Naked in Front of Strangers #6
By Kimberly Nichols
Cans of Bud, like
patriotic jewels popped at four,
an afternoon at King Eddy’s; androgynous
silver haired men, iPod-listening
and blue striped button ups and a
screaming queen, drunk since noon.
And me and he,
sidled up together,
knee to knee ‘neath sticky bar,
happiest in hundred year old places.
Old-timer in flannel
who won’t shut up
like the guys in black and white movies
who foil mobsters
in getaway alleys
with toothless City of Angels grins.
We’re hanging out again
in hundred year old spaces, dark
and stormy for me, bourbon
for him and a gracious young
waitress good at humoring the lecher’s grin.
Two half bearded hipsters,
or gay lovers,
or entertainment executives,
linger in the lonely section,
under a badly made painting,
hot handed, wet-panted;
a man jumps in for a moment,
off the street for a tequila shot,
gulped down with beads of booze
glistening on his blackened chin.
We might as well be at the VFW,
with Dodgers on every TV in town
and old radios line the shelving dusty as death,
frozen here, wrinkles engraved
beneath the doorman’s eyeballs.
Some people use this place
as a boozy office, some sit and stare,
burping sound bites every so often
about old dramatic scenes in their lives.
I know drunks, been around them for years,
they’re kind of like blankets
when you just want to disappear, here
a guy is squawking, his loudness
booms all over the place,
he’s ranting about kissing a girl,
forty years ago so his parents would think he was straight.
Booze is good when you want to resolve stories,
go on broken record mode,
or let the subconscious do its work in broad daylight.
People watching people, the sound
of silence in two ice cubes clinking amongst
the otherwise chaotic din.
They’re still playing Bye Bye Miss American Pie
as my black vinyl purse hits my knee
underneath the bar enough times
to give me a bruise and it’s summer,
when dark bars glint even brighter
and lingering here lies hope,
oddly enough, breaking
up afternoons of pounding the pavement.
Between art, love and entertainment,
we come here, the slouch down at the end
says he was fired last New Year’s Eve
and his mustache reminds me of uncles,
I’m too bright in my red and orange dress
but not my furrowed brow, or the way I slug the last
sip from my glass.
I write poetry on my thigh down below
where no one can see, I tell my
boyfriend that I used to write in bars alone,
a lot when I was twenty.
Those were the days when I was searching,
not so much for clues in others, but those
lurking within myself. Now
I’m forty and everyone is wearing watches,
counting time or limiting the drink, not us,
we’ve got all the time in the world,
after a while the door to the street looms electric
like a bright white beacon to the other side
and we in our cave become accustomed to each
other, no longer stealing glances, vetting
and surveying the chance between the cracks
slumped over in the comfort zone at the bottom
of our drinks, a casual hour as
marshmallow time passes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kimberly Cooper Nichols is an artist, writer and social anthropologist living in Los Angeles, California. She has been exhibiting for over a decade as a conceptual artist in the United States and is the author of the book of literary short fiction Mad Anatomy. She also serves as editor for the socially progressive journal Newtopia. She is a contributing editor to 3:AM where her serial poetry column Naked in Front of Strangers appears regularly. Follow her on Twitter @ LITGFOA.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, October 31st, 2013.