The Place We Always Go
By: Ellen Rose

It’s the place we always go. It was within walking distance of his apartment when we first started dating, and we’ve eaten countless sparkly-post-sex-bliss meals there. Our favorite seat is the catty-cornered booth honoring Kurt Vonnegut.

But Our Pub is closed for upgrades. (Until March!) Disappointed and hungry, we move on.

We walk in. Disorientation. We choose a seat at the bar, and realize that the unholy racket is two stereos competing for attention. The track that’s strong-arming our ears, some candy dripping perky techno dance business, is emanating from a five-year-old’s birthday party upstairs. 

Hell. No. 

We leave. Best decision of the night.

Finally we settle. Wood tones. Jazz. Warmth and comfort, still decorated from Christmas. A little pricier than Our Pub, but they have a good selection of brews on tap, and they know what to do with vegetables. 

We talk about the year ahead, about moving to the house that has the perfect aspect. A place where we can plant perennials. A place with well water. In a few years, after the kids are born, maybe we’ll open a taproom and event space. Become small business owners.

I excuse myself for the bathroom.

That smell. Not an unpleasant bathroom smell, but the smell of Monday Nights. Like sandalwood, but something more and less complex. The smell of Bohemia. 

There I am. Senior year. Diana’s house with our tribe of friends. It was a thing—Monday Nights, like a start-of-the-week happy hour for high school stoners. We were raised in Bohemia where the rules for teenagers are simple. Don’t get pregnant. Don’t get arrested. 

Remember The Trial? What a convoluted drama. The hog-tied offender accused of possessing crack. (Scandal!) The courtroom filled with red light, smoke, and black curtains. A well prepared prosecution. An emphatic plea for mercy. A guilty verdict. His fate: to be drawn and quartered on the altar under the moon. 

A six-foot pipe served to dangle the bound offender outside and the scene shifts to silvery night. We laid him on the stone and untied him. Everyone grabbed a limb and pulled. 

“Actually, it feels good!”

Moonlight unveils the mirage. Characters dissolve in shadow. Camaraderie returns. We all want a turn at being stretched out.

I’m done peeing and I look at my winter boots. I switched to the ones with laces a few days ago. I flush and open the pepto-pink stall door. There’s a large photocopied poster of Harper’s Index. 

Estimated number of Druids in Britain: 7,500

I am always confused by the soap dispensers here. One is a decoy dispenser and never has soap. The beveled faux-crystal one that discharges iridescent goo definitely came from some bargain restaurant supply catalog. 

I glide through burgundy and mahogany to the table. After a moment of feigned consideration, I order the espresso pot de crème. It’s the dessert I always get here.