One hungover morning wasn’t that different from any other hungover morning. At least that’s what Leslie like to tell herself. She struggled out of bed as her alarm clock went off and moaned looking into the mirror. Her mascara was running down her face and it looked like she’d spent last night in the back of someone’s pick-up truck. She didn’t remember much of last night, but she knew that she needed to get ready for work if she planned on opening on time. She wiped her face and pulled her long, blonde hair into a tight ponytail, forced a work shirt over the same bra she had worn last night, grabbed her purse off the floor, and stormed out the front door.
Leslie barreled her way through the glass door. She walked to the backroom, flipped the six scattered switches in the circuit breaker and trudged off slowly to the bar. She placed her purse down in the corner she usually did and went about turning on the six, big-screen, TVs that hung behind her. She found the noise of the TV to really dull out the feeling of her hangover. Leslie popped the cap on the bottle of Tito’s and mixed some into a glass with a yellow can of red bull.
Leslie had been the opening bartender on Sunday’s ever since she started working at Dick’s three years ago. This was despite the fact that she had spent two days before her interview making up some excuse of why she couldn’t be in Sunday mornings. It wasn’t that Leslie was particularly religious, or had a problem with Sunday mornings, but the hangover on a Sunday after a night out drinking in one of the premier party-schools in the nation tended to be pretty rough. The money was nice during football season though, so she didn’t complain too much. Leslie finished the drink she made and put the glass in the sink. She looked in the mirror that stretched from one end of the bar to the other and pulled her hair tie tight to the base of her skull and let out a painful sigh. All of her friends said, “opening a bar couldn’t be all that bad, you get to go to work hungover and be around all that liquor.” But all of those “friends,” had obviously never opened a bar, and it showed.
Dick’s, like most sports bars, had no interest in serving breakfast (there are no sports at these times – typically) and didn’t open until 11am. But that didn’t mean that Leslie got to show up at that time. She had to be in by 9, 8:30 some mornings, and get everything ready. First, she had to wipe down the bar, clean the beer taps, those small tables around the bar, and then go through the process of cutting up all the oranges and limes that people expect when they come in. Then she had to go through all the TVs and make sure that they were all playing different football games. When she was lucky, Brian, the manager of Dick’s, would put little tags with which games he wanted on which TVs. Leslie wasn’t that lucky this morning. She figured that putting them all on ESPN until someone asked, would be the easiest way out, so she did. She finished wiping down every nook and cranny, walked back behind the bar, and proceeded to the kitchen. She pulled a large container of oranges out of the fridge and carried them to the bar. Then she went back for the limes. She swung the fridge open, and heard a voice say, “Hey there, stranger.”
“Jesus fucking Christ,” Leslie said and nearly jumping out of her skin.
Fat Bob, the cook who had been working here for nearly a decade was laughing his ass off and scrubbing the stove top.
“You scared the shit out of me, Bobby. When did you get here?”
“About 30 minutes ago, I think.”
“But all the lights were off when I came in and –“
“I like it in the dark. It’s peaceful you know?”
“More like you can’t see how dirty that grill is.”
“That too,” Fat Bob said smiling and untying his apron. “But someone looks like she had a rough night.”
“I don’t even want to talk about it.”
“Aww, did someone get their feelings hurt?”
“To be honest,” Leslie said adjusting the container of limes, “I can’t fucking remember.”
Fat Bob laughed and pulled out a pack of Newports.
“Care to join me?” He asked heading for out back. “I could at least tell you what happened here last night.”
“You know I’d love to, Bobby. But these fruits aren’t going to cut themselves.”
