Sheronda Gipson is an MFA student in the SCAD-Atlanta Writing Program.
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.”
The dark leather couches are situated to encourage conversation and interaction. Sectioned off, it accommodates no more than five to six people but more could squeeze in. Men, sometimes with a mix of women, but mostly men sit on supple leather chairs and couches and talk. “Man, I just lost my job today.” One friend orders the newly jobless a scotch. Another goes to his private humidor locker and pulls out the Cuban he’d been saving for himself and gives it to his disheartened comrade. Another hands him a card and says, “Call me tomorrow, I might have something for you.”
“Taking a break from all your worries, sure does help a lot.”
He sits down at the end of the bar, alone. The bartender silently reaches up on the shelf and pulls down a bottle of McCallan 18. He pours and slides it in front of the man who has just opened his portable cigar case to see which one will he unwind with tonight. He uses the same discernment he uses when choosing players on his team for the pick-up basketball game every Saturday morning: too bold, nice but too spicy, too big, don’t want to smoke that long. Then he finally decides. Tonight the only interaction he wants is through the smoke talking through puffs of smoldering leaves, perfectly rolled into perfect sticks of tobacco. He takes a sip, savoring the scotch between his cheeks and tongue and finally swallowing, followed quickly closing his eyes to concentrate on the brown liquid that is flowing down his throat. It’s been a hell of a week. Tonight, silence in the middle of the bar, mulling over his own thoughts, is the only company he desires.
“Wouldn’t you like to get away?”
A women giggles loudly as the guy she just met at the bar tells her he thinks it’s so sexy when a women smokes a cigar. To show her appreciate of his appreciation, she takes another puff, this time letting the full depth of her lip envelope the cigar as she looks him in the eye. Cigar rolling is not the craft she is thinking of. Nor he.
“Sometimes you wanna go, where everybody knows your name.”
Heads swivel as he walks in with a woman. Stunning, she was 6’2” with her 4” stilettos and with hair just as long. Her dress, not as long and snug around her double D cups, waist and firm ass. He stops briefly at the poker table, gives his obligatory head nod and “what’s up” to the fellas. Never introduces, just escorts her, elbow in hand, through the bar to the back tables. Working here is seventy-five percent about the drinks, twenty-five percent about discretion. This is the third one he’s brought through this week. None of them have been his wife.
“And they’re always glad you came.”
“Hey, you want the usual today?”
The female servers, the only type they hire, are young by the patron’s standards and have mastered the fine art of catering to egos and delivering cocktails with minimal effort. There is no set uniform other than the color black. The girls dress not for comfort but for tips, with boobs and butt spilling out of each end. “Where’ve you been, we haven’t seen you in a while”? Followed up by a hug. The women in the bar, some attached to men, some not, give a sly side eye, followed by a girl-get-your-money nod of approval. Flirtation, when used as a device for monetary gain and not to bed your man, is easier to swallow.
“You wanna be where you can see, the troubles are all the same.”
The girl talking with the guy the next couch over gets effortless conversation. But he won’t look her in her eyes. “Are you married?” she asks. With emptiness in his eyes he replies, “Just divorced.” She politely excuses herself, goes to the bar and begins talking with another guy. The irony of the same story, different side of the room consumes her. The hint of sadness in both their voices makes her wonder if this where the men of the walking dead gather and she feels sorry for them both. “I thought I was supposed to met eligible, successful bachelors here.”
“You wanna go where everybody knows your name.”
A group of men meet at the cigar bar to celebrate. The wife of one is pregnant and they are having a male baby shower. The main item on the registry for a male baby shower – diapers, which the daddy-to-be takes to the car after a toast, a couple of round of drinks with the boys and a good cigar. He doesn’t know when he’ll get to do this again.
A safe haven is what they call it, a place for men to lick their wounds and regroup. It is a man cave. Equivalent to a women’s sanctuary of the nail or beauty salon or a best friend’s couch eating Haagen Das and watching “Love Jones”. No crying goes on here, testosterone still runs high. Did we not think that they had a place too?