"Why are you being such a dick?" She asks as she glares at me with the cold eyes I've grown used to the past couple months.
"I've been drinkin'" I say bluntly, stupidly refusing a conversation and cowardly refusing a fight. Even refusing eye contact as I blurrily stare forward at the mosaic of shelved bottles and glassware behind the bar. It isn't a lie. I have been drinking. Whiskey to be specific. And lots of it to be more so. It's become a habit lately, and not one that I'm proud of. I've been drinking all the time.
"Well, you better slow down," she says, knowing damn well that she's playing a dangerous game with the comment.
"What do you know about what's right for me?" I explode, drawing unwanted attention to our problems, and the unwanted looks from our fellow patrons. But I don't care. I continue, "Just because you've got a preconceived notion of what I should do, don't mean it's the truth."
She looks at me, knowing the next words to come from my mouth are sure to define the future direction, or lack thereof of our relationship.
"I'm gonna keep drinking." I tap the rim of the glass, finally adjusting my eyes only to make contact with the bartender. If I was sober, I'd certainly know this all to be a grave mistake, but the drunk me has a flair for dramatics and the liquor and the call of my own soap opera have taken control of my life.
I feel her saddened yet calm gaze through the lens of my peripheral. The kind of gaze that has finally, for her own betterment, given up. She pushes back from the bar and pays the bill in one final act of defiant strength. "Lord knows it's always something,” she quietly speaks to herself and to me. “Can't it just be right? Wish someone would tell me why I waste my time."
I remain still, stubbornly refusing to answer or to look her direction. I can't help but thinking how painful her final words for me are sure to be for years to come. No matter how drunk I get tonight, I'll never be able to forget them. As she leaves, I quickly gulp down the cocktail and ask for another, starting my new chapter and racking up my bill from zero.
"It makes me wonder why I even try," I mutter to myself, knowing deep down that trying was the very thing I've failed most at.
"It's a cold, cold world out there," says the bartender looking at me with empathy and sorrow. "My faith is running dry," he continues, shaking his head while he fixes me a stiff cocktail. "I hate to see train wrecks like that unfold."
"Trust me, it needed to happen." I say, trying to convince him and myself that what just happened was right. "I've been out here roughin' it, player, for a very, very long time." I down the drink in one pull. "Sometimes love just ain't enough." I stumble over the drunken words.
"Another drink?" He asks.
"If it was up to me, you know that I'd stay," I say, reminding myself that I have somewhere else to be. I stand up, take a moment to find steady footing, and motion for the bill.
"On the house tonight,” he offers.
"I can't let this one slide," I reach into my pocket for my wallet, pull out a twenty and with it, the two tickets I bought long ago for a special night with a special someone. So much for the someone, but there’s no reason to let the tickets go to waste. Dropping the cash and one ticket on the bartop, I put the other back into my pocket and make for the door.
Once outside, I can see that it’s a cold night, but I can’t feel it. The whiskey has me numb and tonight’s storyline has me unable to focus on the unimportance of the physical world around me. Leaving the security of the bar, my mind begins racing with the insecurities of being so freshly rendered alone. I speak to myself as if to speak to her, providing a private podcast of emotion to get me through the walk.
“I wonder if you’re coming back to see me. I wonder where you go. Maybe it’s my mind that deceives me. Maybe my insecurities feed me. Maybe I just need some help.”
That last revelation seems to sing particularly true, but help is what I’m hoping to find in my destination tonight. No greater therapy than the one I’m sure to be provided. As I walk slowly, my mind shifts gears from personal insecurities to reflection, asking and answering questions in a psychotic but therapeutic circle of drunken self-conversation.
“Where did things all go so wrong? It happened slowly, over time.
Were we too young when it all began? Yes, I remember innocence.
Didn’t we used to be perfect? I was dumb to think it’d stay that way.
Moments fade and feelings start to change.”
Finding myself on a familiar block, I make for a familiar door, and show the unfamiliar face who guards it my ticket. Inside, I’m still having trouble reconciling with my surroundings, carelessly bumping into strangers and often forgetting where it is I am or what it is I came here for. But finally, overcome with memory, the small music club reminds me of our past together. Good music, good drinks, good times, and good company. I’ve never been here without her.
With that thought, emotion overtakes me and in an effort to escape the pain, I make for the venue’s old, wooden bar. Wisely, I stick with whiskey. The bartender, who knows me from my weekly visits to the Friday night concert series, strikes up a conversation.
“Where’s your girlfriend tonight?” He asks me.
Not knowing how to respond, the only words I find spill from my mouth. “Everybody knows you could never trust a person that could never trust themselves. I’m just lost inside this maze called life.”
“Shit. Sorry to hear about it, friend,” he says. “What happened?”
“I had an angel that was down to ride for me. She believed in me. Ain’t that how it’s supposed to be? She would have died for me, she could have been my bride to be, but now, I’m stuck thinking about her constantly. I don’t know what happens next, but I know one thing’s for certain. I fucked up.”
“Why didn’t you tell me that earlier,” I voice says from behind, raising the hair on the back of my neck.
Quickly, I turn around. Not knowing whether to be scared, sad, relieved, or happy to see her face, I’m once again rendered still. She looks at me, waiting patiently. I snap out of it, knowing how poorly this strategy performed earlier tonight.
“I’m so sorry,” I say unoriginally, but unable to find a better set of words. “How did you get in here?”
“I went back to the bar and you were nowhere to be found, but my ticket was sitting where you last were. I figured if anything, we could both use the music tonight.”
With that, the lights begin to dim and the crowd begins to applaud. I take her hand and lead her to our usual position center stage, but far enough back so we can enjoy our drinks without spilling and enjoy short conversation between songs.
A full band takes their places and the man we came here to see strolls to his position, guitar in hand, at the microphone.
“Hello everybody, my name is JMSN.”
The crowd again grows loud.
“I promise,” I say, leaning close to her ear ensuring she can hear me above the hum of the audience and the start of the set, “from this point forward, I’ll do whatever makes you happy.”