The ice cubes hit the bottom of the glass like peels of distant thunder as he thumped it down on the bar. Every sensation, every motion seemed amplified, life seemed like it was moving in slow motion. It wasn’t from the drink, he’d only had the one.
He’d come here before in recent weeks, each time hoping he would find a way out of his problems, an answer for his questions, at the bottom of a glass or bottle. It never quite worked though.
He’d figured as much, but it was worth a try, right? Instead of his answers and solutions, all he found was a new way to drain his paycheck, which already didn’t go quite far enough. Hell, he didn’t even get to know a bartender. He’d heard of the almost priestly relationship between the person behind the bar and the person in front. He knew, deep in the back of his skull, that he had hoped for that.
Just someone to talk to, if only for 10 or 15 minutes.
Someone who didn’t know him. Someone who didn’t know his troubles. Someone who didn’t know his job. Someone that didn’t know his religion. Someone who didn’t know his spouse, if you could call her that.
But no. He swore it was a different person behind the bar each time he came in. Tonight it was a skinny, pale, raven headed girl that looked like she was just out of college. Hardly the type of person for him to pour his thoughts onto.
So he sat.
He looked from the bottom of the glass out the window of the bar. It was raining outside. Water drops gently tapped against the glass of the window, as if gently inviting him to come outside and join them in the dance of wind, air, and liquid.
He cocked his mouth into a half grin. There wasn’t enough water in the clouds outside or liquor in the bottles behind the bar to wash away what he was feeling. His emotions were so powerful, and yet so unstable, changing from minute to minute if not second to second, or moment to moment.
He regarded these feelings as he pondered ordering another drink.
There was sadness, so much deep sadness. It seemed like the throne of his soul had been toppled and ground under the feet of a thousand men at arms.
There was also intense loneliness. There could have been a thousand people in the room around him, but not one of them registered their presence on the radar of his thoughts. For all he knew, somebody could be trying to talk to him, but he remained deep in the dark, with his own thoughts.
There was the sense of fragility. His mind, his psyche, felt like a house of cards poised on a tall, shaky table. One little tremor and it would all come tumbling down with more violence than he’d care to admit.
Then there was the anger. If he were honest, it was the anger that still held him all together. He didn’t dare let go of it. It was the hammer and the nails that held together the brittle slats of his soul, it was the glue he used to plug the holes and leaks that developed in his mind.
He sighed gently and ordered another round.
As he sipped on his latest grasp at healing and wholeness, he noticed a stranger come in from the rain. He sat down on the other end of the bar, and hung his coat on the high back of the bar stool while dropping his dripping hat on the bar next to him.
He watched this stranger order a drink…the same thing he was having in fact.
Ah, another poor soul lost in his own muck and mud.
But, no. The stranger smiled at the young bartender as she brought his drink. How dare he do that?! Did this stranger know that he was trying to be miserable over here?
He drained the contents of his glass and studied the stranger carefully. It was odd. With the coat off, it looked like the stranger was wearing the same clothes he was, right down to the brand and color.
Interesting. In fact, the more he studied the stranger, it felt like he was looking straight into a mirror, the only difference being that stranger was obviously enjoying himself.
Just as he began to feel like he’d been staring at the stranger for an uncomfortable amount of time, the stranger turned and met his gaze.
The next moment seemed to last a thousand years as he looked into the eyes of the mirror image of himself. He found himself lost in the mind of the stranger. He saw happiness instead of sadness, friendship instead of loneliness, confidence instead of fragility, and hope instead of anger.
All he had done…..all he had done was made a choice, gone down a path, and worked as hard possible to make his life bloom. He had moved and kept moving.
As he stared into the stranger’s eyes he found….peace…..love….hope….and most important of all, he found forgiveness.
After a minute, he withdrew from the gaze of the stranger, but before he looked away, the stranger smiled and gave him a little nod.
He looked down at the glass for a long breath, and felt a tear run down his cheek, dropping into the empty glass like the rain hitting the ground outside. For the first time in weeks he felt warm, he felt….oddly free.
He decided to get up. That was the first step. He wanted to get up and go talk to the stranger, but as he gazed back to the other end of the bar, the stranger was gone. There was no glass that he had drank from, no money left to pay the tab, no water on the bar from the sopping hat that had been resting there only seconds earlier.
He tossed a bill on the bar to pay his own tab, and donned his own coat and hat.
He opened the door and felt the wind and the rain impact him like a rush of life driving deep into his being. He inhaled the smell of the rain on the pavement as he walked away from the bar, never to return. He was moving, finally, and he realized something deep down inside:
Tonight’s the night the world begins again.