I sit at the bar alone. It is a Tuesday. It isn’t late, it isn’t early. The sun has been hanging around later these days, yet the wind is still at war with the warmth, so I take my jacket out with me to smoke.
A man is there, speaking English into his phone. Something about an apology. He puts two fingers to his lips, looking my way. I pass him a cigarette. He cringes as he places it in his mouth as though he’s taken it from the lit end. He turns away.
I find him later, in the bar, also alone.
“Hey man,” I say. He gives me a funny look.
“You’re American?” he asks.
“You like Trump?”
I sigh. “Honestly don’t care.”
He frowns. “That’s worse.”
“Oh well. You?”
“Do I like trump?”
“No, where are you from?”
He seems to think about it a moment.
“England,” he decides. He doesn’t sound English.
“Mind if I?”
He takes his jacket off the chair beside him. I sit.
“So,” he says, “why don’t you care about trump–ah!”
His face jolts into a grimace.
I lean away, confused.
“Sorry,” he mumbles. He taps his neck. I look and notice a thin strip of metal around it.
“What the hell is that?”
He slips a finger under it, itching. “Drunk collar,” he says, as though it is a thing.
“You haven’t heard of them?”
I shake my head.
“Ah, well, you take them out when you go drinking. You can program them to shock you whenever you do something you wouldn’t normally do sober.”
He laughs. “No, I know, it sounds absurd. My wife got me hooked on it. It helps. You make more friends, and when you do, you keep them.”
I look at the collar again. It doesn’t look too fancy.
“How do you program it?” I ask.
He pulls out his phone.
“There is an app.” He turns the phone to me. “This is my list.”
eating chicken wings past 10PM
touching female strangers
arguing about politics
He puts his phone back in his pocket before I can finish the list.
“Anyways, it’s a long one.”
“But really man, how could you people elect Trump–AH,” he grits through the pain.
I shy away from him a bit. “Look, I don’t like talking about politics, like, ever. And, well, you seem to know it’s a bad idea.”
He shakes his head, knocking away the pain. “My wife made this list with my damn mother-in-law,” he growls.
He seems to calm down a bit.
“It’s fine. I just don’t understand you Americans.”
I shrug. “You don’t have to. Not sure we do.”
He takes his drink down in one.
“I’m off to piss,” he says. Then his face twists into knots.
“Not right here!” he cries at his collar. It calms down, he sighs and heads for the bathroom.