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Two Guys Walk Into a Bar...

Exceptionalism found us at the 'The Lobo'

By Brandon LeverPublished 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 5 min read
Two Guys Walk Into a Bar...
Photo by Sérgio Alves Santos on Unsplash

Looking around, it was more or less what I had imagined – a cozy, dimly lit, undeniably chic, underground affair that owed much of its appeal to its incidental borrowing of 1920s speakeasy aesthetics. Though its ethos was founded on anything but the historical marshes of American culture. The Lobo was prided on a pedigree; passionately and purposefully Cuban.

At the bottom of the winding, pearl-coloured staircase Gamran and I quickly found ourselves in conversation with a stranger – and who’s name I cannot recall. The floor host, we assumed, going by her hospitable pleasantries and well-rehearsed exposition of the establishment’s eponymous progenitor, Julio Lobo. And despite admitting our commitment to an evening of sobriety, she still invited us to take a seat at the bar, if only to idle and graze upon complimentary appetizers.

Patrons – chiefly younger, attractive, trendy men and women – were scattered randomly amoung the clock-shaped tables and swollen maroon leather dining booths. Tea lights littered the room on tabletops and floating wall shelves to the point where they emitted a unified glow just enough to temper the visibility to a level between ‘bright enough’ and ‘decidedly seductive’.

There was a steady air about the place and an inescapable warmth that came from the contrast of environments one couldn’t help but feel once they escaped the cold dark of the city street. The ethnicity of the venue hit you with the garish force of its interior design: the emerald wallpaper, the floral upholstery of the plush lounge chairs, and the potted Caribbean greenery.

We may well have looked awkward and out of place as we imbibed the atmosphere with drawn out glances and swiveling heads; gradually assimilating ourselves into familiarity. Maybe it was that generic brand of unease – particular to those who find themselves as foreigners in a foreign context – that inspired Emma’s inaugural geniality and a couple glasses of water. Though the two were one and the same.

Emma – the bartender; the lady to whom this very piece of writing owes its toil. Her face was gentle; calm and pretty, with a head of long blonde hair that hid, clumsily, beneath a brightly patterned head scarf. Exceptionalism may find its place, easily, within the inanimate particulars of life – in art and places and events and music. It’s only with great, comparable difficulty that exceptionalism may find residency within a person. Emma was such a person.

She had that charm about her; that charismatic humour and wit and silliness that draws you in and elates you with an impressive immediacy. But this was a fact that could only be uncovered in a series of short-lived exchanges and expedited comments. Bars can’t help but give way to this variety of disjointed dialogue between guest and employee, not when the latter is at the mercy of duty and not a few parched gullets. But, in those sporadic moments of repose, we would talk to Emma, and Emma would talk to us.

We were not so much patrons of the bar as we were patrons of Emma’s generosity. Our money was no good to her – not when Gamran ordered a Lemon, Lime, Bitters; and not when two glasses of frothy, pear-green juice materialized before us. The only exception stemmed from our order of a “smokey rum” – a testament to our ailing volition, and the only spirit to which the rules of commerce never wavered into complete abrogation. It was a rum bar, after all. Two hundred and fifty variations by their count.

The vintage we had held a harsh, oppressive aroma that billowed from a plume of invisible fumes. It wasn’t till you took it in your mouth that you realized its offensiveness was only really resigned to its vapors. The taste itself started with a mild heat and ended with a slow, fragrant burn on the back of your tongue, none of which was enough to contort your face into anything more than a hurried wince.

An observer would have no doubt picked up on the fact that she was dividing her time and attention unequally between the lengths of the bar, choosing to furnish us with her focus. And an observer would have no doubt suspected that she had a curiosity in us – a genuine curiosity that went beyond the glib niceties that strangers all too commonly deliver in the course of faceless, arbitrary sociality.

The sincerity of her interest took the form of questions; at first measured and preliminary, then at once bold and intimate.

“I’m a musician”; “It’s part of the winter solstice”; “Me too!”; “You can drink, just as long as you’re not picked up by the camera”; “Your friend must have worked at a really shitty bar”; “What star sign are you?”; “I was joking about going to bartending school”; “Do you think we’re gay?”; “You’re a Sagittarius – Saggius Tittius”; “We have a bit of an odd request”; “Is having amazing pants part of the job?”; “I’ve never been so hydrated in my life”; “We’re just comfortable with our sexuality”; “It’s amazing, I’m not recoiling in disgust”; “Oh, I wish I was Bi!”.

The answers and questions, the digressions and admissions; they all blurred into each other in the frenzy of human bonding. Thinking back; the only exchange that forms a coherent memory was the last, and, perhaps, the nicest of the night.

“It was lovely meeting you.”

“It was so nice meeting you, too…do come back, even if it’s just for some fruit juice.”

Short Story

About the Creator

Brandon Lever

What can i say? I like to write:)

Mostly about society and culture.

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