There was this joint a few blocks away. It was tiny. There were two rooms, not including the johns. It was on the far corner of Colorado Avenue, and you had to walk a few steps down to reach the entrance. Not many. Maybe two. Max was three.
The door wasn’t the sturdiest, but the bar was solid. When you walked in you’d see a few dozen coffee mugs hanging from the wall. And, when you walked in, it was as a bell heralded your entrance. There wasn’t a bell, but you still felt a chime. As you crossed the threshold, Becky would come from behind the doorway to greet you.
She was a slight woman. She had thick bangs that topped big, thick plastic glasses. She wore her hair pulled back in a pony tail. It wasn’t long and luxurious. It was thinnish and a dull blonde. The rubber band was functional. This was her joint and she had work to do.
I don’t know that anyone else worked there. She must have changed her own kegs. She made the sandwiches–my favs were the turkey and the roast beef. I really really liked her ice cream scoop of potato salad. It was a big scoop. I don’t think she made it herself, but it was standout in freshness and flavor. The food wasn’t cooked. It was fixed–in the kitchen behind the bar. The only thing served hot was the coffee.
There was a great story about the robbery at Becky’s joint. A guy walked down the steps where he knew a small, fortyish woman tended bar, and he had a gun. He very nervously pointed it at the proprietor and demanded her money. She looked at him and said she would bring it from the back. As she stepped through the open doorway to the kitchen, the sweaty guy heard the click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click of ten guns being drawn. A heavily mustached man sitting at the far end of the bar spoke. His eyes were facing the shelves at the back of the bar. He didn’t move his head.
“Man. You done went ahead and fucked up. See all those coffee mugs on the wall. This is where we come to get a coffee. During our patrol shifts. Why don’t you put that gun down now, son. And I will have the police officers behind you lower their weapons.”
It was a cop bar. The would-be robber fell to the ground, was cuffed and taken away. Then Becky came out of the kitchen. She refilled the mug of the man with the mustache. Nothing else was said.
Just to the right of the bar was another open doorway, to the second room. That room was mostly for darts. There were leagues that played there some nights. Other nights people would pull their flights from their pockets and throw. It was fun.
There was also a misshapen pool table. You’d ask Becky for the balls if they weren’t on the table. If she didn’t know you, you might need to leave a driver’s license. But if she didn’t know you, why would you be playing pool there?
We were drinking Miller, the champagne of beers, from longnecks. We met up with some union brothers of The Spouse (when we were dating and not married, but let’s not confuse things by giving The Spouse a new identifier). Five of us were at the pool table playing a very unskilled game of eight ball. Slop counted. Someone brought another pair of handfuls of Miller.
She was a bit aloof, but not for any reason other than she didn’t know everyone. She was tall and had a quick smile and a throaty laugh. Her eyes were big and expressive, especially when she was making or parrying a point. Her layered dark blonde hair was heavy enough to stop it from flying all over the place. Still, her bangs danced just above her brows and cascaded along her cheeks and down her back.
I knew her husband, but she wasn’t with her husband. She was with a different union brother. I liked the one she was with better than the husband anyway. The crowd were mostly members of the local, except for me, her and her future her sister-in-law. Then there were four of us at playing pool.
In those next minutes, which were less than ninety, I became friends with my best friend that I ever had in Washington. The most regular person I knew here. She mostly grew up around D.C., versus the transplanted folks that were the majority of my colleagues, acquaintances and friends.
She had both a kindness and a take-no-prisoners air. I think that any prisoners would have been glad to spend time with her, though. Even if she upbraided them, she would relate to their experiences while demanding better. They would try harder.
She was an artist. She had huge feelings. She was the best mother I knew. She honestly and lovingly challenged my own failures in a way that pushed me to fail less. I want to be more like her.
Today would have been her birthday. Facebook told me. I found my head in my hands and cried again at losing her. Every year I cry a few times because I miss her. I wish she was here to slap me upside the head and tell me the truths that I am too dumb to see. And I remain grateful, so very, very, very grateful, that she was my friend.
Dearest Kris, having a wonderful time and so wish you were here. xoxo