Sticks and Scarves

It’s the end of a Thursday night, which for me means it’s Friday morning around 4:30 a.m. I’ve just closed down the bar and polished off two beers and about three and a half shots of Jameson in 30 minutes before catching the bus.

Earlier, a trolley full of drunk idiots in their early twenties rolled in. One of them drunkenly stammered over to the stage, so I watched him to make sure he didn’t try getting up there or assault the acoustic duo playing tonight. He spit on the floor, so I grabbed his drink from his hand, “You’re done, let’s go.”

Well, apparently this particular drunk idiot was the organizer of the bus, so that meant all the business he brought in would be leaving, as well. It’d been so slow that I backed off and told them they could stay if they agreed not to be fucking assholes. Tall order. Two guys darted out the door with a full glass of whiskey, a beer, and a full pitcher. I caught up with them across the street. I grabbed the drink and the pitcher, then had to wrestle the beer bottle from the guy, resulting in a beer-covered left shoulder and beer in my left eye.

“Don’t be a dick, man! At least give me the pitcher!” He yelled.

“Go fuck yourself, bro,” I said, looking him in the eye while I poured all three drinks onto the sidewalk. I stood by the door and stopped about ten more people from walking out with their drinks. Fucking full moons or Friday the 13th’s or whatever.

Anyway, I have “slacks” and “wings” written on my left hand so I don’t forget those things when I leave, but I already ate the wings and the slacks have gone missing. I did get a lovely scarf from the lost and found, so the night wasn’t a total loss.

At this hour, the bus is largely filled with homeless people riding back and forth across the city to stay warm and get some sleep. Admittedly, it’s sometimes hard to tell who’s homeless given that everybody looks pretty haggard between 4:00 and 6:00 a.m. Everyone’s eyes are barely open, and they’re slumped into the support provided by their five layers of winter clothes and/or newly acquired scarves.

Many people nod off. The guy to my right who just polished off a styrofoam container of fried rice is snoring at varying volumes. A man in a three-piece suit is asleep against the window in the back. Those that are awake stare blankly at their phones or some meaningless fixed point in front of them. The man at the front is scribbling something on a napkin. Maybe it’s a poem? A piece of his memoir? A grocery list? A plan to overthrow a dictatorship? I won’t be asking because… well… it’s almost 5:00 a.m. and I’m in Chicago, and “mind your damn business” is the most surefire way to stay safe.

“Howard! Last stop!” The bus driver yells at the top of his lungs in the hopes he won’t have to get out of his seat to wake the sleeping passengers. I leave before I find out.

On my short walk home I find a pretty awesome stick. It’s got a good circumference and decent heft, so I grab it. One car drives by and I imagine they think I’m off to club somebody or rob them at stick point, but that’s not the plan (at least for tonight). I huck it into the little fenced-in park near my apartment, excited to show my dog when we get there in a few minutes.

Good news: he liked the stick. When he started eating it, it was time to go. Food and too-little sleep waited for us back at the apartment, and I needed to be back at work in less than 12 hours. At least my neck was warm, though.