Time’s Place is a little tavern in Harlem. It’s not listed on Trip Advisor.
Nearby, between two brick buildings, is a fenced-in empty lot, overgrown with tall weeds and a few trees. As I was passing it recently the gate was unlocked—so I wandered in.
Regarding the following: apply what disbelief you need—sprinkle it with grains of salt—but in advance I clarify I was not dreaming or using any drugs.
Beyond the shadows of the trees the yard suddenly expanded. My curiosity drove me on. I came to some doors and went in. It was a tavern right out of a short story or movie. Dimly lit. Pinball in the corner. Sawdust on the floor. Stale beer smell. Jorge Luis Borges sitting on a stool at the bar.
Facing the mirrors behind the bar, his presence was echoed endlessly due to the mirrors on the wall behind him. He gestured me towards the stool next to him.
When I saw him at a reading in Chicago some 40 years ago he was already completely blind. And he died a few years later.
As I sat down next to him I was struck by that familar smell—that breakdown of cellulose and lignin in paper—that essence of used book stores.
The proprietor came over and asked what I was having. The same, I pointed to Borges’ beer, which he was stirring gently with his finger, then licking clean.
This is your moment. Borges said. Do you know who you are?
When I get nervous I tend to ramble, and off I went.
I have this amazing novel. But it’s stuck in my head. A mystery—but far more than that. A geographic puzzle, a literary collage, a word riddle — even a mathematical memory game. Enormous.
The plot surrounds one of the remaining prop sleds used in the film “Citizen Kane” being stolen from Sotheby’s. Insider information reveals that the stolen item is hidden—in one of twelve bars somewhere in Manhattan.
I’ve got this great idea of a riff on Monk’s composition “Straight, No Chaser”—because it’s a . . . twelve-bar blues!
Fourth walls will be demolished and out of the rubble will emerge apolcalyptic dreams, philosophical leitmotifs, existential dilemmas and spiritual bankruptcies. I’d drop all the characters into a shaker and come up with an intoxicatingly original literary cocktail, a potent stimulant, infused with a salty rim of word play and puns and . . .
Closing time, the bartender said, wiping the bar and switching off the neon Babel Beer sign.
Looking in the mirror I watched the endless Borges’ lift themselves up—his last words lingering in the outdoor air as he and the tavern faded all around me.
If you can’t write the book you can always write about it.
I stood for a while in the empty lot—looking around at the trees and buildings—then went home to write the review of the book I would never write.
© AleXander Hirka 2020. All Rights Reserved.
Read RemingtonWrite’s version here:
In August 2020, I set myself the challenge of creating a daily digital collage based on an image and a concept. The image was that of the antique Omega watch that belonged to my Mom and the concept was Time.
In September 2020, the Anomalous Duo is challenging themselves to write a short piece of fiction for each collage — the Our Hours project.