Happy Hour

The rapist met his victim, the jilted child discovered its mother. Most days in Seattle are grey, but now I remember only the sunny ones.  
*
 
I was sitting on the city bus—this was in Seattle—later that morning. But she was still in love with a man who’d recently gone to prison. But nothing could be healed, the mirror was a knife dividing everything from itself, tears of false fellowship dripped on the bar. Then only the demons inhabiting us could be seen. And then I left. Did you sweep up? Sometimes I think I’m not human.’
‘Would you have another dollar? And it feels good, even if it’s not gonna last.’ He looked at her. A guy, a slit-eyed, black-eyed Nez Perce, nearly el- bowed me off the stool as he leaned over ordering a glass of the least expensive port wine. ‘I gave him ten dollars and he disappeared.’
‘When?’
‘Last week.’
‘I haven’t seen him.’
‘He should be more grown up.’
‘He’s probably in Tacoma.’
‘How old is he, about thirty?’
‘He’ll be back tomorrow.’
‘He’s too old to be yanking people off for a dime.’
‘Do you want to buy a pill? Drink the whole beer.’
‘Wow. People entering the bars on First Avenue gave up their bodies. But she was mostly a torn-up trollop. ‘Your zipper,’ he said, ‘is open. I need the money.’
’What kind of pill?’
‘It’s psychedelic mushrooms all ground up.’
She showed me. I reached down quickly and zipped my fly. They ran into a phone pole before they were even out of the parking lot. Indians from Klamath or Kootenai or up higher—British Columbia, Saskatchewan— sat in a row along the bar like little icons, or fat little dolls, things mistreated at the hands of a child. They don’t make horse pills anymore.’
‘They don’t?’
‘Not anymore.’
‘But if they did,’ I said. One of the other dancers, a chop-haired, mannish sort of person, stayed close to her and said, ‘What do you think you want, boyo?’ to a sailor who offered to buy her a drink. I walked over and stopped in at the Greek place. Pig Alley was a cheap place. When we woke up in the morning he didn’t say anything. ‘Just trying to get over,’ the sailor said. Do you know when it’s the end?’
‘Eddie, Eddie,’ the Indian said to the bartender, ‘did you find any dimes and nickels down here on the floor yesterday? During Happy Hour, when you pay for one drink, he gives you two. Some days I can’t even count!’
‘Here goes.’
‘Just keep drinking. Her name was Angelique. They were going to get us all some Taiwanese pot. The cigarette smoke looked un- earthly. His big forehead made him seem thoughtful. It’s like an Easter thing.’
‘Wait,’ she said, looking at my money. Her fake brother slept on the floor. Two dimes and a nickel.’
‘Somebody’s gonna get fucked up over this.’
‘Not me. I paid you that quarter. ‘You’ve got to have a destination.’
‘I’ll get off at the library, then,’ I said. ‘Today’s payday. Here.’
‘Fuck it. I rode around on the bus for three or four hours. Number One?’
‘It’s a Number One, yeah.’
‘Look at it! It was directly on the harbor, built out over the waters on a rickety pier, with floors of carpeted ply- wood and a Formica bar. Who cares?’
’See?’ the guy said to me. They got out of the sedan and staggered away, leaving the car doors open, clinging to each other, their hair flying around their faces in the wind. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I got twenty- four hours left in this town.’
The weather outside was clear and calm. You can order a copy of the book here. How did I do that? All of you.’
‘Hey, I wouldn’t fuck you around over a quarter.’
‘All of you, every last one.’
‘Do you want a quarter? I said, ‘Hey, wasn’t I shooting pool in here with you yesterday?’
‘No, I don’t think so.’
‘And you said if I’d rack you’d get change in a minute and pay me back?’
‘I wasn’t here yesterday. An older gentleman had come over from the checkout counter with his books in his arms and addressed me softly, in the tones of a girl. I had two doubles and immediately it was as if I’d been dead forever, and was now finally awake. The sun lowered itself through the roof of clouds, ignited the sea, and filled the big picture window with molten light, so that we did our dealing and dreaming in a brilliant fog. I was down front, in the long seat that faces sideways. This one’s kind of wrinkly.’
‘I never swallowed a Number One before.’
‘It’s a big cap, for sure.’
’The biggest there is. I sat next to a uniformed nurse with a black eye. Something embarrassing had happened in the library. ‘The way they charge for these drinks, you think you’d be half-complimented.’ ‘She doesn’t need your compliments,’ the older dancer said. She wasn’t there. It’s bullshit. By then a huge Jamaican woman was steering the thing. I tried inside the Jimjam Club. With what, exactly, would you expect to frighten me? Is it for horses?’
‘No.’
‘It’s gotta be for horses.’
‘No. Thanks.’
‘You’re welcome,’ he said. ‘That’s the biggest pill I’ve ever seen.’
‘I’ll sell it for three dollars.’
‘I didn’t know they made capsules that size. What size is that? Souls who had wronged each other were brought together here. A little of the stage light touched her. She was very frail. ‘Okay. ‘You make me so tired,’ I said, ‘I can hardly move my fingers.  
*
 
