By the time we get to the final bar on our list of dives to visit on a clear but cold Saturday afternoon, none of us remember what it’s actually called. Partially this is due to four other bars that gleefully poured us shots and beers, called out the owner to give us a history of the joint, and allowed us access into their digital jukebox so we could play Celine Dionne’s “My Heart Will Go On” and all the Lizzo our liquor-loosened lips could name.
This bar is different. It’s the kind of place where, if walking in with a couple friends, you’d turn right around and leave.
The place wasn’t always a dive: The bar itself serves as the entrance to what was once a restaurant, and clearly a popular one in its heyday. Tables for two, four, six sit either in the middle of the floor or stacked on top of each other in the corner, half of them still draped in red-and-white checkered tablecloths that can be wiped down with a washcloth.
Before you can intrude on this museum, a mannequin — draped in a blanket for modesty, with a blond plastic wig and vacant, store-rejected eyes — stops you in your path. Her arms splay out like a priest’s at an alter, and before her is a brown couch that has played host to so many overnight patrons that this place might also be a B&B: Beer and bedtime.
Next to the sleep setup, you’ll notice a high top with a bag of tortilla chips and plastic tub of off-brand salsa, sitting out all day for anyone (anyone?) to munch on while they drink $3 whiskey-and-cokes and try not to think of how dirty the couch is right behind them. It’s easy to forget when you look up and see that a Svengoolie-hosted B-horror film from the 1950s is playing above the bar on a TV the size of a compact car trunk.
The date I brought with is starting to get deep in his questions for me, as if the beer and shots have made him more introspective. They’ve only made me need to pee. Again.
“So your last relationship — were you in love?” He asks.
“It was complicated,” I say, wondering if I have enough cash in my bag for another whiskey-Coke.
“Do you want to be in love again?”
The mannequin and I lock eyes.
“I don’t know,” I say. “The last time I was, it didn’t end well for either person. I learned I could be in love. He learned he couldn’t.”