It's Saturday night in Clyde's of Georgetown. 2:20 a.m. But it could be any fashionable bar.
"I really like older men," the pretty young woman at the bar confesses to a gynecologist from Seattle sitting to her left. Graying hair sticks out from the top of his unbuttoned shirt.
A few minutes later the woman turns to the young man at her right. She's never seen him to before. "I think you're good looking," she says, staring directly into his eyes. "What do you think about the way I look?" The young man begins to inch forward.
A half dozen other menless women are scattered around the bar. Between countering persistent male forays, they reassure each other that they really should be leaving in just another couple of minutes.
2:25 a.m. The unattached women are gone, still unattached, and the bar belongs to a smattering of couples and single men. The pretty young woman at the bar has kissed both of her partners goodbye. They were long, deep kisses, replete with rubbing foreheads and initimate whisperings.
She's now just outside the front door, vomiting over a white car. Customers finishing their $2.65 hamburgers watch through the front windows.
The bartender shouts out a "last call" for drinks, his voice alive with the anticipation of getting off work. The men at the bar are cool and philosophical. "French people know how to flirt just for the sake of flirting," one rationalizes. "American men have a problem of always being on the make. You either score or you don't score. That's no good."
2:45 a.m. The woman has lain down, her feet in the gutter, her head against cold concrete. The doorman is concerned that some rouge with ill-intentions will spirit her off under the guise of offering brotherly assistance.
This fear isn't unfounded because the sidewalks are filled with the night's losers, people who never found whatever they went to the bars for. "I love you, c'mon baby," slim men in tight jeans shout out to anything female. At crowded corners they make furtive grabs as the womrn hurry away.
The sidewalks are also sprinkled with the laughter of male bravado. "She saw him before she saw me," one teenager explains to his friends. Another concludes that his bad luck resulted from "her preference only for guys who've been circumcised."
From within each bar, a hand reaches out like it was pulling down a zipper to lock the doors. Cleanup has started and no new customers are welcome.
2:50 a.m. Inside Clyde's lights flash momentarily as a farewell warning. Waiters have put half the chairs onto tables and ketchup bottles are already shelved in military precision.
"You don't suppose I could get just one more bourbon," a voice says half-heartedly.
"You're right," replies the bartender. He notices one couple oblivious to the chairs going up all around them and tells a waitress not unkindly, "They've got their check on the table. Tell 'em to pay up."
3 a.m. The lights go on for good as the last customers file out. "This is a harsh time," says a waitress. "Our act is over and the real world comes back. You can see the filth and dirt, the cigarettes and the crumbs. The spilled scotch stinks."
Beyond the locked front door, darkness still protects illusion. The street melts into a few nearby all-night restaurants that do standing-room-only business a few minutes after the bar closings.
A noisy gaiety pervades these restaurants. But something's wrong. It shows in the faces and comes out in the conversations.
Some of the couples are out for the first time that evening. They're tired of each other or of their small Georgetown apartments, and they've timed their excursions to join the impersonality of the post-bar closing crowd.
Most of this crowd is the disappointed residue, groups which haven't yet had as good a time as they feel they "should," and couples who rarely smile or hold hands. Conversations run at a slow pace.
"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."
"You have good feelings."
"I'm just glad it's over."
"I'm saying how I feel. I'm not asking you."
"Can I have one of your Kools?"
Back in the bar, the night cleaning crew has completed its search for lost change. They mop floors and polish counters while the juke box blasts at full volume.
4 a.m. The breakfast and luncheon cooks arrive. Everything starts all over again.