Sunday, April 25, 2010

I was with my friend who died three months ago in January. We were walking on a street beside the river, through a section of old abandoned warehouses. We came to a concrete ramp framed by a metal rail and followed it up to the back door of one of the buildings. He opened the door and we went inside. There was another door just a few feet in, guarded by a tough-looking young man who knew at a glance that we were both old enough to enter. He opened that door for us, and we walked down a long, narrow, carpeted hallway. At the end of the hall, we turned right and entered a dimly lit bar. We found an unoccupied table and sat down. A man I assumed was the proprietor, and who bore a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln, was sitting behind a small desk in the corner. He got up, came to our table, and asked us what we wanted. My friend said, “Two premium lagers.” The man bowed, went back to his desk, opened one of the drawers, and then returned with two clear, flexible, partially deflated rubber balls with short red straws in them. We could see the liquid sloshing around inside. My friend’s straw was sticking up; mine was folded down and stuck to the surface of the container. He took a sip from his, frowned, then offered it to me. Knowing he was dead, I was reluctant to drink from the same straw. He immediately understood and helped me free my straw instead. I took a drink. The beer was weak and warm. “This really isn’t what I had in mind,” my friend said. “Me, either,” I replied. We put down our beers and left. But the way out was not the way in. And so it always is, I thought. So it always is.

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