Leslie placed the container of limes on the bar next to the oranges and pulled out a cutting board. Now, cutting fruit into wedges is a fairly simple process. You put fruit down on the board and slice. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. But the average, non-restaurant employee had never cut this many fruit in their life, let alone hungover. The mechanical process of lining up 10 or so fruit and then cutting them, then rotating the pieces, and cutting again at least got her mind off the ringing in her ears. Leslie cut and cut and when she was done, she pushed all of the wedges she’d made into new, smaller, containers. She picked up the large containers and took them back to the fridge. I need to stop drinking so much, Leslie thought to herself after noticing how heavy her breathing had gotten after walking only eight feet. Leslie reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone. It was 10:24. She pulled her pack of Newport 100’s out of her purse and headed out to the back porch. She scrolled on social media trying to see if she could piece together what had happened last night. To the best of her recollection it went something like this:
Leslie’s “best friend,” Bethany had already convinced their friend Tiffany to go out drinking. She claimed that she needed to get extra, super drunk to get over the breakup from Joey that she was still reeling over. Leslie hated going out when Bethany was like this. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to be supportive of her friend in her time of need, but it was that Bethany had a new boyfriend every other week. It didn’t matter how much you pointed this out to her, or how much you tried to tell her that she’d find somebody better. On those nights out drinking trying to get over her new-ex, there were no boys allowed, and any men that were brave enough to even attempt walking up to this group of girls would be met with some of the strongest denial they’d ever face – from Bethany at least. Leslie didn’t want to join the “fuck every guy who ever roamed the earth parade,” but she was single, with no real romantic entanglements, and could find little, if any, excuse to get her out of going. Saturday and Sundays were the only nights she didn’t work, and Leslie figured at the very least, something interesting might happen. She squeezed into some tight jeans, pulled on her ripped Rolling Stones t-shirt, and put on just the right amount of red lipstick. She met up with Bethany and Tiffany and they had round after round of vodka shots as Bethany let the tears stroll down her face. This must have gone on for a few hours, when eventually, out of the blue, a kind, young, gentleman came and started chatting Leslie up. He was cute. Cute and nervous and a sweet talker. He made all the girls laugh stuttering while complimenting Leslie. Bethany didn’t even have it in her to tell the boy off. He was nervous and sweet in the kind of way that some people might find endearing. It wasn’t that Leslie didn’t, but as a bartender, sweet and endearing tended not to be remembered. She’d heard every line in the book – the good ones, the bad ones, and even some she could tell were purely original. She ended up telling him that she worked at Dick’s, he could see her there tomorrow. The bartender placed three vodka shots on the table, courtesy a group of guys at the end of the bar. Leslie and the girls waved, and the boy walked away with a smile on his face. What the boy didn’t know was that Leslie always said that to guys she didn’t want to sleep with (she figured at the very least she could get them to tip her well).
They took down the shots and decided that they were going to head to Dick’s to end the night. Leslie detested drinking where she worked, but it was better than going home and going to bed. Brad was the bartender, as he always was on the weekend. Leslie and Brad had a system where they would give each other’s friends a free round or two when one of them was bartending. The girls sat down and Brad shook his head. He poured three vodka red bulls and passed them out to the girls. They drank and drank at Dick’s until the inevitable happened – Bethany started crying again. She missed Joey – he was the one. So were Hank, Jim, and Freddy, Leslie said to herself taking the final sip off her drink. A man came and stood next to her with his empty glass. Brad was on the other end of the bar dealing with a group of frat boys who were well past the point of blotto, which tended to mean they were getting aggressive. The man stood there waiting for the bartender, not looking at Leslie at all. Leslie found him attractive in a revolting way, and wished he was looking. He had a strong five o’ clock shadow that gripped tightly around his jaw. There were tattoos all over his skin and his hair looked like it hadn’t been combed in days. Leslie sucked at her straw until all of the liquid was gone, and it started making that annoying noise that kids like to do with their McDonald’s cup. The man looked over at Leslie and his eyes went from tits to vagina and then back again.
“Rolling stones, huh?”
“I bet you can’t even name an album.”
“Yeah. Anyone could think of a song.”
“Beggars Banquet. Exile on Main Street. Let it Bleed. Tatto–“
“Okay, okay. Sorry I doubted you.”
“You shouldn’t have, asshole.”
Brad appeared back in front of them and asked the man what he wanted. He took Leslie and the man’s glasses and came back with the man’s and then Leslie’s.
“Let me pay for the lady’s drink.”
“Okay,” Brad said rolling his eyes. “It’s on your tab.”
“My name’s Daniel,” the man said reaching out his hand. “What’s yours?”
The rest of the night is a bit of a blur, but Leslie knows that Tiffany ended up taking Bethany home to cry and Leslie ended up going to Daniel’s apartment and doing things she regretted enough to sneak out the moment she knew he was sound asleep.
Leslie pushed her Newport into the ashtray and walked inside. She pulled the neon open sign’s metal string and the light clicked on. She walked behind the bar and waited. Leslie heard the front door swing open and in walked Old Ed, pulling his straw fedora off his head. Old Ed, as the name suggests, was the oldest regular of Dick’s. He’d been coming in everyday right at open for the last 15 years. He never said so himself, but everyone assumed that he was in it for one of those small, gold plaques that get put on barstools after a long-time regular passes. Old Ed sat down at the end of the bar, putting his straw fedora on the seat next to him. Leslie put her phone down and smiled at Ed before walking over. She placed one of those square napkins in front of him and started pouring a pint of Stella Artois.
