The waiting goes on all day. I sit on and on at my table in the back, looking at the mugs arrayed up by the ceiling, and I crunch sawdust and peanut shells underfoot. I picture the magnitude of the divine realms, but soon tire of this, finding myself to have made little objective progress. Then I try thinking about Spinoza, but don’t know where to start. There seems to be no one else here, not even a bartender. I see some feral dogs skulking just outside the doors, but they appear wary of entering. I try to think of a brand new word and masticate it like a Knut Hamsun character, but every new word I think of turns out not to be so new. Finally, I decide to stretch my legs by going to the bathroom. I crunch shells the whole way, and bring a smile to my face by pretending that they’re egg shells and I’m “walking on egg shells” but mainly just smashing them with glee, rather than being careful, which is what I believe this expression means, though I’ve never heard it used, or at least not for a long time. When I get back to the bathroom, of which there is only one, I hear a low whimpering through the door. I wait, with some fascination, by the coat rack, but then I see that the door is ajar, not locked, so I take this as a sign and push my way in. Inside, I ¬†encounter a woman sitting on the lowered toilet seat drenched in sweat, panting and crossing herself in a frenzy with a gnarled crucifix made of wire, nails and what looks like hair, mingling with her hair, which gets caught in its crevices as she brings it fast and hard across her face, completing the motion time after time. There appears to be some aquatic component to this crucifix as well, bits of coral and seaweed woven in. Finally, in exaggerated exhaustion, she stops crossing herself and looks at me, holding the object between us. “There’s a sing-up list at the bar, you know,” she says. “You just put your name down with the bartender, then you get a turn to borrow it, fair and square.” I tell her that the bartender is not here. She looks incredulous, then sighs and says, “Don’t matter all that much, I suppose. You’d have to wait at least a year until your name came up anyways. Everyone’s in line for this thing.” She hefts the crucifix approvingly, closing one eye to avoid a sharp tendril poking it out. “What’s that you got there?” she asks, pointing to the strip of paper dangling between my fingers. I’d forgotten I had it. I hold it up to her now, like the fortune from a fortune cookie. “Dalton,” she reads. “This is a ticket, you know,” she says. I don’t say that I didn’t know. I stand there mute instead, waiting to see what she’ll do. She holds the crucifix back away from me, like she thinks I’m going to make a move for it. Then she gets up, with a squishy sweat sound as she peels herself off the plastic toilet seat, and opens a panel in the back wall. It opens onto a hallway. “It’s going on down there,” she says. “Make sure you take the door marked ‘Dalton,’ not the one marked ‘Barry.’ You don’t want to have a bouncer situation by going to where your ticket don’t say you can go.” She waits until I’m gone. I can hear her taking up the crucifix again, worrying over lost time.

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