“Would you like another round, ladies?” I smirked as three inebriated young women approached the bar for the third time.
“You know us so well..” “Vera,” the blonde grinned as she read my golden name badge. I tequila-filled three shot glasses to the rim, then three more for their friends, who were also drunk on the sofa.
“Oh, love, thank you..” The other blonde downed her shot like a thirsty child and, with the third girl staggering at her side, delivered the other glasses to their waiting men.
“They don’t even know the half of it, do they Vera?” With a flirty emphasis on my name, the blonde inquired.
“They certainly don’t.” I gave her a wink and she returned to her reserved lounge seat, while I continued down the lengthy line of snobbish drunks.
I work at The Redemption, a posh and exclusive bar that serves dirty congressmen and a posh bunch of high-priced whores with limitless amounts of costly whiskey. I can’t say they’re all awful because they’re just having a good time, even if the majority of it involves heated fights and secret affairs. Also because my pay might get cut down if I do and as many drinks these wanna-be aristocrats buy, bartending isn’t the most profitable job. That’s why this is a night-job and I do “bultering” during the day. As much as I’d prefer to work in more stable positions, it pays the bills and it’s worth it to have to accommodate others.
“Hey, Dahmer, mind if I cover your shift for you?” These fuckin’ college loans are stacking up, and I could really use the extra money.” Ryan tucked his white-button-up shirt into his pants. He normally comes in for the mid-morning shift, and I saunter home, hoping to catch a few hours of sleep before the morning chores arrive.
He lays his arm on my shoulder while I smile at him. “I suppose. I know how hard it is to pay the loans back, and I could use a few more hours of sleep tonight. I’ve received a new client who wants me to arrive at 5 p.m.”
“So that’s why you look like shit,” he chuckles, shaking his head. “Dahmer, no sleep isn’t a sexy look for you.” I roll my eyes and give him a sideways nudge.
“Shut up or I might change my mind.” I bring him the bottle of whiskey to fill Mr. Worthington’s glass as he raises his hands accusingly.
“You’re the best, babe.” He gives me a friendly kiss on the cheek and then begins filling disgruntled customers’ glasses.
“Yeah, I know.” I enter the workers lounge behind the counter, take my backpack, and swipe my ID card to leave to the parking lot. As I settle into my used black Lincoln, I crank up the AC and remove my blazer and the top two buttons on my shirt to let the cool air in. It’s suffocating in that humid pub.
I put the car in drive and began my peaceful ride home. This part of my day has always been one of my favorites: driving late at night and watching the bright lights of New York shimmer and reflect onto the busy streets. I heard the angry New Yorkers’ horns and cop car sirens from a mile away. This is home.
However, I live in the projects where the most colorful thing we see is exploding cars and marijuana smoke, which is quite a distance from these lights. Still, it’s the way I grew up. I remember riding my banana-seat bike around the neighborhood with my friends, playing baseball in vacant fields, and setting off firecrackers beneath empty Coke cans when I was a kid. Everyone said I acted like my mother did when she was younger, but given how strict she was, I had serious doubts. My mother was a local favorite and well-known. She was born and raised in Puerto Rico, but her family moved to the U. S. when she was 12 years old. Where she met my father, Luther Dahmer, in this very neighborhood.
When I moaned about living here or wished I had a wealthy family like Emilio Neves from Catholic School, my mom always answered, “Always appreciate what you have, even if it may seem minor at the time.” That’s something I understand now that she’s gone; I took her for granted, and now I can’t see her lovely face, hear her words, or feel her love in our home.
I shifted into park after I pulled into the driveway, which was just patches of dried grass and a few splotches of concrete. Knowing I was home a little too early, I noticed Simon seated on the window ledge, peering out at me.
He started meowing as soon as I walked in the door and ran over to his bowls, rolling all over the floor, begging me to feed him more.
“Gordito, Simon.” He kept purring loudly and rubbing himself across my legs, demonstrating his wooing nature. I smacked my teeth and poured cat food into his bowl. He pounced on it as if it might run if he didn’t swallow it down quickly enough. “You’re still my favorite boy.” I scratched his black fur and filled a bowl of leftover chicken caldo that Mr. Rivera brought me yesterday.
I undressed myself while waiting for my dinner to warm up, leaving a trail of clothes from the living room to my bedroom.
I put on a fitted t-shirt and comfy capris before grabbing my laptop and re-watching a few Dexter episodes. The microwave beeps at me, and I devour the delectable food while watching my show. Simon leaps onto the table in an attempt to snag a few licks.
“Uh-uh Simon. You had your food, let me have mine.” He cocks his head and hurries down, running after his chirping ball. I sigh and make my way to the restroom to wash up. As I brush my teeth, I consider my heavy bags, which are obscured by cosmetics and reflected in the mirror. Ryan was right. No sleep isn’t a sexy look.