I often go to a restaurant downtown where on Wednesday nights they’ve got a popular special, it starts at 8 pm, and it’s this: you pay $12 and get bottomless boneless chicken wings, served on wax paper in a red plastic basket, five wings at a time.
Sauce of your choice.
Eat those five, ask for more, bar tender’ll dip into the kitchen for a couple seconds and zip right back out with a fresh five (it’s only available at the bar).
I happen to be at this bar most Wednesdays, though I’ve never taken advantage of the special, but when I’m here, and while the special’s going on, there’s a man who comes in who’s very tall and very heavy with a shaved head and plush red running shoes, always dressed in shorts and a shirt, and he orders the wings every time, plus a Diet Coke, and he tends to’ve been there before I’ve arrived and sometimes he’s still there when I leave.
Basket after basket after basket.
He’s a big guy, a big presence, but he sits by himself and talks to nobody except the bar tenders, all of whom he knows by name.
On his neck, trailing down to his shoulder, is a tattoo of a dragon.
One night he asks the bar tender to switch the TV from a reel of golf highlights to a Celtics game. The bar tender complies and the big man with his many baskets of boneless wings watches the game with a mute little smile until, at one point, there’s a trailer for the new Spiderman movie, and he tosses his chicken wing down into the basket and he claps his hands twice, loud, points at the screen and “whoop”s and then looks around, hungry for eye contact, commiseration, maybe conversation…but he doesn’t find it.
Settles back into himself.
Sometimes the servers don’t pick up his baskets right away. They bring him fresh ones. I wonder if this is a tactic to guilt customers out of ordering more wings. Let their baskets accumulate as a constant reminder of how much they’ve already eaten.
The most empty baskets I’ve ever seen him sitting with is three. He looks uncomfortable about it.
He drinks soda after soda while eating his wings and sometimes he gets a Guinness for dessert.
He’s a lonely-looking man but when he’s eating those wings with his Coke and a little lager you’ll find him sporting on his face a bliss that looks hard-earned, and all-consuming. He’s a guy who’s picked his poison, and it looks like he’s really enjoying it.
It looks like the real thing.