Author's Note: More edits! This is, by far, my favourite story so I'm a bit disappointed more people don't understand it. The best way to read it: read it once and get the gist of it then take all the chapters and lay them side by side then read the dates chronologically. I swear you'll find 100x times more insight this way.
I've never packed so much symbolism and content into one story so it'll take some time for the average reader. The more you read it, the more subtleties you'll find and the more you'll almost hear the characters and their distinct dialects in your head. I promise you, take the time with this one and you won't be disappointed.
Like I said originally, this is a heightened, parabolic look into city life. The way a tween might imagine it if they watch Friends or Sex and the City.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Teen Titans, as for the drinks, I didn't invent them. They're real, but stay legal folks.
1.5 fl. oz. of Vodka
1.0 fl. oz. of Blue Curacao
1.5 fl. oz. of Orange Juice
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with the ice, shake, strain into a martini glass.
The melting point of industrial steel is 2750°F. Sand is created at 3133° and ice melts at 32°. The melting point of human in Jump City is 95°. They say heat is good for business 'cause when the weather gets hot, people like their drinks cold. But when it gets this hot, even at night, the drinks can't get cold enough.
I stack a crumbling tower of ice on my glass and fill it with orange juice. When it gets this hot, the ice machine is my best friend. I mean, I know it's an energy zapper but totally worth the money spent to power it. Aside from the global warming spiel, giga-watts are my friend.
I look out the window making sure to keep the tall glass of juice by my cheek. This is Jump on a heat wave. And not just any ordinary heat wave because to top it all off, there's a smog alert. Yeah, it's that bad. I watch as the gold-painted performer across the street stay perfectly still, and I don't blame him. Under those layers of paint and paint coated clothing, he must be cooking from the inside out. A woman passes by to drop some change in his can and he barely manages a nod.
"Ha, schmuck. This is why we smart people get jobs indoors," I dictate to myself, taking another healthy chug of orange juice.
"Gar, are you talking to yourself again? Get your butt downstairs and start cutting those lemons," a rough voice called from down the hall, "And get out of my office."
Vic Stone walked through the door and scratched his big bald head, "Jesus-"
"Was a good man," I interrupt with a toast of my OJ.
"Gar! Look at the time, man. It's almost 5, we open in an hour."
I down the rest of the juice and let out an obnoxious, yet satisfied, 'aaahhhhhhh' in Vic's face. He grabs my face and pushes me backwards right into the doorframe.
I rub the sore part on the back of my head and scowl the worst I can at him, "Watch where you swing those cannons you call arms, big lummox."
He laughed and kicked me sideways out the door. Vic was my best bud, you'd never guess it the way we talk to each other but we are. Like, since when we kids he's had my back and I… well I made him laugh. Then we got older, he got a girlfriend, I stayed single and he opened this place, The Screwdriver Bar and Lounge. And, being the awesome friend I was, I decided to let him hire me as head bartender. That's right, head, as in the bartender of all bartenders.
I'm damn good too. I can make the best Manhattans this side of a Long Island Iced Tea, and you can ask a Tennessee Cowboy or a Missouri Mule and they'll both say the same thing, 'Bloody Caesar, that's a real Stringer' because after the Sex on the Beach you'll have a Screaming Orgasm, no lie.
"Hehehe, Gar you clever, handsome devil you."
Seriously though, I mix a mean drink. I started, actually, way before The Screwdriver opened. A part of me likes to think Vic opened the bar for me. But as much as I'd like to think it to reality, he opened it because he didn't like the 9 to 5 paper mill. He also likes to shape his own life. Heck, that man practically built his own house and car. I'm the exact opposite; sometimes I just buy new clothes instead of doing laundry. So why are we friends? It's that tireless story of the odd couple, the two roommates; one's a messy slacker the other's a hard-working neat-freak. I was the slacker and Vic was my vacuum.
I got into the stupid stuff that college boys do and Vic got a decent job. I kept getting that same talk that I have to do something with my life. I tried, I really did, working at every tech place and superstore job Vic hooked me up with but those never went anywhere. The best I did was a solid two months before I quit. Scratch that, before I was fired.