The day was ending in a fiery and glorious way. And what are you going to do to me now? I usually do. I was in Pig Alley. Next to her sat a light-skinned black man. I was in love with her, too.  
Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son is published by Granta in the UK. I stood at the window looking at the apartment building’s parking lot while the brother brushed his teeth, and watched them leave with my money in a green sedan. I could have gotten him around the neck right then, right there in the library, and killed him. I thought I’d better tell you.’
‘Okay,’ I said. This virginal sadness wasn’t all fake. A woman across from me held a large English-literature textbook in her lap. ‘Quite a few people were noticing,’ he said. ‘She’s tired.’
By now it was six. The ships on the Sound looked like paper silhouettes being sucked up into the sun. I wanted to find her because, despite her other involvements, she seemed to like me. ‘That’ll be fine.’
‘I know it’ll be fine,’ I told her. I looked in all the worst locations, the Vietnam Bar and so on. I stayed in the library, crushed breathless by the smoldering power of all those words—many of them unfathomable—until Happy Hour. Angelique herself said nothing. She seemed to be thinking about something far away, waiting patiently for somebody to destroy her. She was resting at a table between numbers in the Greek nightclub where she was dancing. The motor traffic was relentless, the sidewalks were crowded, the people were preoccupied and mean, because Happy Hour was also Rush Hour. Happy Hour lasts two hours. Just die,’ I said, pushing off.  
*
 
All this time I kept my eye out for the belly dancer. Stranger things have happened on this earth. I’d liked her the minute I’d seen her the first time. But they told me she’d left town. ‘Where’s your boyfriend today?’
‘Who?’ she said innocently. The bartender said, ‘Do you want a drink?’
‘He doesn’t have money to drink.’
I did, but not enough to drink for the whole two hours. Nobody could have swallowed that thing. She was staying with three college girls of whom two had Taiwanese boyfriends. ‘Take the quarter,’ he said, very loudly, now that he could see I wouldn’t touch it. I was after a seventeen-year-old belly dancer who was always in the company of a boy who claimed to be her brother, but he wasn’t her brother, he was just somebody who was in love with her, and she let him hang around because life can be that way. I wasn’t in town.’
‘And then you never paid me the quarter? I gave four dollars, almost all my money, to one of the college girls and her boyfriend, who didn’t speak English. For horses they squirt a paste in its mouth,’ she explained. Wash it down.  
*
 
Just the night before, she’d let me sleep in the same bed, not exactly with her, but beside her. Probably it fell on the floor.’
‘Do you know when that’s it? It’s like an egg. There was a part of her she hadn’t yet allowed to be born because it was too beautiful for this place, that was true. ‘The paste is so sticky the horse can’t spit it out. He never did—it was the secret of his success, such as it was. But he turned away. You owe me a quarter, man.’
‘I gave you that quarter. I recognized her. ‘Yeah,’ she said to him. ‘No, right, yeah—three dollars. Did you sweep anything like that, maybe two dimes and a nickel?’
‘Probably. I put the quarter right by your hand. ‘You can’t just sit on the bus,’ she said, talking to me in her rearview mirror.