Funny thing is he almost wrote something last night on his birthday. After his second 22-ouncer, he got up off the couch and went over to the computer and started typing notes about a guy who can’t sleep and who decides he wants to go out in the pre-dawn to find an all-night donut shop. Only the guy is having trouble getting out the door. He fumbles with his clothes and can’t find his socks or shoes, and doesn’t know where his car keys are, and all the while it’s getting closer to daylight. If he could just get out to the donut shop while it’s still dark, his whole life would change because what he doesn’t know is the donut shop that’s calling to him is magic. It’s a place where all these strange and magical people congregate in the off-hours: There are diamond smugglers from South Africa and the mistresses of drug barons from South America, and sailors ready to ship off to the South Pacific (all the crazy stuff must happen in the Southern Hemisphere), and renegade housewives from the Midwest (except that), and there’s a clown entertaining everyone in the shop, doing stupid magic tricks. All sorts of unforeseen possibilities are waiting there, if only he could get out the door before light. Because when the dawn comes, the light turns the place back into a regular donut shop with plain donuts, plain people and plain coffee. But this guy Dempsey was thinking about just keeps bumbling around messing with one thing after the next — the socks, the shoes, the hair — making a big production out of getting out the door, and by the time he turns the doorknob, it’s light out and he suddenly doesn’t want to go anymore and the spell is broken.
When this whole thing began last night, Dempsey was at the computer typing notes and wondering how to start the story — whether it should begin in the donut shop or in the guy’s apartment. But instead of writing, he started thinking about turning 33, and then he cracked open another Heineken 22-ouncer and lit another cigarette, and then another. By the time they were gone, he was ready to go out, because even though 33 is a tricky one, he knew he was his own worst enemy sitting there in that shitty apartment about to run out of beer and maybe even cigarettes.
So, unlike the guy in the story Dempsey didn’t write, who couldn’t get out the door, Dempsey went out for a drink instead of a donut. He walked down to Melrose where there’s a bar called the Snake Pit. He’d been showing up there more lately. He sat down in the corner and hoped for that waitress who probably had something to do with why he’d been showing up there more lately. This waitress had long black hair almost down to her butt and olive skin with some freckles on it. She walked with an athletic bounce that gave her compact and curvy body a friendly appeal. It all made her a compelling figure in Dempsey’s imagination. He thought she could’ve been one of those wannabe actress types you see waiting tables, looks-wise anyway, except she didn’t dress or act like she thought she should be someplace else. And when she smiled it didn’t seem like she was auditioning.
Dempsey could picture her naked as clear as he could already taste that shot of Wild Turkey and draft he was about to order. She was the first one he could do that with since that thing happened that he didn’t want to talk about to anyone. That thing could be why he didn’t talk much, because you meet someone here and the next thing you know, they want to know what you’re about. Mostly, he figured, they were worried you might be about the same thing as them. In his head, though, this waitress was different. She didn’t act like she cared what you were about. When Dempsey thought about her naked, he thought about a mermaid. Or rather, a person with mermaid-like qualities. Whatever the hell those might be.
“Haven’t seen you since last night,” she joked when she came over to take his order.
“I’m trying not to be a regular,” Dempsey joked back.
“Then, how come you regularly sit over here in the corner drinking by yourself?”
“Um, well, I guess to appreciate you from a distance, and without any interruptions,” he tried. “Plus, I don’t have any friends.” He was going for an affect of flirtatiousness tempered by self-deprecation should the flirtatiousness not be well-received.
“Trying to get the sympathy vote, are you?”
“Uh, yeah, I guess so.” But he meant the part about no friends and the other part, too.