That's when I got to 'tending. Sitting at bars I began to learn how to mix drinks and liked it. Not to mention Cocktail, man Tom was cool in the day. So I took a bartending course at the community college and started at a small bar by the campus. Now bartending isn't the most practical thing a guy with a BSc can do, but it's what I'm good at. No, scratch that, great at.
I tell myself, 'I'm great at this,' and for a change I'm right.
This was the worst ever. You almost never say that when you're doing what you love for a living, but this was brutal. If I ever have to mix another Cosmopolitan again I'm going to shoot someone.
The bar was booked by a bachelorette party and it was hell. Girls really have no place in bars but to be hit on. They shouldn't buy their own drinks 'cause they don't know nothing but Cosmo's, Mojito's and Long Island Iced Tea's. Now, The Screwdriver has hosted bachelor parties before and those I don't mind. I mean, they bring pretty decent strippers. But women? Impossible!
'Do you guys know any good male strippers?' 'Why are the women's washrooms so small' 'Ohh, I broke a nail, boo-freakin'-hoo.'
And who wants a male stripper? Okay, maybe I'm being unfair but tonight was really horrible. My bus finally comes and I hop on, dropping the fare quickly and searching the back for a nice private seat. A woman in the back spots me and gives me a wink, she's wearing fishnet stockings, a tight red-leather skirt, a gold beaded top and don't get me started about her hair. I hold back a wince and sit by the driver.
Not to offend any of you homosexuals, but I'm not gay either. I just think that women should know their places. That's kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms. Not necessarily in that order. Sure I've dated around but none of them have really clicked. I used to go insane for girls when I was younger. Y'know, I had my moped and chasing skirt was my second hobby. But I like to think I've grown up and not just any chick is the chick.
Like tonight, there were drunk women all over me. If I were 5 years younger I'd have thought, 'hot damn! I love this job.' But after you realize drunken women will bail out on you in the morning, or worse kick you out, then that one night stand loses its appeal. And you start wanting more.
I think about all this, women, love, loss and of the sort as the bus makes its final rounds. The blinking pink, yellow and green neon of the living city starts to die as bars close and clubs start kicking people out around me. The bus fills with kids, naïve and engrossed in the opposite sex. No doubt headed to some obscure one night pleasure. You could smell their musk of booze, cologne and desperation.
And sitting there, surrounded by reminders of my past, watching my city shut down, I begin to grow up.
I see her for the first time. She's hot, no doubt, but too hot. I mean like, Hottie McHottie. Black hair cut short around her chin at the front and lifting to something of a pixie in the back. Edgym, Gar likes. Blue eyes I can see from here and the longest legs I've seen on The Screwdriver's tiny dance floor.
I think I'm staring. I'm staring but I can't stop. Hmm, must be some sort of witchcraft.
She walks up to me and orders a Devil's Advocate. Witchcraft and a tricky drink. Takes a lot of finesse.
I smile and nod, flashing her my best 'How you doin?' smile. Nothing. She turns away, looking bored. I'm straining the mix when I open my mouth to talk to her and a guy walks up to her and slips his arm around her waist. I take a deep breath and refocus on the drink.
"I'm town for a sales pitch to Wayne Industries. Do you know how hard it is to get an appointment with…"
Can you believe this guy? He comes in here in a power suit, orders a Tom Collins and decides to chat me up. Seriously, do I look like your therapist, bud? People take this, the-bartender-is-your-friend thing way too seriously. I mix myself another Cough Drop and down it quickly.
"Stop drinking on the job, Gar," Vic grabs my on the shoulder and takes the shot glass from my hand.
"But it's soo good," I feign reaching for the glass again and he holds me back. His whole hand covers my entire shoulder. Vic's one of those guys that you'd think was the bouncer. Hell, on really hectic nights he actually did do that himself. Built like a football player, Vic, believe or not, used to be smaller than me when we were growing up. Then I don't know what happened, growth spurt, whole eggs, napping, I don't know what he did but he shot up like a beanstalk. And I stayed the same height since the 9th grade.
"I need you remotely sober tonight, B, I gotta go out for a sec." 'B' was his nickname for me, it came from 'bro'… I think. But sometimes it feels like it stands for 'bitch', "Hold down the fort 'til I get back."
"When-" I call out to his receding back.
"Be back by one, sweetie, don't wait up," he says with a wave and a mortifying flying kiss.
