Elliott’s finished his conversation with Marcus, headed outside into the early afternoon and doubled back toward the bar beneath the restaurant he cleans.
I walked outside and watched streetlights change for a minute. Everyone had somewhere to go and the ones that didn’t seemed content to walk around for the sake of moving. I wanted to head to my place and write but I told Anthony I’d meet him at Skratte’s. It was a good dark place in the daytime, always full of smoke and laughter and music. I took the main stairs down from the street, stood at the bar while my eyes adjusted to its underworld feel and ordered three shots of whiskey.
Anthony was alone in the middle of a mess of tables and chairs, lost in one of those moments Skratte’s could induce in mid-afternoon before people came down from campus. He had a paper folded in his hand, a cigarette burning in an ashtray and two half-empty pints in front of him. There’d be no chance for this once evening arrived, when your only choice would be to navigate through pockets or wade amongst the nooks until you found a spot to fall into a wall.
I set the shots down beside the pints. He nodded, picked up his ale and drank. I knew the other belonged to Blane. I didn’t want to see him and had been good at avoiding him for the last week, but Centre was too small to keep that up and besides you couldn’t get away from your oldest friends.
Anthony set his paper down and looked up in a soiled sort of way. He was well into a good drunk.
“Where’s Blane? I asked.
“Using the phone. What are we having?”
“Irish whiskey for the chill.”
“I haven’t noticed a chill. We’ve been at it since noon.” He looked at his watch. “Sit.”
“It’s always cold down here. The brick holds onto winter until August.”
“The same.” (more…)