my show at Firecat Projects will close. I’ll be there 1-5pm. Show up and you can take the piece you want right off the wall and take it home!