I worked at the door of a Mexican bar named Zacatecas for a month before I mastered Space Invaders on my flip phone. Then I tallied up how many cases of beer we sold a night, then added a hard liquor sales estimate to form an idea of the bar’s finances. The owner was impressed, and also uneasy. He put a Nicolas Cage movie on all the televisions during the slow hours. Working forty-plus hours a week at the same door meant there was plenty of downtime, so I quickly became familiar with the movie. After a few days I wondered if the owner had forgotten about the flick. The actor, the plot, the scenes, all of it made my brain hurt. I took it out on bar goers. The place was rough, so I frisked everyone as they came through the door.
“They think you’re gay,” the owner said to me, after I was extra thorough in my search from cowboy hats to boots.
“What?” I asked, screams of Nicolas Cage’s anguish drowning him out.
“The customers,” he answered. “Think you’re gay!”
“How you search them.”
“Wow,” I said, when I was finished laughing and wiped the tears from my eyes. “I guess that’s good. Right? They know not to bring guns in. And I’m sure it cuts down on ins-and-outs.”
The next day after bar open, I thought about cowboy boots and hats, flannel shirts, big knives, and little baggies of blow. My plan had been to ease off the patrons after a harsh clamp-down at the door. Less invasive searches were less effort, which would leave me back at square one with Nicolas Cage.
“Can we turn it back to Mexican television?” I asked the owner as he washed glasses behind the bar.
“You said you liked the movie!” he shouted.
“There’s only so many times in a row I can watch Ghost Rider!” I hollered over the sound of Nicolas Cage revving his motorcycle. “I only said I liked it because it’s in English!”
“I’ll put on something else, anything!” He screamed over the sound of Nicolas Cage riding his bike off a ramp while cracking a flaming cat o’ nine tails. “Just don’t quit. You’re the best bouncer we’ve had!”
I realized that wasn’t a whole lot of praise as the owner poured us beers.
“I thought you were trying to make me quit.”
Throwing his hands in the air he bellowed, “Dios mío! Dios mío!” We both laughed raucously, which is the same in every language.
When I rotated home from Iraq, the bar was closed, and the owner jailed for selling cocaine and sex. His girls had worked the bar, sitting and talking with customers who bought them drinks, and a couple turned tricks. Sometimes gentlemen in cowboy hats lingered after bar close, lamenting sundered dreams of drunken sex as they pounded on the door. Other times they’d try arguing, then begging, and finally sobbing, which is the same in every language.