In the Bar of the Naked Ladies

Picture a bar. It is an old bar, chilled and gloomy. The tile floors are gray with scum and slush. The wooden tables, chairs, and pews are striped beige with scratches. Oil paintings of naked women and naked men line the walls. Three somewhat young people sit in an alcove by the window in old church pews. Three graduates of the City Gray. Two women, one man. Two Southerners, one Northerner. Before them are half-empty glasses of beer and vodka tonics, and piles of papers as marked up as the walls. This is my writing circle.

Oline, the Dane, and I gather once a month in the Old Town Ale House, to trade words and advice about words in the gloom of the bar and under the watchful eye of the oil painted naked ladies. We are very productive, though this productivity hasn’t much to do with our actual writing. Instead, we take the conversation wherever our alcohol-maddened brains will, from suicide forests to the South to the awfulness of Thomas Kinkade paintings to the way we wrote about sex when we were virgins (epically, badly, hilariously).

We have only done this three times, but as the Dane says, it feels like we’ve been doing this forever. It feels that way, I think, because we travel these mental pathways together so easily and naturally, it’s as if we’re just picking up the tails of conversations that we’ve been having our whole lives. As if some little part of us has always been in that bar, surrounded by paintings of naked women, just waiting for the rest of us to show up, order a beer, take out a rumpled stack of paper, and begin.

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