HE BARTENDER MOPS what looks like a puddle of blood on the cracked tile floor. She's wearing a bright yellow bikini and her long legs look good in the clear platform heels.
"Oh, hi there," she says to me as I walk in. "Someone dropped a glass of wine." She smiled. I've never seen anyone drink wine in this dive, and there isn't any glass on the floor.
I take a stool at the bar, and when she finishes mopping, I order a beer and a hot dog. The Port 41 Bikini Bar is a few steps from Port Authority in Times Square, and it does not attract tourists. Mostly just derelicts, drug dealers and New Jersey commuters wearing steel-toed boots. The hot dogs are free until five.
I've never seen this bartender before. She's skinny, small tits under her string bikini. She has a tramp stamp. (Of course.)
I doubt the floors had ever been swept or mopped until now. Filthy, like the air in here. The red leather booths are patched with duct tape, and a stuffed hippo head hangs on the wall over them. I always sit at the bar, and I never see the same patrons twice.
"Deez broads in the Olympic volleyball and the shit they wear," says an old man watching the TV over the bar. His hairy belly has outgrown his ratty old black T-shirt, and the fat hangs below the hem like a low crescent moon, his navel a dark crater.
"Yeah, my girlfriend complains that they should wear T-shirts and shorts," a younger man next to me says. "She's so fucking jealous. Heh." He sips his beer and gives the bartender the one-two with his eyes. He has a stack of small bills next to his beat-up cell phone.
The bartender sets a beer and a hot dog in front of me and chimes in: "They wear those outfits because they're more aerodynamic under water." She waits for us to be impressed. She keeps waiting. We're the only people in the place.
I stare at the stuffed hippo head in the reflection of the mirror behind the bar. I wonder if it's real as I take a bite of my free hot dog. Popcorn is free all day and night, but I don't trust it. Too many dirty hands dig into it.
"How old are you, honey?" the old man says to the bartender.
The younger guy gives her the one-two again. He's got a prison tattoo on his forearm. It looks like a drunk scrawled on his skin with a ballpoint that was running out of ink. Abstract art. It could hang in the MoMA.
"Old enough," she says to the old man, but she's barely old enough to drink. She pulls back her long peroxide-streaked hair and snaps a scrunchy around it so a ponytail hangs down to the middle of her back.
"I bet," the old man says. "I know things, ya know. I have a gift. Want a reading?"
"Oh, really?" she says. She leans on the bar. "So tell me something."
The old man rubs his belly, stares at her for a minute, then, like he was reading it out of the newspaper, says, "You're from Brooklyn and your boyfriend is a bass player in a band."
She arches her eyebrows. "Alllll-righty." She spins 180 degrees on a clear heel. She grabs her cell phone, which was sitting between a couple bottles of whiskey, and hits speed dial. She turns her back but we can hear her talking to her boyfriend.
It's just past noon on a Saturday. Some much-needed air is circulating. The door of the bar is open and it's the only light other than the TV. The volleyball match is over and some tiny girls are bouncing around on a mat, spinning in the air, doing amazing things with their arms and legs and abs.
"Don't you fucking lie to me again!" she yells into the phone. She holds the phone to her shoulder. "Are you married?" she says to the old man.
"Yeah, to a Chinese broad I met while I was overseas."
"No way! You need to cut this shit out right now." She pushes his shoulder and he looks at her like what the fuck. "Are you my boyfriend's dad? Seriously. You need to tell me."
He shakes his head. "Sorry, honey." He smiles. He's missing a couple teeth in back. It's a window to his tongue. He lifts his bottle of beer and finishes it off.
"My boyfriend's dad is married to an Asian woman. You have got to be shitting me," the bartender says. "How did you know my boyfriend played bass in a band?"
"I have a sixth sense!" the old man says. "I can read people."
Proof That God Loves Us And Wants Us To Be Happy continues...