This is a Writers’ Other Jobs piece from Oliver Mol.
When I was nineteen I worked at this bar inside this hostel on the top level of this old mansion in downtown La Paz, Bolivia. I hadn’t really worked in a bar before but I was running out of money and when the owner asked if I had experience I smiled and said, “Yes.”
My first shift was on Halloween. The owner told me I should wear something “Halloween-like” because, “Aliver, et’s fok-ken alloweeen so dress up ya dumb k-unt.” The owner was Irish. He had a mohawk. Mostly, I tried to avoid him because I found him intimidating. I spent the day walking around La Paz trying to find something for Halloween. I walked into lots of places but I didn’t really find anything I liked. Besides, I was trying to save money and a new outfit seemed dumb. I thought: I’ll just squirt some tomato sauce over my white t-shirt or something. Yeah. It’ll be fine. When I returned to the hostel I saw someone I sort of knew. He wasn’t dressed up so I went over to him. I said, “Halloween’s dumb” while laughing and he said, “Halloween fucking RULES bro, fuck.” I went to the kitchen and got some tomato sauce. I squirted the tomato sauce all over my white t-shirt and stared at myself in the mirror. I couldn’t stop staring at my acne. I thought: fuck you, acne. I decided I didn’t want to wear a white t-shirt covered in tomato sauce because it brought out my acne. Also, it just looked bad. I took the t-shirt off. Put on this faux snakeskin jacket I’d bought in Peru the previous month and thought: well, it’s something.
When I got to the bar I stood there. I tried to make eye contact with the people behind it. I wasn’t sure if I should walk behind the bar or wait to be invited. Eventually someone said, “What can I get you? and I said, “I’m working here” and they said, “Well, what are you standing there for?” and I said, “Oh.” I walked behind the bar. I said, “Hello” to the people working behind the bar. This English guy asked for a Pacena. He said, “Nuva Pacena, bruv.” I said, “Yep” and turned around and asked someone what a Pacena was. He said, “It’s a fuken beer, isn’t it.” I opened a Pacena and gave it to the English guy. I thought: I can do this. I thought: I can open beers and give them to people.
It was busy for a while. I liked when it was busy because I didn’t really have to talk to people. Like, people would just ask for something and I would nod and give it to them. Then, it got quiet. Someone came up and said, “Where’s your costume, mate?” and I pointed at my faux snakeskin jacket. He said, “The fuck’s that meant to be?” and I said, “Crocodile hunter.” He said, “That’s not the crocodile hunter” and we stared at each other for a while. I said, “Yeah, but, it could be.” The guy smiled. He grabbed a pint glass and started yelling/laughing like, “OhhhahaohhYEAohhhahaohh.” Some other workers walked over and began smiling like: what’s going on here, and I smiled back like: what’s going on here. The guy said, “He doesn’t have a costume so he drinks.” Everyone was like: Ohhhahaohh. I said, “That’s okay” thinking it would calm my nerves. The guy said, “Oh, it’s okay, is it?” and I said, “Yeah, it’s fine.” The guy said, “Think you can drink more than me, do you?” and I told him I didn’t know. The guy yelled, “He thinks he can drink more than me. Hahahah.” I sort of stood there and laughed with everyone. He began pouring lots of shots into this pint glass. I think he poured a shot of whiskey, vodka, tequila, white rum and dark rum. I kept smiling. He filled the pint glass up with beer and lemonade. He handed me the pint glass and said, “Down in two.” I drank the pint glass in two. I served maybe four more people then went and spewed in the toilet. I sat on this couch sort of staring at this chandelier above my head that was maybe spinning but probably not. I wasn’t really thinking about anything other than stopping the spinning feeling. I felt lucky because these girls came over and talked to me and kept bringing me water. It was nice that they did that. Working in this bar was weird for me because everyone was a lot older and drinking seemed like both a penalty for something but also the goal. I remember there was a dog running around and I kept trying to pat it but it kept running away. At some point the Irish owner with the mohawk came over and fired me for not working. At some point I sobered up. At some point I went to bed. One thing I remember was waking up in the morning and staring at myself in the mirror. My acne was worse than ever.
I didn’t have a job. But, I had made some friends. I’m not sure if, like, overall it was good or bad, but then I don’t really believe in saying anything is 100% good or bad. I don’t know. I don’t think it works like that.
Oliver Mol is a Sydney-based writer. He is twenty-five. He grew up between America and Australia. He has lived in Houston, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. He was the co-winner of the 2013 Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers and was the recipient of a 2012 Hot Desk Fellowship. He has read creative non-fiction at the Museum of Contemporary Art. He has interned at The Lifted Brow, was a fiction editor at Voiceworks and is part of the Stilts Collective. His debut novel, Lion Attack! is finished and under consideration. He is excited about life.