On the day of his father’s alcoholism-related death, I ask Robert for a happy memory.
Robert turns to me—he and I sit at the Saloon’s long bar with unopened Pabst tall boys in our hands. We’ve sat here many days already.
It would have to be our drives, Robert says.
His eyes stare off beyond the dim bar lights that gently swing from their anchors and shower us in a gray light.
…to elementary school, seven-thirty in the morning.
Robert pauses as he tips his stool back on two legs until he teeters as if he needs the feeling of almost falling, almost crashing. Only then does he again begin to talk, this time as if he’s a poet and not a sheet-metal-building salesman on the Front Range.
I’m eight years old and the car is cold from winter.
Robert’s hand clutches the unopened Pabst as if it’s the only thing holding him, his stool, this whole goddamn bar upright.
Before we’d even be out of the driveway, he’d crack a beer.
Robert cracks his Pabst open, and the pssst of foam and carbonation shocks through this quiet, afternoon bar. He pulls a long drag from his beer and smiles that weary smile we all know.
He says, That sound has always reminded me of Dad.