On the first Friday of each month, Friday Fiction presents a new story from our recurring series, Last Night at the Pinch, where tales are set in a dark writer’s bar in Washington, D.C. In this installment, Baltimore Rothstein regales us with a quirky, yet poignant look at a bar regular considering a deep question.
Last Night at the Pinch
“Fuck, I’m Drunk”
by Baltimore Rothstein
Fuck, I’m drunk.
Which, I guess, is okay. I think of myself as a drunk. I’m comfortable with it. Definitely not a political commentator by any stretch of the imagination. I firmly believe that once you settle into a familiar role, it behooves you to perpetrate it as often as possible. It just makes life easier.
This evening wasn’t supposed to go the way it did, but most evenings don’t.
Lona was sitting across from me, spouting some conservative garbage about Affirmative Action that I was only half paying attention to, in response to something playing on television.
“African-Americans have essentially lifted themselves out of poverty, like from slavery times and all. Why their accomplishments should be diminished by giving them a handout is beyond me. It just seems patronizing.” She smirked as she took a sip from her soda, gently placing one of my french fries in her mouth as a period to her point.
It came out, before I could reel it back in, from the recesses of my mind where I stored my more poignant thoughts. “So when, exactly, was the last time you were Black?” I took a sip of beer, looking at her over the glass.
She snapped up to full attention, as if slapped with an open hand soaking in cold water.
I committed to the argument. Why not see where it goes?.
“When was the last time you were black? I mean, did you ever go as a black person for Halloween, or try to do some type of Soul Man thing at one point?”
“Well, I’ve never… but I …”
“Or maybe, you know some poor black people who worked their way out of slavery?”
“That’s just stupid…of course not. But I don’t get special rights or privileges because I’m white. Why should African-Americans get special treatment?”
“You don’t think you get special treatment being a white?”
“Of course not.”
“You don’t think there is racism in America anymore? Like it just evaporated when Obama became president?. All the racists called up by the rapture, maybe?”
“I’m not a racist”
“I wasn’t calling you one.”
“It’s actually more racist to continue a policy that patronizes the people it’s meant to help. Studies show African-Americans are more likely than whites not to graduate college if they get in through these types of programs. Affirmative Action puts African-Americans in a position where they end up at the bottom of the class, or flunk out. I’ve seen it. It hurts them in the long run.”
“So, now you’re saying blacks are just not as smart? That they should stay in their little black areas and set their sights on basketball and rap?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, that not what I’m saying.”
“What are you saying exactly? Not sure I understand.”
She took a long sip, smacked her lips and flashed a victorious smirk, “Of course you don’t. You’re a drunk who’s never been to college. What do you know about any of this?”
I stared into my glass and saw the outline of my reflection in the amber liquid, wavering at the bottom of the cup. Point taken. What do I know?
Nothing of significance.
She’s smart, educated, and usually right about things. I spend my days at the water-treatment plant making just enough to pay the rent and drink. Ambition is the greased pig I’ve been chasing my whole life.
I raised my glass to the bartender, “Another, please?”
THE AUTHOR: Baltimore Rothstein, our most prolific contributor, is a New Jersey ex-pat, a Washington, D.C. attorney, and a fearless documentarian of the goings-on at The Pinch.