It was dark for a place with so many lights. Each of the corners of the bar, bar one, was adorned with a lamp of varying description.
Hanging Orientals draped the eastern wing, and the more mundane European collections coated the western, yet many of them were sleeping.
The most prominent source of light, however, hung above the main entrance.
A grand chandelier, polished and with all its bulbs in order, but however grand it looked, it undoubtedly hung with a sense of weariness.
The atmosphere was one of resignation; sighs, breaths, and coughs rose upwards to flirt with the cigarette smoke which hazily ghosted to the extent where it choked almost the entire room.
It was a Monday, and come the hour of seven o’clock, the door swung open. In walked three gentlemen of equal type.
Any element of uncertainty as to their being was immediately voided by the radiance of the chandelier.
The most athletically built of these men walked reluctantly with a cane, another flaunted a particularly rosy complexion, and the third wore a messy féasóg.
With these few exceptions, none bore any truly distinct features. They looked as though they could be brothers, but at such a moment as this seemed quite detached from each other.
Based on their appearance and demeanor, one would assume that all were confronting their mid-sixties, and they certainly walked as though this was the case.
Following a momentary pause, allowing time to gather themselves and fasten their drenched coats on the incumbent coat-hanger, they began their approach to the bar.
However weary, they walked with a swagger as though they themselves had drawn the plans and laid the bricks of the very building in which they found themselves.
Warm greetings and well-wishes were exchanged between them and their commensal publican. This was done on a first-name basis.
Being regulars, three nods replaced the need for orders to be taken, and before they had settled in their stools, three pints of stout had already begun to settle beneath their chins.
They drank together, perfectly synchronised and almost worthy of full marks.
Following the emptying of each deserved round, three glasses found worn maple with one deadened “clunk”, but on occasion, there was a deviation.
During a brief intermission between drought and flood, the bearded man grew visibly irritable.
The previous murmurs between these men grew louder, but not so loud as so that their words became discernible.
For a man with a belly full of stout, the gentleman rose swiftly from his stool but upon attempting to turn,
his two flanking compatriots grasped his shoulders and gently returned him to his resting place.
The bartender appeared unmoved by this outburst, affording only a fleeting upturn of his chin throughout its procession.
He then continued in his attempts to reach the depths of a tall glass with a stained rag. They quickly resumed their drinking.
They talked like traveled men, or even politicians. Yet, their collective sense of surety on their knowledge was grossly misplaced.
Naturally, they all gesticulated as to complement the knowledge they were so proud to wish they possessed.
Both open and clasped hands mirrored the intensity and movement of the hands on the clock which sat alone on a shelf next to many near-empty bottles of liquor.
Everything was rather ritualistic or rehearsed. On multiple occasions, a wry smile crossed the face of the bartender as he overheard the triplet.
However, he remained contempt with his role as a listener and never made it his business to interject, most likely out of fear that he may lose a regular fixture of entertainment.
There remained no need to ask whether the glass was half-full or half-empty.
Come the passing of the second hour, the seemingly docile gentlemen that had entered the bar in good spirits had become less gentlemanly.
Their drinks became longer though no more voluminous and although they never broke their unison, the clunks grew to have more melancholic undertones.
At one stage, the man with the rosy complexion rose from his seat, and using the empty barstools as a support (out of stiffness rather than drunkenness),
left for what I assumed was a toilet break.
In the time he took, the other men ceased their conversation, possibly out of courtesy, or maybe fear that it might incur what could be perceived as a betrayal of trust.
Deadly stillness bound the room for two minutes, before the man with the rosy complexion quickly returned, realising his fly was undone just before sitting back down. Nods.
Come the end of the third hour, the three men had become evidently disgruntled, though the subject of this disgruntlement had not yet made itself apparent.
For the first time, the three had failed to drown in their pints and as in the manner that one had previously attempted, all three rose and turned in unison, this time without restraint.
They continued in the direction of the door, steps out of time, before suddenly veering towards where I sat with my cigarette.
The man with the cane had rediscovered his youth and this cane, instead of supporting his gammy leg, was now cradled in two large callous hands.
Towering above me, they now very much seemed as though they were brothers, with the wrinkles born of their scowling mingling with those of their age.
No words were needed to inform me as to the degree of the annoyance I had caused them. This is a narrator’s tale.