I sat outside of the Hogsbreath Saloon with my chin in my hand and a newspaper with a headline about Ernest Hemmingways life being celebrated this coming week in Key West. It was a hot afternoon and I was groggy after being drunk the night before and I wanted to be in my bed, but the little room that my friends and I rented was like an oven in the afternoon tropical heat. I was in Florida on vacation with three of my high school friends and we were supposed to leave Florida for New Jersey the week before, but we got tropical fever and stayed in Key West for a few more nights.
I was trying to write a piece for a publication called the Rutgers Ruminations on request of my friend turned publisher who wanted an article on the literariness of Key West. The project finally led me to a blue bench outside of Hemmingways Favorite Watering Hole.. I wish that I remembered how it happened, how I dozed off under the sky in front of that bar with my face in the two-page spread recapitulating Hemmingways stay in Key West.
I dont remember if it was from the dehydration caused by the alcohol in my system or just the plain heat, but I fell fast asleep on a bench outside the Hogsbreath Saloon in Key West, Florida. Thats where he drinks. Yup, thats it – his barstool and all. He just sits there alone all afternoon and drinks Black-label and writes in those three-penny notebooks he has there. Never smokes though. Constantly boasts about how much he drinks and how many women he has been with Who are you I asked. He didnt answer the question, but he pointed toward the door of the bar. Get out of here!
I am triple the man you are and can drink whiskey long past the time you hit the floor. You heard me pantywaist, get the hell out of here! Out of the bar! A barrel-chested Hemmingway bellowed out of the dark doorway. Then he retreated back into the shady confines of the saloon. The air was silent and sad, almost painful. I watched intently. Moving from the bench to the door of the dusky bar I caught a sight of Hemmingway huge upon his barstool. He was muttering something underneath his breath when he slammed the glass down on the bar and yelled something at the waitress.
The man who pointed Hemmingway out followed me from the bench to the doorway and whispered, Yup that is Ernest Hemmingway. The great writer. Great bullfighter. The best fisherman. Winner of the Pulitzer, a legend for all time. Right then a woman approached Hemmingway and he turned and hit her in a drunken swing of his burly arm. The man continued, He gets drunk. Forgets what he is doing, but he doesnt mean anything by it. Hes a great writer. I thought that he looked pathetic and drunk.
He looked like a balloon from all the alcohol and he sweated profusely through his shirt. He was alone in the bar. He stumbled off of his stool at the corner of the bar and fell over trying to hit a man passing to the restroom. His pen left his hand and slid across the dusty wood floor of the bar. A gentle rain like a sea breeze woke me from my dream and I got up off of the bench and headed to the saloon door. To get my reality straight I checked the corner of the bar. He wasnt there and I headed back to my room to meet my friends and put my pen away for a little while.