"So, what is he, your lover?" A throaty voice calls me from behind. I turn and see her, the girl from last week.
I scoff, "No, he's my partner. I mean, my business partner."
She nods patronizingly, "Okay. I'll have a-"
"Let me guess," I interrupt, "A Devil's Advocate?" She smiles with a nod and the hand I'm propping myself up with goes weak and I knock over a bottle of Merlot. Smooth as silk that was put thrown in a warzone. I swallow visibly and pick up the bottle, gesturing that I can make that drink. The whole time I steal glances at her, she's watching me. Smiling the whole time as if there was a joke we were both in on, except I wasn't in it. I smile back. Is she flirting?
"Here you go," I present her the drink with a dashing bow. She looks at it for a second like I poisoned it before taking a sip. Then I realize, holy cow, she's still sitting. Where's her boyfriend?
"So, you don't come here much."
She licked her lips, "Yeah, no. I just moved here."
"New to the city? Business? Moved in with you boyfriend?"
She scoffs and the smile disappears, "No, well yes and no. Mainly no. Listen I know you're a bartender and you're used to people opening up to you and everything. But I'm not people so I'd appreciate it if you'd just back off."
"Understood," I push off the counter and walk to the other side of the bar taking an order for a tall lager.
"Aw, aw shit. Hey! Hey, come back!" I hear her call me and I turn, "I'm sorry, that was uncalled for. I'm sorry."
"Hey, no problem. I'm a bartender, so I'm used to it." She smiled and scoffed a littler, taking another sip of her drink.
"And I'm a bitch so I'm used to pissing people off, but I'm still sorry."
"And I'm Gar, but you're still forgiven," I return and offer my hand across the bar and she stares at it for a moment before taking it.
"Raven," she says hesitantly as if not sure whether she should be giving her name out to some strange bartender in the big city.
When I was 16 I knew a girl that lived on my block. She was really pretty; blonde hair, blue eyes, skinny, y'know the typical 'popular' girl.
She came from a really messed up family and, lo and behold, so did I. We hit it off right away, I made her laugh and her laugh made me smile. I thought she was the one. Then she dumped me.
I guess she wasn't the one.
It took me a while to get over her, but when I did it was in the worst way. I think that's over now.
"I'm sorry but I've always imagine, uhm, big burly tattooed men bartending, not-"
"Scrawny, un-tattooed, nerds?"
She rolls her eyes, "No, that's not what I meant." We've been talking for a while and she's gone through 3 drinks. I begin to worry that she's getting drunk, especially when she laughs. She just doesn't strike me as the kind of girl who just gets giggly.
"I know, I know."
"I meant I didn't think bartenders were very… attractive," we exchange smiles. I like her. Like, really like her. She's pretty, smart and funny, when she wants to be. She doesn't smile at all my jokes and sometimes she looks as though she's tired of me, but she sits anyways. Her eyes are beautiful but sullen, the kind of eyes you see on elderly people who have seen everything. Or heart broken women.
I shake my head, "You don't mean that."
"What?" her head perks up and she raises an eyebrow. I look down at the 3 empty martini glasses in front of her. She gets the message.
"Oh, yeah." She looks at her watch and swears to herself, "Yeah, you're right. Fuck, it's late. I have to get home." She gets up, slips a few bills across the counter and starts to walk away.
"Wait!" I call out and she turns, "I'll call you a taxi." I pick up the phone and dial the local taxi place.
"Hey Roy, I got a girl here who needs escorting," she smiles at me as I negotiate for a pick up.
"There," I say, "There will be a taxi outside waiting for you. Now are you sure you're okay?"
She nods, "Thanks Gar." She walks away but then turns, opening her mouth to say something. I expect something more, but she just closes it like she changed her mind and smiles at me giving me a wave. She mouths 'goodnight' and walks away.
I should have asked for her number. But what if that was all just some drunken flirtation? What if she didn't really mean it? What if she still does have a boyfriend? I'm such an idiot. I bang my head down on the bar then I realize that may have not been the best idea with all the spilled drinks. I grab a towel and dry my forehead.
"Hey man, I could use a Golden Shot," I look up at the guy standing over me, asking for a drink.
"Yeah? You and me both buddy."