A Bar called B-Side



Neighborhood: East Village

A Bar called B-Side
Photo by Kevin Hutchinson

A skinhead handed Henry a beer. When you’re alone, other loners find you, and they are often alone because they’re fucking weird and the Lower East Side of New York City has the most professional weirdoes on the planet.

“Mickey Skin,” he said. He ran his hand over his scalp, then held his fist in Henry’s face, knuckles tattooed “SKIN.”

Henry nodded, feigning appreciation. “Henry,” he said. They shook.

“Hank,” Skin said, “This is a cool joint, but there’s too many fags.”

Henry usually smiled and nodded with most of the sentiments offered in a conversation, whether he agreed with them or not, simply out of convenience, but he did not smile or nod at this. He stalled, wanting neither to concur, nor to rile up the short, muscular skinhead. Henry figured his Doc Martin’s had probably kicked their share of shit.

“This music’s gay,” Skin said. The bar was called Mix-Tape and the jukebox was loaded with garage rock and new wave. Hip, but not excessively so for the Lower East Side.

“I like it,” Henry shrugged, quietly rebelling against Skin’s prejudice. He wanted to escape but figured since the guy had bought him a beer he owed him a few minutes of conversation. He didn’t really have anyone else to talk to either, and part of the reason for being in New York was to experience new things. Conversing with a skinhead was certainly new to Henry.

“I’m going to this party in BK,” Skin said, “Wanna come?”

“BK? Brooklyn? I’m supposed to meet some friends here in a bit,” Henry said. A lie. He had no friends in this place.

Skin rolled his eyes. He was wearing a yellow backpack with a cell phone slung between the straps. He whipped the phone open and held it away from his face like a tape recorder. “Yo, where you at?” There was no reply. “Fuckin’ thing.”

“Why don’t you text them?” Henry said, pressing mime buttons with his thumb.

“I don’t know how to do that shit,” Skin holstered the phone.

The two men stood there, out of things to talk about. Henry sipped his beer to camouflage the silence. Two black girls passed and stood at the bar.

Skin nudged Henry and mumbled. “Why don’t you get on that?” Shyness and desire hid behind his mask of aggression.

Henry was surprised at his choice of women. “Me? I never know what to say.”

“Yeah, me neither man. That’s always my problem,” Skin said. The conversation sprung into momentum.

“You just gotta go talk to them. The more you stand around thinking about it, the more nervous you’re gonna get. You just gotta turn off your brain and go.”

“So do it.”

“I’m not the one who likes them,” Henry said.

“That’s why you should go. Set me up.”

Henry sipped his beer. A guy with dark hair splayed on his scalp like a banana peel started talking to Skin.

Henry was suddenly struck with paranoia that Skin had put something in his drink; some kind of drug or poison. He pretended to sip it while he looked around the bar, then he slipped into the bathroom and dumped it down the sink. He looked at himself in the mirror while he peed, his face lazy with drink. He laughed at the absurdity of the situation, his paranoia. He went back into the bar and saw Skin pretending to punch the banana-haired man in slow motion. Henry thought he should try to find an exit out the back so he wouldn’t have to walk past Skin on his way out. He sifted through the pages of the jukebox, stalling for time, and decided, finally, that the bouncer, a large black man, would probably take his side if Skin attacked him, so he headed out the front door. He checked over his shoulder a couple of times as he went down the street, but Mickey Skin wasn’t following him.

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§ One Response to “A Bar called B-Side”

  • Texas Jay says:

    Next time you go to B-Side mention my name and the Large black-man at the door will make Mickey Skin run away pissing himself. He’ll be hoping I’m not in town to “tune-up his dumb ass!”.

    As the norm, B-Side in usually a great place to hang out or just breeze thru for a quick drink or two. Sounds like you just happened on to the one or two assholes that fall in now and then. The usual crowd is anything from U.N. school teacher, to Rock Star wannabe, to M-Tv A.D., to LOGO lesbian Reporter. Now and then just to make life difficult the occasional scruffy bike messenger/dope-head wonders in to mooch a brew.

    However, you are most eloquent in your appraisal of the overall scene from your point of view.

    Damn good stuff.

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