Monday, July 1, 2013

Still Night



John Matney

The Crow’s Nest was a small bar perched on the second floor of a gray concrete building next to the International Marketplace in Waikiki. The tourists tended the ignore the bar, rushing to buy made in China Aloha shirts and plastic buddhas. The owner and bartender, Sam Manoa mostly served draft beer and the occasional shot. No drinks with umbrellas or silly names like “Coconut Cement Mixer” for Sam. Anyone ordering such a thing would get a long silent look from Sam, noting that he was over 6 feet and weighed close to 300 pounds, none of it fat and would decide to go back down the stairs. 
O’Brian walked up the stairs to escape the tourists. The peanut shells on the floor crunched under his shoes. It was dark inside. He felt his way to a small round table in the back far corner of the bar, where he could see anyone coming in. It was an old habit, now unconscious. He took off his Dixie Cup, the bright white upturned hat of the US Navy and carefully placed it on the table. 
On a small raised stage in the opposite corner, across from the bar, there was a small stage covered in a spotlight. A fat man with a blond whispy beard and ponytail sang his version of Harry Chapin’s song “Taxi.” O’Brian sipped his beer, ate a handful of peanuts and surveyed the room. It was hard because the room was so dark and he heard the other people before he could see them. 
He noticed a thin man with a goatee and wearing sunglasses. He was wearing big bell bottom pants and a polyester shirt with big lapels. He had dark brown pockmarked skin that shone in the occasional light and big white teeth. O’Brian thought he looked like a rat. 
O’Brian heard the man say, “hey baby, what’s yo name”  O’Brian heard the response, “Veronica Alvarez.” “She” was a short slim Filipina with long black hair. She had plump lips that shone with bright red lipstick. She was wearing a dress with bright hibiscus flowers on it that were the same color as the lipstick and matching platform shoes. She was still less than 5 feet tall, O”Brian noticed. She looked embarrassed at the man’s attention. 
“No I don wan to go out with you” she said to the Rat. “Aw c’mon baby he said, I got a fine crib and I want to rock you.” O’Brian stifled a laugh, no sense getting into a fight this early into his liberty. She said, “no, leave me alone and got up to walk from her table towards the bathroom. Like all of the men in the bar, O’Brian turned his head and followed her to the door. 
O’Brian got up to get another beer. “You with them” the big Hawaiian bartender asked? “No” O’Brian said. “That’s good because when Roni’s boyfrien get’s here, you be glad you wasn’t.” He walked back to his table, sat down and looked at the scene. It felt like a play to him with people acting out roles to show each other what kind of men or women they were. 
A fat man with tight curly blond hair, wearing Ben Davis pants and a flannel shirt with only the top button fastened started laughing at the Rat. “Stevie, the lady don’t seem to like you that much. The Rat said, “oh yeah, she gonna me just fine after I give her some time.” The Rat and his friends laughed at this brilliant insight. O’Brian thought of what the bartender had said to him and wondered what the boyfriend would do if he showed up. 
O’Brien guessed the fat man was copying the cholos he had seen in LA ,maybe San Jose or the mission in San Francisco. O’Brian thought to himself that he hated posers and come to think of it, weren’t actors posers that got paid? After drinking 4 beers, O”Brian conceded that maybe philosophy wasn’t one of his strengths.
O’Brian was considering his intellectual limitations when he heard someone near the front door shouted out in Tagalog. He saw four Filipino men storm up the stairs, banging the door open. One of the men, almost O’Brian’s size walked up to the bartender. He saw them have a whispered conversation which ended when the bartender nodded toward the Rat. 
Veronica Alvarez chose that moment to come out of the bathroom. She had retouched the lipstick and all the men could smell her perfume. She turned her head and flipped her hair in the way women do when they know men are watching them. She walked back to her table. She has a graceful walk O’Brian noticed. He liked that. She sat down and turned towards the 4 Filipinos at the bar, her eyes getting very wide and her red painted mouth parted in a silent scream.
The Filipino that had been talking to the bartender rushed up to Veronica, hissed something in her ear and grabbed her arm, jerking her out of the seat. O’Brian heard the slap and saw her slump down in her chair, sobbing in her folded arms. O’Brian half rose out of his chair, then he remembered the bartenders warning. He decided to wait for a better chance.
The Filipino was sweating a lot and he stomped over to the Rat’s table. “Hey yo, I’m not gonna let you slap me like you did your bitch, homey.” “I cut you up you motherfucker” the Filipino screamed. O’Brian saw him reach into his back pocket and take out a Buck knife, snapping it open with his thumb, O’Brian heard the “snick.” “Ooooo, we see about that,” the Rat said. O’Brian watch the two rush each other and without thinking, he grabbed the neck of his beer bottle, looking around for something else he could use. 
“Stop it, stop it, I say” O’Brian heard Veronica scream. The two men turned towards her. O’Brian saw that she had stopped crying, but not before there were two long trails of mascara dripping from her eyes. Her eyes were burning like coal embers. He could feel the heat from his chair. The condensation on the beer bottle made it slippery. 
“You,, she stuttered in a rage, treat me like I’m the last piece of meat on a plate!” “You can both go to hell!” She snatched up her purse and with more dignity than O’Brian thought possible, she stalked out the bar. O’Brian sipped his beer and wondered if he had seen Grace Kelly make a departure like that in one of her movies with Cary Grant. 
O’Brian heard the Rat laughing. “Oh man, oh man, did you hear that woman, he shouted at his friends?” The Filipino stared at the floor, ashamed. When one of his cronies started to speak, the Filipino silenced him with a glare. He left the bar, saying nothing as his friends silently filed after him down the steps, clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk The Rat and his friends giggled for a minute and then left. 
O’Brian was left to finish his now warm beer. He tugged on his dixie cup, making sure it was level with his eyebrow and cocked just so. He walked up to the bar, gave the bartender a couple of bucks and said, “thanks for the tip.” As he walked down the stairs, O’Brian felt good for some reason, he didn’t know why and wasn’t going to ask. 
Sam Manoa finished cleaning the glasses and wiped the bar with a big clean bright towel. It was his favorite part of the night. All the angry and happy shouting was stilled. He finished his chores and counted out the register.  Then he turned off the lights and locked the front door, walking down the steps into the cool damp night. It was a nice quiet walk back to his apartment. He was hoping that his wife had dinner ready.