“How are you doing this morning, Ed?”
“Not too bad for an old man,” he said clearing his throat. “But it’s Sunday. You know what that means Leslie?”
Ed had a habit of learning all of the restaurant employees’ names.
“What’s that Ed?” Leslie asked putting the beer down on the napkin.
“It means there can be beer for breakfast.”
Ed lifted the pint glass to his lips and took a long sip. Leslie, nor any of the other employees for that matter, bothered to tell Ed that every morning for Ed meant there could be beer for breakfast. He was losing a little more each day, but no one had the heart in them to tell him (it could mean less tips). Leslie put both her elbows on the bar as Ed put the pint glass down.
“Tell me a story, Ed.”
Like most old men, Ed loved telling stories of things that had happened to him in his life. Leslie liked getting Ed to tell stories because even if they were ones she’d heard before, they made the time go by quicker. Ed thought for a moment with a long, “hmmm,” and put the Stella back to his lips. When he put the glass down, he started telling the story of when he took his ex-wife Cynthia to Paris. Leslie had heard about Cynthia countless times, but she hadn’t heard Ed ever mention Paris. Ed said that there was love in the air, the food was good, but the people were shit. Leslie laughed at this. He said that it smelled like cigarettes everywhere and that the looks he got when he walked in stores made him wonder how the movies and books ever painted the city the way it did. Ed finished what was left in his glass and Leslie poured him another.
“I learned something while over there in Paris though, Leslie.”
The door swung open and both of them looked over. A young man came walking in with a confident stride.
“What’s that Ed?”
Ed was taking a sip off the beer when he noticed that the man who walked in had stopped at the barstool right next to Ed, even though it was taken by a fedora.
“I didn’t take you to be a fucking slut.”
I thought I remembered that jawline, Leslie said to herself biting her tongue. Ed put his beer down and raised his eyebrow at the boy.
“Excuse me?” Leslie finally said after an awkward silence.
“I thought we had some kind of special connection, Leslie.”
“Wait. You thought what exactly?”
“We clicked. On the Rolling Stones. and we talked about our hopes and dreams. Then I wake up at 6am, planning on taking you out to coffee and breakfast, only to find out that you’ve already up and snook off. I would have called that enough, but then I’m talking to my roommate about you, show him your picture from Instagram, and the next thing I know he says he saw you talking it up with some handsome guy last night. What the fuck? I should have known you were just like every other girl I’d been with – a fucking whore.”
Leslie put her hands over her face.
I really misread this kid.
“Listen, David is it?”
“I thought you understood, dude. you met me at a fucking bar. We were hammered. How the fuck did you think that was love?”
“We clicked, Leslie.”
“No, we didn’t.”
“Yes, we did. You’re just a whore. You want to go fuck the whole world and me. Well it’s not happening this time. You can fuck who you want and what you want, but I’ll tell you one thing: you won’t be fucking over my heart.”
“Have a nice fucking life,” he said starting to run off but returning quickly. “But oh yeah – I only stopped by because you left these at my apartment.”
He slapped his hand on the bar and then stormed out of Dick’s. Leslie’s birth control lay next to Ed’s fedora where Daniel’s hand had been.
“Thanks,” Leslie said grabbing them quickly.
Ed finished what was left of his Stella and slammed it down. He wiped his lips and pointed to the scotch. Ed always drank two glasses of Glenlivet after his Stella. Leslie took the bottle of scotch down and poured it into a glass, neat. She took the empty pint glass and put it in the sink with his first one. She picked up an already clean glass and started wiping at it to deal with the fact that she knew old Ed was going to bring up everything he just had to endure. She almost wanted to say sorry, but she also hoped saying nothing would make it go away. Ed took a slow sip of scotch, placed it down on the napkin and shook his head.
“I don’t understand that boy. Really. Saying all the things he said about you. You’re such a pretty girl.”
“Thanks, Ed,” Leslie said without looking at him.
“It really does reinforce the point I was going to make about Paris.”
“How so? Leslie asked putting the glass down.
“THE WHORES. The whores, Leslie, the whores. There were so many, and they were so beautiful. And to top it all off they treated those women with so much more reverence than we do here in America. I swear.”
“I love you, Ed.”
Ed winked at her and took another sip of scotch as the door swung open and Leslie knew that the day was finally starting.