The Best Way to End the Day Is to Be Alive

Photograph by Jose Padua

The meanest bartender in town
was a Filipino dude like me
who was always ready
with a cold Fuck You
at the slightest offense
or No fucking way
in response to even
the most reasonable of requests.
He was always nice
to the women, though,
the ladies, the ones walking
and the ones working,
and when I went in
with a woman friend one evening
it was the first time
I ever saw him smile
and though he completely
ignored me with every
drop of hard liquor he poured
and every beer he laid down
on the old oak bar
I was sure I heard
a whispered Fuck You
under his breath
and directed at me
like a side-eyed smirk
as he winked at my lovely friend
without ever looking at me.
I knew right then
that if I’d been a bartender
he would have been me or
I would have been him
or something like that
and on the day that I heard
that he’d dropped dead
I didn’t raise my glass and
declare “Cheers” to his spirit
nor pronounce “rest in peace”
to the blank space
of his absence,
but merely continued
to drink until my mind felt full
and my fingers felt the sting
of an evening spent
smoking cigarette after cigarette
and engaging in dramatic gestures
to illustrate all the significant
discussions I’d soon forget.
Then later that night
in the dizzy warmth
of my bed I leaned slowly
to my right,
then half asleep
turned slowly
to my left
just in case
there was anyone
there I could
whisper to.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

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