Live at the Vena Cava, Part 1
Angry Dave had owned the Vena Cava for just about as long as any of the regulars could remember; it was a mid-sized cavernous warehouse-turned-bar about half a mile past the bright-light outer ring of the city’s turn of the century gentrification The bar had been there before the gentrification, and when you caught Angry Dave in a sentimental moment, he liked to say that it would be there after. No one knew where Angry Dave was from, or how he had come to own the bar, though there were typically two to three rumors about it in the atmosphere at any given time, the current favorite being that he had traded it from the previous owner after said owner had been caught fucking Dave’s wife. The owner got the wife, and to keep his balls. Dave got the bar.
Of course, this was all speculative. Most regulars had no interest in biography. It was here, it was dimly lit, and Dave kept a gun behind the bar and turned a blind eye to needles in the corner or girls that looked too glassy-eyed and young to be in a place like this. And the booze was cheap, and Dave never took the bottle away, though he did have his bouncer, Charlie Black, throw the passed out patrons out into the street.
I had stumbled on the Vena Cave my sixth night in the city, when I had gotten an invitation from a girl I’d be interested about half a decade earlier and had recently seen on the street to come out and have a drink with her. I put on my Sunday’s best, tucked my shirt in, and met her smoking a cigarette outside the Vena Cava. She was standing next to a tall guy with narrow eyes she introduced as John. It was clear from the way he stood over her that he owned her. By our tenth drink together, when his eyes were closed, and hers were — there’s that word again — glassy, and mine, mine were drifting but still alert, that I put my hand on her thigh and under skirt and she smiled a half smile for about fifteen seconds that felt like ten minutes and then, eyes focusing a minute on my upper arm and clearly aware of John humming quietly behind her pulled away from reaching fingers and stood up, straightened her skirt, and went to the bathroom. John, now eyes opened, looked at me, suspicious but still insensate. I was not sure what I thought was doing.