“Yellow Fade to Grey, Downtown”

Audrey was yellow, which in women, shuns with vitality. When someone would cuss in the bar, she’d say “Hey!” And they’d seal it. She could carry on a conversation with anyone though, even the lowliest of the low. I would know, I was ignored by a lot of people, but she’d glue her glistening eyes on me here and there, offer some cheery chat, and it would beat me. I knew it wasn’t an achievement, but it still felt good, like I could smile on anyone who might emerge from the alleys while I was riding my bike home.
There were lots of things that were rare about Audrey. For instance, she was happy around other women, sometimes more so than with other men. I could tell this was a genuine happiness too, because her voice wouldn’t change, it would remain in the same mellow tone, neither overly giddy nor affected in any way. Or should I say, disaffected. Either way, she remained incredibly mellow, mellow yellow.
Though her hair was brown. I don’t know why I think of her as yellow, must be some gestalt thing. She walked like a princess, actually, with this thing she’d do where she’d swing her hips slightly with her forearms pointed out, elbows slightly bent. Sometimes I’d tip her too much, and this was a mistake. She didn’t need my money. Audrey understood the town we lived in, and she harbored a sensitivity to people like me, who would go into the bar just wanting to feel good. It was a fighting town, and also one where students from the catholic university would look down on you. And there were plenty of angry bars around town, but this wasn’t one of ’em. The owner of the bar didn’t like me, but I liked him, because he’d offer to take Audrey on these horseback riding trips. I’ve never been one for horses, or any animal that’s bigger than me, but it was still a nice gesture. Some of the other women working in the bar were sexy attention-grabbers, wihch I liked, since I had plenty of attention to give them, and others were more in-shell, so to speak. This was fine too. The mill that is time took something out of the lot of us everyday, so you learned to understand caustic demeanor. Because there was still truth. Take how there were breweries popping up left and right around us. One of the male bartenders in this bar had been planning one. I was in there one day, no Audrey, just the gay old owner and a bunch of males, saying things like, your mama this, or your mama that, and this guy really puffed up, because I’d asked him about the joint he was trying to run. He wasn’t too interested in me. The beer was good, but damn, I could barely even look around. So suddenly a man walks in wearing what looks like a mechanic suit. He’s raw in the flesh, nothing can break him. I look at him, and he gives me a smile and a nod. And there, the bartender on the clock feels something go out of him, his dream, his OTHER dream, of total domination, gone like that, when he sees how much I esteem the worker from the actual brewery of notoriety, which sold to this bar.
I’m the type to act like I don’t know anything. I don’t want any part of anyone else’s business. But I do go into bars, this is something I’m guilty of. My town has an inordinate number of them, but is a little low on cafes and live music, so lots of times these bars are just radioing in what’s popular, over the speakers, and in the minds of the people working too, for that matter. I see the ideals of some people, they need certain materialistic motifs to unfold in order for them to feel proud about themselves. Kindness doesn’t play a role in this. It’s all power dynamic. Well, I may not be Julius Ceasar, but I’m not exactly a vegetable. I am proud of myself, in certain ways, but at the same time, I know when I am going to emit negative vibes, and I would never go into this particular bar in such a case. I have this other bar I save for this instance. I knew a lot about the world, and when I wasn’t too addled, or at all addled, actually, I liked going into the bar where Audrey worked, partly because it just happened to be a good bar. More than just panther piss on tap, you know. And I had a love for people in general, but I hated suck-ups. Braggarts, thieves, leeches, prima donnas, none of these things bothered me, you know. Be you. But there’s no excuse for working in this bar
where I went and being fake. Some houses of cards wear clothing. Maybe Audrey had a way of nullifying all of the men who worked there. They all seemed incredibly pent up, walking on eggshells. Or maybe I should have been more pent up when I was in there. I was chatty. Who told me I could talk? I didn’t have a girlfriend or a good job. Sure, I was attracted to solitude and adverse to offices, but still, I carried less responsibility in my everyday life than a lot of these individuals, at least, responsibility as they saw it. I’d try to be kind to everyone, though, and like I said, when I was out of control, I wouldn’t go to this bar. That’s when it’s time to hit the hash and Fruity Loop, though damn I wished I had that mechanism that Tricky had on his youtube documentary. But I digress.
