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Jo Barchi is a writer/editor/ice cream scooper in Chicago. They are currently working on a book of prose essays called Supercut, out early next year from Ghost City Press. They can be found on Twitter @theyarenotaboy.

1 essay by Jo Barchi 

The Owl

I loved the idea of it. It’s the nightmare bar. The bar everyone goes to after all the other bars close. It’s open till four am. I had already quit drinking by the time I turned 21. I was sure if I went now I would hate it. I know myself well enough to know even I cannot replicate the chaos of a four am night without drugs and alcohol. But we all have the chance to surprise ourselves.


Sunday night. I worked a double and it was Nicola’s birthday. She invited everyone to Cafe Mustache for karaoke. I hadn’t been to the bar in weeks. My roommate was out of town. My apartment hadn’t had power in a week. I told myself I was only going for half an hour max. I told myself I just wanted to wish Nicola a happy birthday and then leave. I showed up at midnight. Ice cream dried and stuck to my arm hair. Wrinkled One Direction shirt hanging off my shoulders. Nicola started screaming at me the second she saw me. You fucking piece of trash. You fucking wore that shirt to my fucking birthday. You cunt. I fucking love you. Everyone is watching her berate me. I’m doubled over laughing. Someone tells me she should be nice to me. She tells them I love it. I just nod. If she didn’t call me a cunt I would think something was wrong. Evan’s old roommate is near us, but I ignore her to the point of it being arousing for me. She knows I saw her. She knows I’m not speaking to her. I’m flying high. I’m starving. The men come into my line of vision.


The first is Tall. Thin. Floppy hair. Denim jacket. Ideal. The second is loudly talking to the first. Shorter. Defined jawline. Intense eyes. I mistake them for a couple. Sigh. I do a lap of the room. Talk to Briana in the corner. We talk about a different man there. I want him to throw me in the air like pizza dough, she says to me. Tears stream down my face. We scream along to someone butchering Mr. Brightside. I return to the corner with Nicola. She’s next to the two men. I continue to ignore Evan’s old roommate. The short man comes up to me. He puts his hand directly onto my chest. He lays his hand right on Harry Styles’ face. He starts talking to me so fast. He tells me he loves One Direction. He tells me he loves Harry’s solo album. He tells me Harry is the new David Bowie. He tells me he can’t wait for Niall’s album. He keeps leaning in. he’s so close to my face. He’s saying all of this shit about music. All I hear is his voice. He might as well be telling me he owns my night.


He didn’t give a moment to speak. Then he’s gone across the room. Talking to his friends. I stand and watch him. I try and come up with something to say to him. I have nothing to say to him. I touch my chest where he touched it.


I talk to Denim Jacket. I find out his name from Nicola. She introduces us, after I ask. She’s gunning for it immediately. She tells me he’s nice. He’s smart. He’s writing a webseries. She’s starring in it. It’s definitely not going to go anywhere. He sang the violent femmes at karaoke though. Maybe I shouldn’t give up as easily as I do. Nicola sings man I feel like a woman for her birthday. We all scream and dance. Someone else sings dancing in the dark. I look like an idiot with my backpack. I’m smiling through it all.


The guy with the intense eyes comes back around as the bar starts to close. He asks if Denim Jacket and I are going to The Owl after. Denim Jacket smiles at me as he says he’s going home. It’s like he’s looking right through me. He knows exactly what's going on. I fucking hate him for that. Intense Eyes and I start walking towards The Owl. His brother and his brother’s friend walk just ahead of us. I light a cigarette for him right as he tells his name is Forrest. I stop myself from saying of course it is.


We get to the owl. I’m introduced to the bouncer. He’s a friend of Forrest. We all are tonight. It seems like everyone is taking key bumps tonight. I haven’t talked to my sponsor in a week and a half. I stand around with my backpack. I keep getting water. Forrest keeps trying to buy me a drink. I don’t think he understands that he’s hitting on me. Maybe he just wants attention and doesn’t care that I have a dick. I’m not here because I want to know what he’s thinking. We go to the bathroom at the same time. We look at each other in the mirror. We both pissed separately. He asks me if I’m having a good time. I keep washing my hands. I smile and lie. He has no idea why I came with him.


We stand there alone. Drying our hands. I knew all night. Finally I accepted it. Nothing was going to happen. I had followed a guy to a bar, for no reason. He had touched my chest. Gotten close to my face when he spoke to me. He didn’t remember my name.


I stick around for another hour. I stand at the bar and talk to some guy Forrest knows. We talk about Canada and student loans. After 20 minutes I mention being queer and he just stares at me. His mouth hangs open. He tells me he had no idea. He tells me I don’t present that way. I don’t look gay. I guess. I’m starving. I leave the bar as they call last call. Forrest tries to buy me a shot. I just laugh it away. The only other trans person at The Owl takes it out of his hands and makes direct eye contact with me as she takes it. I love her. We all stand outside the bar. He keeps complaining about his brother. He only stops to talk about his music. He doesn’t really say anything. He just repeats himself. As I leave the guy from the bar takes a picture of us up against the wall. I’m not smiling in it.


Forrest pulls me into a bro hug. His hand wrapped around mine. His arm wrapped around me. He looks at me right before getting into a cab and tells me he loves me. I walk home. I have to stop after a couple of minutes. I double over laughing hysterically.


I went back to my apartment that had no power in it. I fell asleep watching Frances Ha as my laptop slowly died. I woke up three hours later and went to work. My boss is in my uberpool. She’s been reading my tweets from last night. She tells me about her new crush. She tells me about the two times she got kicked out of The Owl.


He facebook messages me at three am on Monday. He sends me a link to Fireproof by One Direction. Tells me it was nice to meet me. That this is his favorite One Direction song. I send him back the Mitski cover of Fireproof. I never talk to him again.

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