This bar, where a dozen or so of the most zealous bacchanals had congregated, was nobody’s first choice.

By Adlai Fitzgerald Coleman

Halloween fell on a Tuesday, meaning that most casual revelers celebrated the holiday on the friday or saturday before. Thus, by midnight on the actual day, only the truly dedicated remained. Most of the costumes had been shed by then, leaving only a wig here, a mask there, a pair of tight leather pants. 

This bar, where a dozen or so of the most zealous bacchanals had congregated, was nobody’s first choice. They had all arrived from somewhere else, a party maybe or a bar with a more organized event. This was a neighborhood joint, a last stop, about the size of a subway car that was cut in half and placed side to side. The light was low, and the music was loud, but drinks were cheap, and the last call wasn’t until 2am, even on a Tuesday. 

And so the remnants of the night collected like dregs in a cup of tea. They came together because their night was over, but none of them was willing to admit defeat. They kept drinking, struggling to keep the evening alive, imbibing with the determination of a child trying to fill a draining bathtub with cups of water from the sink. 

Jimbo stood at one end of the bar, hooked nosed and rail thin, his close-cropped hair receding at the temples. He used to be a regular here, he said, back when he lived in the neighborhood. Now he lives in Astoria with his girlfriend, the small blonde woman who sat next to him at the bar. Jimbo said he’s happy now, allowing whatever he was before to remain unvoiced. He said he wasn’t drinking as much anymore, then ordered a beer and a shot of whiskey.

A few seats down from Jimbo, a bald man with glasses introduced himself to the bartender as Joe. Next to him was a man with a plain black baseball hat and neatly trimmed stubble. A neck tattoo peeked out from under his collar. 

Joe ordered a Tito’s and soda, splash of cranberry juice. Black hat ordered a margarita. Their conversation moved at a nearly incomprehensible pace, bouncing from subject to subject like beads of water on a hot steel pan. 

“I don’t want you to leave me,” Joe whispered to Black Hat, their faces close together. 

“Stop,” Black Hat replied. They began to kiss, wrapping their arms around one another. 

Behind them, three older black men strolled into the bar. Two of them wore Kangol hats, the other a fedora. Trailing them was a woman in a turquoise wig and black fishnet stockings. They ordered a Guinness, two dark and stormys and a Makers Mark, neat. The three men sat together, their backs to the wall. One of the men, in the fedora, nearly fell over while settling onto his stool. They all laughed, the woman looked on serenely. 

Joe asked Black Hat how old he was. 

“What year were you born?” 

Black Hat said it didn’t matter. Joe pivoted quickly, asking if Black Hat wanted to have kids. He said yes, and once again, they put their conversation on hold, closing their eyes and losing themselves in each other.

One of the Kangol men leaned back lazily, telling his friends a story, his soft Caribbean accent barely audible above the music. His dark and stormy had sunk half way down his glass when he began, almost absent mindedly, to rub the leg of the woman in the wig. He did not look at her. She continued to smile quietly. 

Jimbo was now bent over at the waist, his elbows on the bar. His knees wobbled slightly, but his gaze was steady, fixed hungrily on his girlfriend’s face. She sipped a Miller High Life and meandered through a story that didn’t seem to have an end. 

Joe and the Black Hat had begun to argue about their hypothetical child, specifically, at what age she should be allowed to drink alcohol.

One of the Kangols stepped outside for a cigarette. Fedora began to chat with the bartender about his business, a laundromat bar in a different neighborhood. The other Kangol showed the turquoise woman something on his phone. They laughed together. 

Black Hat asked Joe what love means to him. Joe replied without hesitation. 


Within an hour, all these people would be gone, surrendering to Wednesday morning. Before then, however, these strangers would combine, their lives expanding with drink, crashing into one another. They would speak broken Spanish and embrace, making promises to one another, all of them briefly united in their refusal to let the night end.