I Know This Bar

Chris had always had the notion that when he got finished with the whole pop star thing, he’d open up a bar somewhere.

He didn’t want it to be one of those swanky celebrity places, where you paid out the ass just to breathe in the building, but more of a silent deal where he owned it but didn’t tell anyone, where the place was clean but old, had some character to it.

There were places he couldn’t do it: Orlando, Pittsburgh, the entire state of Ohio, Los Angeles, New York. He ticked off the cities in his head, working out the ties and associations he had.

Finally he just bought a map of North America and a black Sharpie and started x-ing out cities he didn’t want to be in. It left him with Chicago and Vancouver, and while he dug Canadians on general principal, Chris honestly didn’t think he’d want to be around them all the time.

So Chicago it was, and a few years after NSync took a permanent hiatus and he dealt with all the bad shit that fucked him up and over from that era of his life, he flew to Chicago, rented a decent apartment the next day, and started scouting out bars.

His real estate agent was a plastically pretty woman named Sherri-with-an-i, and even though her teeth were a little too white and her suit was just a little too clean, he liked her confidence and occasionally-surfacing wit.

They looked at a lot of places, bars that were already on the market, spaces that would suit the atmosphere he was going for, but nothing seemed to fit very well. It was either in a bad neighborhood or too clean or just something off.

After a month, Chris quietly bought a house and hired a housekeeper and started keeping a routine, but still, no bar. He was getting frustrated just as the city was starting to feel natural, home. He’d never spent much time in Chicago, even though he had his regular record store haunts during tour dates and cafes that served the right kind of grilled cheese sandwich.

Chris was always too tied to other cities, places that were once home but didn’t fit the description any more. Chicago felt like his city now, and it bothered him more and more that he couldn’t just settle down completely. Something was holding him back.

So five weeks, three days into the quest for the Perfect Kirkpatrick Bar, Sherri rubbed the bridge of her nose and hesitated before saying, “Look, Chris. I’ve got a couple more places I’d like to show you, and god knows these excursions halfway around the city and back are fun, but if you’re still unsatisfied after this showing, I think we should reconsider your criteria and maybe branch out a little more from the city proper and the coast.”

That, of course, is when he found the Perfect Kirkpatrick Bar.

The light shining through the tinted windows gave it a smoky air, even with the “No Smoking” sign plastered on the front. Chris barely heard Sherri prattle on as he inspected the bar, scuff marks on the lower half and smooth nicked veneer on the counter. There was a mirror–there had to be a mirror–but it was mostly obscured by stacks of bottles, most of which Chris recognized with an impressed grin.

There were small round tables down the center of the space, and a series of booths with cracked green vinyl the perfect decoration. Farther back there was a pool table and a jukebox with a fucking great selection, and a small lofted stage for live performers.

He knew he was here–it was a little small, but he could do small, and he knew he could pack people in, which he’d so have to do because this was the Perfect Kirkpatrick Bar and not a fucking thing would go wrong with it from this moment out.

He tuned back in just to hear Sherri say, “…and it comes with both the upstairs space that you can convert into an office and the large storage area beyond this wall that you could use for pretty much anything, really, a private dining area, or a wine cellar, or–Chris? What is that look? Why are you looking at me like that?”

He signed the papers the next day and spent the next week poking around, hiring people to fix small things or changing one or two bits he just wasn’t feeling.

When he was happy, he started hiring staff–this great manager, a decorator for the unfinished space above, a couple bartenders. His publicist directed him someone more local, who was pretty cool about his desire to keep it low-key. And then came the auditions for talent.

Most of the people were shitty, which was totally expected. A couple were good, and Chris knew that if he tried them out again in a couple months, they’d work for his setting. But there was one band, this Irish bluesy band, that he found himself nodding his head to–and he knew that was the one.

Couple weeks later, everything’s ready to go. He’s running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off, doing nothing really ’cause everyone’s better at it than him, grinning like a proud papa. The fliers were out there and he’d gotten a pretty good response from the community; the bar was stocked, the space was set, and it was the first Friday night at K.P.’s Bar.

Chris threw up in the bathroom and decided to restrict himself to ginger ale for the rest of the night.

Around midnight, he looked around. People were milling around, talking and laughing, ordering food and alcohol and the band was hitting just the right mood. Chris sat at the end of the bar, sipping his fifth ginger ale on the rocks and just…looking.

Chris slumped against the bar and sighed with satisfaction. This was *his,* his alone, and for once in fifteen fucking years he didn’t feel like he was splitting his world into one-fifth of a reality.

This was perfect.