in which i have a panic attack behind the bar

nat raum

there’s purpose to my rhythm, my glide down the aisle between the Bench and the Clock and to my sideways shuffle to speak to the guests at 303 when table 2 is sat and the bar is full. i’d sit and spin and spin on a plastic disk when i was young and now i walk the same twenty feet back and forth every wednesday, friday, and sunday and i twirl my two-foot ponytail with eleven BIC pens stuck in its base. they say the beauty of an all-black uniform is that it doesn’t stain, but i’ll forget to call behind and wear sofrito on my chest by 8, at the latest, and still taste garlic and olive oil when i bite my fingernails later tonight. much later, years later, i will watch myself unravel here, over by the liquor well with a shaker in each hand. i will cry for all ten seats of my bar to see because it’s been so long since i knew how my rhythm had purpose, how to catch your eye standing at the computer next to the window every time i used it and how to roll silverware without looking down so i never had to leave your gaze behind. i will share an old fashioned with the last woman who comes in, sobbing also, before i call you again and again at your new job or with your new girlfriend or wherever else it was convenient to avoid me that month. i’ll kick the Estrella keg and tell myself it can be the opener’s problem tomorrow.