Notes of a Professional Voyeur V

Notes of a Professional Voyeur V

Serial Fiction

Benny Profane

Read Part One Here
 

From the ethers of a gin-induced stupor I snap to on my bar-stool perch. Becoming more conscious, I begin to carefully shake off the slow seeping lethargy that is prone to enshroud one when ensconced for too long at a publican’s counter.

The bar lights were dimmed long ago and the low rumbling hum of scattered conversations floats around me. The dim hazy spots that hang above the bar contribute to the sleepy-stultifying ambiance of the place and the murmured yapping of my fellow inebriates is only occasionally interrupted by the loud creak and muffled slam of the door that leads to the Gents.

I feel boneless and heavy all at once. People move around me as if in a dream. In the midst of this haze my attention is drawn to the agitated mannerisms of the Regulars who are waiting to be served by the new lad behind the bar.

The look I can see on their faces is a mixture of irritation and disbelief.

When attempting to order their drink, they will straighten-up their slouch and crane their neck in the direction of the youngster, while raising their empty pint glass as evidence of their necessity.

Once the message has been communicated they will return to their position with a rueful shake of their head and a brief expression of exasperation.

When the drink eventually arrives the customer will sally some snide and sarcastic remark. This is awkwardly parried by the barman with a nervous laugh, followed by a hurried delivery of the customer’s change. The change is then diligently counted by the Regular, before being stowed safely away in one of his many pockets.

On witnessing this transaction, I reflect on how it is a lamentable quirk of our human nature that the twin follies of privilege and pettiness should be so inextricably bound up with one another. And then I am reminded of a line from Boethius when he said, ‘It takes very little to ruin the perfect happiness of the fortunate.’

In addition to the passive-aggressive scorn poured on him by grumpy patrons, the new barman has also to contend with his ever-watchful superior. This diminutive, pudgy and mean-faced harridan can be seen bow-leggedly plodding from bar to bar in an erratic circuit of feigned authority. Her appearance on the scene will initiate a swift straightening of posture by the young barman, followed by a panicked flurry of superfluous activity in an attempt to look busier than he actually is.

During the course of her elevation to the lofty administrative heights of Bar Manager, she somewhere along the way confused her humble appointment with something more important. As a result, she has a tendency to lord her modicum of authority over her unfortunate underling at every opportunity.

In the time that I have been frequenting this establishment I have become accustomed to seeing this pug-nosed Harpy wailing, sneering, glaring, scoffing, reprimanding, chewing-out, telling-off and generally abusing the perfectly personable staff for whom my heart does so silently pang.

When I see her unleash one of these unprovoked attacks, I feel as if I’m getting a small but intimate insight into the sadistic nature of power. If this rabid nincompoop feels justified in belittling the people answerable to her, then just imagine what the Caesars of Rome or the CEOs of this modern world might feel they can get away with.

Still on my perch and becoming more lucid, I begin to speculate on the curious chemistry of characteristics required in order to indulge in and gleefully abuse your position of power in such a way.

Any student of history will be more than familiar with the special type of scallywag or tyrannical rascal that so often rises to significant positions of power. And even if, in recent times, the preponderance of tyrants, fascists and despots has somewhat abated, we cannot deny that the general moral worth of those who hold the reins of power is, even today, regularly suspect and often hollow.

It is abundantly clear that the demon responsible for the smooth operation of this establishment naturally craves the power she has acquired. And it is my opinion that this type of person is by their very nature narcissistic, cruel, narrow-minded, and uncaring.

Often mixed in with this cocktail of sociopathic tendencies is a sick, twisted and sadistic thrill in using their power to reduce those under its thrall to nervous, wretched and shivering wrecks. Whenever I see the subject in question begin to spit vitriol in the face of her cowering victims, I can’t help but sense a perverse type of enjoyment on the part of the aggressor; an enjoyment that puts me in mind of the tyrants of the Ancient World whose grand and fetishist perversions appear to us now as the epitome of power abused. Printed across the scowl of this petty Bar Manager is the callousness of Tiberius and the mania of Caligula.

What is glaringly obvious is that buried deep beneath this demonstration of bravado is an acute and thinly-veiled insecurity on the part of the tormentor. This outward projection of illusory authority is no doubt the product of a troubled and deep-seated suppression of personal issues.

A soul more sympathetic than myself might be willing to forgive her transgressions based on such a diagnosis but, personally speaking, knowledge of the retarded nature of her juvenile psyche only emboldens my hope that the dark phantoms of her insecurities will haunt her more thoroughly.

I find myself privately hoping that this short-sighted act of self-denial might eventually drive her to a distraction that will leave her mind wallowing in a muddy pit of impotence and self-doubt. And that all of the negative psychic energy that she transmits into the world will be returned to her ten-fold, until she is left terminally alone and irredeemably forsaken on a sorry vessel of her own construction, in silence and darkness, crying ‘Why? Why? Why?’

You may consider this too hateful. I would like to have the capacity to tap into my inner Buddha, or Christ or Spirit Animal, and begin instead to love this emotional pigmy. But when bridging a gap, it is preferable that the crevasse be linked from both sides and until evidence of mutual construction begins, it is likely that the space will remain imposing and unassailable.

What makes this figure even more insidious is her friendly and affable public persona. She wouldn’t dare to speak to her beloved clientele in the same way in which she addresses her staff.

No, to her irritable and truculent customers she compliantly turns her most genial, jovial and welcoming face. The alacrity with which she transforms her demeanour from snarling remonstrance to artificial jocularity would impress even Janus himself.

Her treatment of the Regulars is marked by charm and positivity, and is buffered by liberal applications of snivelling sycophancy. She is careful to bestow on her patrons the flattery of her attention; humouring each of their trivial utterances, heeding their aspersions and justifying their petty talk. The way in which she gently massages their fevered egos is as sickening as it is affective—accompanied by a laugh as sincere as a harlot’s embrace.

And in turn, the flattered patrons wag their tails and lap up her cursory treats of attention and banter, and each makes a silent pact to disregard the injustices visited upon the quietly suffering bar-keep.

While the lad behind the bar, infernally wedged between these two monoliths, gets on with his work and bides his time, like Odysseus navigating the strait past Scylla and Charybdis, mollifying one and avoiding the other, until the day he finally leaves and is once again in open water.

Looking back at his twinned suppressors, eternally locked through their bitter dependence; he will, one day, float away, and watch their shrinking figures disappear in the distance, under the inexorable rise of a creeping horizon.

But until that day comes, I will, gratefully, have another drink son.

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