Rico didn’t like nice places. “The drinks cost more, and the women all say no.” So we met at Sparks, which was not nearly as well lit as the name implied. It was dark and it was nothing but a bar. If you wanted to eat, you’d better like pretzels.
We strolled to the far end of the bar, where we could see everyone coming in. The bartender was a surly old guy with a pocked face, blond hair, and a Hawaiian shirt. I guess the surfing career didn’t pan out. We ordered two beers and he grunted and turned away.
“That asshole,” Rico said, when the bartender walked down to the opposite end of the bar to fill our glasses. “I love him.”
“He’s just another guy who’s fucked.”
“Reminds me I’m not. I love that.”
I looked at Rico. He made good money, but I didn’t think too many people would envy the way he lived. Definitely not this guy behind the bar. Rico was ugly and he worked hard, and too many people wish they were pretty and didn’t work at all. Fuck them. I liked working because it kept me from thinking, and looking good was just another way of hiding from how you lived. Which means I’d do it if I could. Some things aren’t an option.
There were men at the bar down near the door, no one at any of the little tables alongside and behind us. “No women here,” I said.
“I only need one,” Rico answered. “And my odds are a lot better if she comes here than if she goes anywhere else.”
Rico was probably right about that. He was a thirty-five year old ex-con and he looked it. He wasn’t pretty like those “bad boys” the women in the trendy places might go for. Hell, I’d done time with him, and Rico scared me.
I hadn’t been to Sparks in months, but it was exactly how I remembered it. Grunt workers straight off eight or ten hour shifts sitting near the door, like they couldn’t make it any farther, putting down everything they could as fast as they could and if a fight came their way they wouldn’t mind it. I’d never seen a fight in Sparks, though. Unless you wanted one there was no reason to talk to those guys, and they only talked to each other.
I was looking down the bar at the grunts, and I turned back to look at Rico and he must have been looking down there too. We both grinned. If we wanted we could clear that end of the room in a couple of seconds. So dumb, thinking about shit we didn’t even want to do. We both laughed, and I waved to the surly surfer for another round.
We drank, we watched the crowd clamber in, and we waited. Guys took every seat at the bar, and guys took some of the tables, and a few couples took tables too, but there weren’t any women alone. I was doing fine, except as I got drunker I saw Rico get drunker beside me, and he wasn’t so fine about staying alone.
“You know this place can be this way,” I said.
Rico nodded. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rico broke up a couple if he saw a woman he wanted, but the couples here were too young, kids who were into each other and wouldn’t be into what Rico offered and he knew it. This room was the wrong kind of ugly, the empty kind. No one here offered anything, they were blank and they came to take and they could only share with other blanks. Rico had a lot of shit in him, and the girls here had none. They were old enough to drink, but not old enough to drink with us.
He looked out at the room full of voids and shook his head. “Maybe I should be in a busy club.”
“Not for me. Not now. I’ll be home soon.”
Rico looked at me. “Easy for you to say.”
I grinned. “Easy tonight. Maybe not so easy tomorrow.”
“Next time, I pick a place filled with women. We make something happen.”
He looked at me like I’d have said that to anything he said. Maybe he was right. “Fuck you, Dust. You’re married or you’re not, you don’t even know. Give me that little bartender of yours, I’ll set her straight seven days a week.”
I nodded. “Yeah, for a week. You’ll want someone new in eight days.”
Rico laughed loud. “Damn right.” I saw his arm coming and set my drink down fast right before he swatted my back. “Let’s hit a club.”
“Maybe next week.”
“What’s wrong with the weekend?”
I made sure my voice was low. “I’m planning a job.”
Rico could get crazy about women, but he understood about work. He nodded, took a drink. I took one too. Sparks was a shithole of a bar. I understood why Rico liked it.