A situation arose where O’Toole’s, which at the time was a big Irish Pub chain, sort of like Old Chicago but Irish, offered the owner of this bar a large sum of money for it. The owner was an unhappy man. He was married, but though his wife hung out in the bar a lot, they hardly conversed, and you could sense the vibe of dismissal. The bar was a refuge for each of them, though, so they could be seen in there often. Still, you couldn’t help noticing in the eyes of the man, the owner, something more — horizons unclimbed, matters not yet done. I personally saw Bloomington in him, or somewhere in the hillier downstate — Terre Haute, what have you. You could really see some impeccable sunrises down there, and there would probably be more interesting horse paths to ride on. Hell, the guy certainly carried an ideal I didn’t fit into. Though the huge city got me a little bit claustrophobic, I was somewhat more the Chicago type — don’t judge me and I won’t judge you, let’s just talk. So I really wasn’t surprised when the “shocking” word came in that the owner was going to attend a conference held by the company that owned O’Toole’s for the purpose of discussion of the proposed transaction. The owner offered his wife a trip, she was the honorary owner, as it were, but she declined. She stopped into the bar briefly, but mostly, apparently, hung out at her sister’s that day. I figured what the hell, it would still be a good bar. One of the guys asked me if I’d still come in. Is the pope a catholic? I answered. He laughed. See, sucking up, but whatever, I didn’t care. That’s when I saw Audrey though, coming around the corner. Rarely do things break my heart anymore, but what I saw really took something out of me. I knew she wasn’t foreseeing any unemployment or financial sidetrack, unless of course she moved, since she was not only extremely pleasing to the eyes but also of exceptional bartending experience,but I saw her vision knotted up in the paneling of that bar that was now in jeopardy. And she didn’t like me as much that day, either. But this seemed almost superfluous. Becuase what she had given me hadn’t come from me, or if it did, it was certainly at least a heavily competent reflection, with a cherry on top. She’d had a way with this bar. I looked behind me and saw the little sign about gardening. Three months before this’d gone up, I’d heard Audrey, on an unseasonably warm March day, go, “This weather makes me wanna PLANT something.” This was how she was, so vital. And obviously influential. And surely, I saw on her face how she viewed the corporate buyout as a dead end. Should it happen, that is, which nobody knew at the time, obviously, one way or the other, though I counted the amount of people who asked about during the two hours I was sitting there. 14. I even heard the owner’s wife come back in to count a drawer or talk to a server, or something, and two of the 14 came from this brief sec.
But God, why do we need bars? Bars are the best! Bars are a disgrace to society! Oh how the feeling oscillated, even in my own head. They’re there for those hateful eyes you saw in your fourth grade classmates, for that guy who molested you in the locker room, they’re there for, and I think of the classic recent novel by Joseph Caldwell The Pig Did it, “The insufferable amount of enmity that has befallen our world.” For every time a bar caused you to go to jail, there are ten other times when they saved you from it, with room to breathe, too. I wasn’t there when the owner came back, but I asked my friend about it just randomly, at a systematic time, and he said yup, the deal’s goin’ through. Molly’s was getting bought out. My friend had this hardassed way of acting like nothing mattered. He’d had a bunch of crazy jobs, like driving retards around, and one time he had to grab one of them and slam him up against the wall because the kid was about to stab him with a screwdriver. It was often hard for me to impress my friends. And it was hard to cheer up Audrey during the last three months of Molly’s. I knew better than to even try.
Exceptionally lucky, I ran into Audrey in the library in early summer, while the establishment was closed, to morph into O’Toole’s. She was aptly gazing into a copy of A Scarlet Letter.
“Hi, excuse me,” I said, walking up to her. “How are you? You worked at Molly’s, right?”
“Oh, yeah,” she said, “I’m good,” polite but removed, sedate. Patient.
“Couldn’t help but notice it closed. Hope it didn’t set you back any?”
Hmm,” she said, “well, right now I’m just living with my boyfriend, not sure what I’m going to do. I’m thinking about going back to school.”
“You should,” I said. I smiled, nodded and walked away. She wasn’t the O’Toole’s type.

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