Hey, so great to see you! Sorry, the bar’s so crowded tonight; it’s not normally like this. Usually, you can grab a booth, no problem, but it looks like we’ll have to share a single barstool. Hope that’s all right.

Normally, there’s live bluegrass on Sundays too. That’s why I picked this place, because I know you like the mandolin. But I guess Fiddle Creek isn’t coming tonight, and also, there’s no music playing at all, just the Lolita audiobook.

But it’s great to see you regardless. It’s been forever! It’s weird, though; I was just here last week, and the vibes were totally different. For one thing, they were serving alcohol, which it doesn’t look like they’re doing tonight. We could find somewhere else, or I’m okay with just having milk if you are.

I’m just glad we’re finally doing this. It’s just so hard to find a free night these days. I’m sorry that it’s so dark in here, though. It’s always dim, but I’ve never seen it be 100 percent pitch black, so we can only see everyone’s glowing, white eyes like we’re exploring a cave in Scooby-Doo.

If you’re down to hang longer, my buddy Jake runs trivia here at 8:30, which could be fun. Typically, it’s about pop culture, but apparently, the theme tonight is Belgian politics. If we win, we get a twenty-dollar tab, but if we lose, we get sent to the bar’s den of spikes. Everyone else here tonight is visiting from Belgium. It’s really never like that.

But, wow, dude, it’s gotta be like, what, a year since we last hung out? Wait, could you speak up, actually? It’s kind of hard to hear you over the sound of desperate bleating and the whir of veterinary respirators. It looks like the back room of the bar has been converted into some kind of emergency racehorse hospital. I was just here last week, and they had a pool table—the bar’s normally only like this leading up to the Preakness.

The noise here shouldn’t be a problem, though, since we could just head outside. Can’t believe I forgot to tell you, man, they got this kick-ass courtyard open in the summer with string lights and everything. Let’s just order our milk here and then head around back. Oh, wait, we still haven’t hit the summer solstice yet, right? Shoot, then the courtyard is probably still guarded by Lamashtu, the malevolent beast from Assyrian myth.

That one’s my bad. The bar did mention on their Instagram that Lamashtu, the wayward daughter of the sky god Anu, is nesting there until the solstice has passed. We could try to sneak in, but it’s probably not worth it, since she is said to gnaw on the bones of children and bring forth all nightmares.

Ugh, and they normally have great chicken fingers here, too, but the kitchen is closed.

I guess it’s up to you. Do you wanna stay here in the crowded, dark-as-night, raw-milk bar yelping over the din of Belgian French, Nabokov, and screeching thoroughbreds, all the while cowering in the horrid penumbra of Lamashtu’s nefarious wrath, or do you wanna hit up that place across the street? It is a wine bar, though, so the vibes may be off.