When I drive down Gotham Avenue in Alsace today, I can't help but think about what she was, what used to be, before darkened storefronts and "FOR SALE" signs dominated the view.
Up ahead, just before the Thirteenth Street corner, is the vacant lot where the Tiger Lounge once stood. I used to patronize the Tiger, not often, as I was never into dim cheatin' bars, but every now and then. I even met Sadie, the heroine of this story, once or twice, long ago, when I was just old enough to buy a drink legally.
Sadie was young, once, and pretty-she hadn't lost all her looks, but loneliness and alcohol had left their mark on her. She was a fixture in the bars downtown, although the Tiger was her base, of sorts. There, she'd meet men, have a laugh, a drink or two, and sometimes leave with one, though not often....no matter what else, Sadie was a lady.
One night back in '73, Sadie met a stranger, a man who'd come in off one of the ore boats, so everyone said. He was tall, handsome, and never out of cash. Sadie fell, and fell hard-why him, who knows? For weeks, they were to be seen in the best booth at the Tiger, huddled together like two high-school kids.
My aunt ran into Sadie one afternoon, at Hafner's, buying groceries and beaming like a prom queen.
Leon, her guy, was going to marry her, and move her to Detroit, a nice apartment, where they'd start a life together-he'd gone back up there, to get things arranged, and would be back within a week.
Leon was never seen again. Some said he drowned in an accident on his trip to Detroit, some said he'd had his fun, and just left her in the lurch. Some said Leon already had a wife, and kids, in Detroit....again, who knows?
Sadie came in alone, after two weeks in seclusion. She ordered a double 151 and Coke, and sat in that booth, nursing her drink.
The bartender, after a couple of hours, noticed that Sadie hadn't ordered another drink, but hadn't left-he could see her, sitting slumped in the corner of the booth. He called her name, and got no response.
Another customer walked over to the booth; Poor Sadie was past help. Clutched in one hand was a small pill bottle, the bottle empty. There was no note, just the sad, mute testament of Sadie herself.
Not long after, a change took over the Tiger Lounge. Patrons who took seats in Sadie's booth moved....when asked, they'd often say that they got "the creeps" sitting there. The jukebox would play by itself, always the same song, "You Belong To Me", by the Duprees, Sadie's favorite. The scent of Night Odyssey perfume would waft through the bar, even if no one visible was wearing it.
An aura of sadness often swept the room, particularly around ten-thirty, the time Sadie took her own life, and some claim to have seen her, a shadowy form exiting the Ladie's room. or crossing the floor toward the booth, cloaked in a veil of sad emotion. The bartender, as he tendered his resignation one evening, claimed he saw her in the bar mirror as he tallied his receipts, recognisable, but pale and ghastly, her eyes two dark holes in her face.
When he turned, no one was there.
Business began to drop off, and the lounge was sold, and sold again-no one seemed able to make a go at that location.
I walked past it one night, and felt a wave of sorrow wash over me as I passed . I was tempted to look in through the diamond-shaped window in the door, but realized I was afraid of what I might see.
The Tiger was torn down last year, along with that whole side of the block-progress.
Maybe Sadie's not sad anymore, but at peace....one can only hope.