Up high the western sky is running midnight blue, announcing the presence of the moon and stars, while down low the setting sun meets the sea in a fiery orange haze describing the horizon. Scores of sunset revelers line the pier as dusk rolls over Ocean Beach, setting aglow the streetlights along Newport Avenue. Only half a block from the sand, above the door on the facade of the perfect little dive, blue lights ignite to reveal the word Tony’s in flowing metallic script.
Inside the invisible man sits lost among the juke and chatter. He throws back a shot of Jim Beam and drifts off in a bourbon flow, his mind turning over scattered thoughts and vague conceptions of an ideal world. The bourbon lights a fire inside, and quickly the heat radiates to his fingertips and toes. He’s no longer invisible. He’s on fire. Chloe pours him another.
“You see this?”, the man-on-fire asks Chloe, pointing to his left shoulder.
An inquisitive squint is Chloe’s only reply.
“It’s the weight of the world… right here on my shoulders.”
Chloe shoots him a smile and the man-on-fire is pleased.
Two hours and five shots later the young man’s head detaches from his neck and hovers above his shoulders like a helium balloon tethered to a park bench on a windy afternoon. He’s really feeling it now. Some college kids are playing pool and dropping dollars in the jukebox. The sound of “Sickboy” by Social D. rings through the bar. We’re all sickboys! The man-on-fire sings along, and he can’t hide the confident grin that appears on the front of his now floating head. It’s a rare sight. Sickboy actually feels good.
In walks Sevrin, the peaceful warrior. He throws up a peace sign and pulls up a stool next to the sickboy-on-fire with the floating head. Chloe pours a vodka and soda strong enough to kill a bull, but it won’t kill Sevrin. It’ll just make him real stupid real fast… just like his Beam swilling buddy. Sickboy and Sevrin, two drunk and stupid guys hanging out in the perfect dive, plotting ways to fix their lives.
The hours pass until its time for the most amazing sight in all of Ocean Beach, as Jenny sneaks in and takes a seat at the far end of the bar. Sickboy nearly falls off his stool. It happens every time. He’s smitten. The bar is a small place in a big world, yet somehow it is here where Sickboy has the good fortune to make time with the most beautiful girl he could ever hope to meet. Be cool, Sickboy tells himself. But he wants to say it all. “Jenny, you have a warm touch and a bright shine that I can’t help being taken by. Inside and out you are the most beautiful person I have ever met.” But Sickboy struggles to find the line between cordial neighbor and adoring friend, and in the process he lands directly on leering creep. His confidence is shattered like a light bulb dropped from the top of the Eiffel Tower. He can only swallow his words and chase them down with a flood of bourbon. Sickboy thinks too much. That’s his sickness.
As Jenny makes her way down the bar, Sickboy tries to straighten up and look something less than smashed. He fails miserably.
“Miss me?” He slurs with a boyish grin.
“Always,” Jenny shoots back with a bat of the lashes above her blue diamond eyes. “You look like you’re having a good time tonight.”
“I am now,” says Sickboy with unashamed affection.
Then Jenny flashes a smile so sunny and sincere… Sickboy came for the booze, but he stayed for that smile. No doubt it is that smile that makes the world turn. But Sickboy is done. It’s already been a long night. Time to go home before he says something stupid.
Sickboy gets up to leave. He stumbles to his feet and slides his stool against the bar, pausing for a moment before turning to Sevrin.
“This is it, man. This is where it begins. Right here at Tony’s!”
Sevrin looks perplexed.
“Dude, what are you talking about?”
“The world is gonna’ be a better place, man. And it starts right here. Right now. In this world there are no strangers. In this world honesty prevails. In this world there’s no need to wonder what’s on my mind because everyone already knows. Can you feel it?”
Blue eyes and bourbon make Sickboy say some funny shit sometimes.