The Grinder

by Leah on November 15, 2009

72873013MT002_Retailers_HopBy Deirdre Sinnott

Much like the Mickey Mouse Club, I too had my “Anything Can Happen” days. When I was drinking, Mickey might not have made an appearance, but other rodents did.

One of my messiest nights began at Macy’s. It was just before Christmas. Mary, a friend from a theater group I worked with, and I sweated on a long line waiting to buy a pepper grinder. This was the first simple, hand-cranking pepper mill I’d found after searching in various stores.

Mary was due to sing at the Fulton Fish Market in Manhattan. Each year the businesses at the Market set up bleachers made to resemble an isosceles triangle. Choral singers wearing green and red holiday outfits crowded the steps and formed a living, singing, Christmas tree. Mary pulled away from the checkout line. “I’ve got to go or I’ll be late. You don’t want to see some naked cherub dangling off the tree do you?”

We made plans to meet after she was done singing, but once I finally purchased my pepper mill I didn’t want to go directly downtown.

Soon enough, I was elbows on a bar, drinking a shot of scotch with a beer chaser. It was the first of the evening and as the burning liquid raced down my throat, I felt like the night had endless possibilities. I agreed with the bartender that one set deserved a companion and slammed down another two drinks. Soon my Macy’s bag and I were headed downtown.

Once at the Fulton Fish Market, I followed the sounds of the chorus until I stood before the display. It was glorious. Mary was near the top, properly dressed in a pointed green felt hat, red collar, and elf-like green jacket, exactly like the rest of the singers. There was an outdoor café and I squeezed my way up to the bar, turning sideways so that I could fit between the white guys in suits that dominated the scene. I put my Macy’s bag on the bar, ordered a new shot and beer combo, and watched the tree vibrate with holiday spirit.

“Fun isn’t it?” asked one of the suits. As I sipped my scotch, I assessed him. He was sort of chubby with an unruly lock of hair that skittered around his forehead in the breeze coming off the bay. He looked like a boy dressed up for church by his mother.

“It’s not exactly my type of music,” I said. “I’m more partial to Blues than caroling.”

“You know a place?” he asked. I nodded and pitched my drink into my mouth, swallowing hard. I was ready to go. Mary was totally forgotten, secondary to an impulsive adventure. My Macy’s bag was almost forgotten too, only rescued by the quick-thinking bartender. Moments later we were in a cab heading to Dan Lynch’s on Second Avenue and Fourteenth Street.

At Dan Lynch’s I continued to indulge, putting down more drinks. When I stepped away from my stool and walked into the gloom to go the toilet, I realized that perhaps I had drunk too much. In the women’s room mirror, my pale reflection glowed blue from the fluorescent lights. I looked like the exhausted ghost of Christmas-yet-to-be.

When I got back to the bar, my suited companion was gone. “Is he in the bathroom?” I asked the bartender.

“Went the other way,” he replied, nodding toward the door. A large African-American man leaned against a barstool, surveying the action inside and giving the once-over to any new customers.

I asked him if he had seen my suit leave. He nodded. “Got into a cab,” he said.

Here is where it gets a little dicey. I can’t quite remember what I did next. I do remember the bouncer hugging me and, since I had been so unceremoniously dumped, asking me if I needed a little company. Apparently, with total willingness, I went downstairs into the office for sex. I remember a blowup mattress, already fully inflated, being thrown down on the floor. I remember, as I lay on my back hugging his solid body with my legs, seeing cases of beer and hard liquor ringing the mattress. I remember the smell of stale ale and the scratching noises of mice scurrying around the periphery. I remember begging the man on top of me not to come inside of me.

The next thing I knew, I was sitting on the subway traveling back to Astoria, Queens where I lived. I looked in my lap and saw the Macy’s bag. When I peeked into the box, my pepper mill was gone. I threw the bag onto the floor, much to the disgust of another passenger who loudly complained.

How could I explain myself? I opened my mouth to try, but couldn’t. Instead I sobbed.

This essay is a follow-up to Deirdre Sinnott’s well received Video Tour of a Few NYC Bars, a short, sassy “tour de glass” of her old drinking haunts. Deirdre’s work has appeared in the special nonfiction issue of the literary magazine Cadillac Cicatrix and she is a regular book reviewer for ForeWord Magazine. Her writing appears in Catskill Review of Books, World View Forum, Blue Collar Holler, Della Donna Webzine, and in two anthologies. Much more information and other stories can be found on her website www.DeirdreSinnott.com.

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