Washed Out

By Maya Bairey

I am the best beer glass in this bar.

I don’t say that lightly. I’m younger than those I share a shelf with. Many of them are milky with tiny scratches, others even have chips in their base. The ones who chip their rims—well, we never see them again.

I’ve been through a few rounds tonight already. I get filled with bright beer, flown to a table, and steadily emptied. Then it’s back to the hot water, the astringent rinse, the long wait on the rack as I dry, until I again stand ready in the frosty cooler.

Being used invites scuffs and spills and worse. I’m strong, though. I can spend years in this place, being filled and wiped out, before the wear will show.

I’m pulled from the chill by tonight’s bartender. I like this one. He has steady fingers and takes care not to clink me against the tap. The crisp lager he fills me with leaches away some cold, and condensation clouds my outer walls.

I feel the small scar between the bartender’s thumb and forefinger. He told someone once that he got it in a fight, but it was from a broken bottle in the kitchen. He swore and threw it viciously into a bin. The splintering clangor made us all tremble on the shelves.

He has tattoos but the motley skin doesn’t feel different from the plain. He wears fire and weapons, but they don’t feel hot or sharp. It intrigues me that I feel the scar but not the colors. I suppose it’s like the difference between engraved and printed logos.

He sometimes tells lone women sitting near that he dreams of going back to a music festival. Lost in a crowd of others like him; bombarded, hot, alive. It sounds a bit like the dishwasher to me.

The liquid in me tickles, tiny bubbles precipitating at the crosshatched engraving at my deepest part, my nucleated base. What a great job I do, keeping the foamy head from fading! So well designed.

The waitress with inky-stained hair snatches me from the bar. This one distresses me at times, her tired wiry fingers lifting me recklessly by my rim. I join my fellows on a cork-lined tray and am whisked up high, wavering above the spindle-legged chairs in her path. We’re not in danger, not really. Her balance is sure and we’ve made this trip many times.

My destination is last, my full comrades leaving for their assignments two by two. Veering around the last chair, she lowers the tray and clutches my base. It’s safer, but I wince at the feel of her cheap ring against my sides, the glass pavé whispering of potential scratches. A long gray hair is caught in it, webbing into space. It clings to me wetly.

I’ve heard her talk as well, late at night when the doors are closed and lights on. She dreams of living in a large city, alone there, anonymous. She’s known here and wants to lose herself in a busy place before it’s too late. Maybe a big city is like the drying rack, all glasses alike in rows.

She sets me on a gummy table, sliding me across. I don’t catch and spill because she knows how much force to use. One day when I’m less smooth this could end in disaster.

The man who reaches for me is one I know well.  He doesn’t use coasters, which annoys me. A puddle of condensation around my base will eventually cause obstinate water spots.

This man wears no ring, but often taps weak fingernails on my side or spins me around and around for no reason. His skin is sallow and dry, the hair on his knuckles limp. He empties me with regular voluminous sips, mustache bristling over my rolled rim.

He often lays a device near me, then picks it back up after it vibrates. It holds his attention more than I do. He sometimes talks to it. He speaks of meeting someone, inviting them here to get to know each other. No one’s ever come while I’m in his company.

His dream, often the last thing muttered before he leaves, is for his ex-wife to just listen. He makes a pointless sound, I suppose. Perhaps that’s like the times people clink me against another full glass, the tiny chime we make together pure but risky.

I’m soon making the floating trip back to the sink where I’m briefly swiped at in the soapy water. I get a rinse, then back to the drying rack, upside down.

Empty and waiting for my next touch, I wonder at this secret thirst for dishwashers and drying racks and ringing contact. If it’s important, why do they only speak these wishes aloud when few are near, sometimes just to themselves?

My regulars circle the same steps with me most nights, never disappearing to these things they want. We live here, first dreg-stained then washed out.

Some people I meet never return, and I think they might have gone looking for their dishwasher place.

It’s good that I wait here as I dry. If put into the cooler while still hot, I might crack. An imperfection can plink me into a casualty. Then I would be a broken pile, serving nothing.

Would I dream then of the soaring tray? The burble of the beer tap, the lace on my half-drunk insides?

When the lights are out and we sit in rows, I choose. I’d like to stand behind the bar, under mirrors and lights. Spotless and polished, not yet so used that I’m foggy with scratches, but having made enough trips from bar to table to know I won’t shatter. I would take in the light and pour it back out in unexpected directions.

I am a beautiful glass.

Well, I already said that. Listen to me, repeating myself like those who drink late.

I am the best beer glass in this bar.

                                                       *   *   *

Maya Bairey has written over three million uncredited words during her career in corporate journalism, and finally decided to write stories she can put her name on. Her debut novel, Painting Celia, is Maya’s heart on paper.

Maya lives in the middle of the Columbia River in weird and problematic Portland, Oregon. She paints, programs, and protests via street theater. While her husband of three decades races their sailboat Pearl, Maya watches from their balcony with Dory the cat, making up new stories. 

Connect with Maya at https://bairey.com.

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