Can I remember the last day I saw Mike? You kiddin me? How the fuck could I forget it?
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For the best part of two years Me and Mike had our routine. He’d come in and sit on his usual stool. I’d serve him up his large Jamesons and he’d knock them back. When I noticed his glass was empty I’d fill it up. This would go on all night. Around midnight I’d stick on the cable channel and we’d watch “I Love Lucy” or sometimes episodes of “Bilco.” I’d laugh out loud at these shows and if I was lucky Mike might crack a smile. At four in the morning he’d pay his tab, slip me twenty bucks for keeping the bar open and then he’d leave. That was our routine. Until the day everything changed.
It was a Monday and it was four o’clock. There was no Mike. At four thirty there was still no Mike. When the early evening crowd came in around five thirty there was still no sign of Mike.
The guys were concerned.
“Where the fuck is he? What if he’s had some kinda accident or somin? We should call someone. The cops maybe?”
I was also worried but could see how ridiculous that would be.
“And say what? That a guy who we think’s called Mike and works maybe on a local Construction site. Hasn’t turned up for his glass of Jamesons today. Anyone know where he lives?”
There was a silence in the bar. Everyone shaking their heads.
“You see. Not one of us knows a goddam thing about him. So what chance do we have of finding out where he is?”
The atmosphere in the bar was strange that evening. No one really said much. One by one they left and by eleven thirty the bar was empty. I could have shut up for the night but I was hoping that maybe, just maybe Mike would turn up. Every Monday for almost two years I’d closed the doors of the bar at four in the morning. Tonight, with or without Mike, would be no exception.
The next few hours passed slower than a snail carrying a sack of concrete. Eventually with the clock showing just two minutes to four I opened up the till and started to cash up. I took out the notes, counted them and put them into a small brown envelope ready for banking later on in the day. I turned round.
“Jesus H Christ Mike, you scared the living crap out of me!”
There he was. Sitting on his usual stool, looking at me with those big blue eyes.
“Where the fuck you been Buddy, we’ve been worried sick aboutcha.”
“He did what he always did. Shrugged his shoulders and sighed.
“Couldn’t get away. But I’m here now. How about that Jamesons?”
“Yeh sure Mike. No problem. After the scare you just gave me I think I’ll join ya.”
For the next few hours we did what we always did. I talked, Mike listened. But I noticed he kept looking at the clock on the wall. It was as if he was expecting something or someone. At seven forty five he stood up.
“Time to go. Wanna join me for some breakfast?”
Wow this was a first. At last I’d get to find out where he went, maybe find out where he lived. Get to the bottom of this Bar Stool Preacher.
“Yeh sure Mike. Where?”
“Little place I know, not too far away. You’ll like it.”
“Okay. Let’s go.”
I locked the door and stepped outside into the bright daylight. It took my eyes a few seconds to adjust. Mike was waiving down a cab. It stopped and we got inside. Mike gave the guy fifty bucks
“Brooklyn Bridge Park. Hurry.”
“Really Mike, you wanna go all that way just for breakfast?”
“Sure. You’ll like it. Trust me.”
The traffic wasn’t too bad for that time of day. Most traffic was heading towards Manhattan and not away from it as we were. Mike spoke quietly.
“I won’t be coming into the bar anymore kid. My work here is finished and now I gotta move on. It’s been good to meet ya.”
My heart sank. I didn’t know him well but he felt like the closest friend I’d ever had. I struggled to find the words to say.
“That’s too bad Mike. But never say never. Maybe come back sometime in the future?
We were soon across Brooklyn Bridge and stopping at the park entrance. Mike told the driver to keep the change. We walked into the park and stood on the pier looking across the river at the beautiful skyline of Lower Manhattan. It was a glorious morning. Mike kept looking at his watch.
“You okay Mike, you gotta get going or something?”
“No, I’m fine just for a few more minutes. Like the view?”
“It’s the best view ever, you wanna know why Mike?”
“Cos I know that at the bottom of those two magnificent Towers is a little bar that I call home.”
Mike was standing behind me. I felt his hands on my shoulders.
“Listen to me very closely kid. Stay here. Do not go back. Not for any reason. Understand?”
I turned round sharply to find out what the fuck he was talking about. But he was gone. In fact there was no one within fifty yards of me. I looked back at the skyline. It was 8.46 and a plane crashed into the North Tower.
So when people ask me if I can remember the last day I saw Mike. I say yeh, I can. It was the day that changed the world. By the end of that day, Tuesday 11th September 2001, Jimmys Bar was gone. Destroyed in a carpet of dust, concrete and debris.
Oh and by the way, did I mention about my Dad. The Dad I never knew, the Dad who disappeared when I was four? His name was Michael…..