The end of the day had come and it was time to put a cap on it and head home. Before doing that though, there was some business to attend to. Oh, it was familiar business, probably being repeated by countless people in countless places all across the land that were just like him. Yes, the time had come to make a pit stop on the way home and listen to some stories and maybe tell one or two of your own to anybody who was willing to listen. With that in mind, he figured he’d do what he has done for what seemed like forever.
What causes people to gather in little circles and share their thoughts and maybe a little slice of their life with each other? Is it some sort of quest for a “shared experience”? Is it that nemesis that strikes most of us at one time another, boredom? Is it a sense of comfort that comes with seeing the same people, the same faces, that draws him there? Or, is it the anticipation of realizing a possibility that doesn’t yet exist?
He walks into the bar and isn’t disappointed. Lined up, just like birds on a wire, are all of the familiar faces. Greetings are exchanged in the form of firm handshakes with the men and a quick peck on the cheek for the women. He assumes his perch and waits for yet another familiar face to provide some familiar comfort in the form of a frosty beverage.
“Where’s Allie?”, he asks to no one in particular.
“She ain’t here today. There’s some new broad workin’ behind the bar.”
He is a man of routines and is a little discomforted at having his disturbed. All of that changed when the door to the kitchen opened and the “new broad” assumed her place behind the bar. A little voice inside his head cried out to him that it was time to say “the hell with routines.”
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if beauty was based entirely upon one’s appearance, well, this girl had it in spades. One look at her revealed to him the reason why men set sail for distant shores in search of just this type of thing. To him, she seemed to be the reason why the painter is magically drawn to the canvas.
When she made her way to him and asked what he was having, he noticed the gleam that escaped from her eyes. It seemed to be fed by the light of a thousand stars and held the promise to mend a broken heart.
”Just a Bud please.”
The conversation amongst his inner circle went on around him as usual. Oh, he’d chime in every once in a while and offer up a snippet or two of his own wisdom but he found himself sneaking a furtive glance in her direction whenever he thought she wasn’t looking. He wondered if he was the only one in his group who had taken notice of the beauty that had graced their presence.
Time floated by and the steady stream of regulars made their way in and out of the bar. Familiar faces were soon replaced by some even more familiar and drinks were ordered and gulped down. Toasts were raised, glasses were clinked and laughter filled his corner of the bar. For the most part, he remained a bit aloof to the proceedings going on all around him. Inwardly, he wished that they would leave and that he could steal a moment or two of her time without another set of ears around to hear the words he might say. He made a vow to himself to stick it out and wait for just that moment.
In his little corner of the world, there comes a time when a certain lull occurs. It usually happens somewhere between 7:00 and 9:00, when the regulars have had their fill and were about to be replaced by another group getting ready to do the same. Sure enough, the time was upon him and he found himself sitting alone at the end of the bar.
After awhile, she sat down a couple stools away from him. Her placement afforded her a spot to rest her legs and to keep a watchful eye on any new customers who might wander in.
“’You want another one?”
“Sure. Hey, my name is Ray, what’s yours?”
”Hi, I’m Christine.”
With that, she poured him another and a gentle handshake was exchanged. It was then that he noticed the softness of her hands and the way her palm fit into his. Their eyes met for the first time and small smiles were exchanged back and forth.
Normally, he’s a quiet and simple man. He’s not the type to make a spectacle of himself and would rather fit in with a crowd than stand out in one. After hours of playing out a conversation in his head, he found himself nervous and struggling to find the right way to break the ice. His tongue soon began to feel as if it was tied to a post and an awkward silence ensued.
The television set was on and the local news was broadcasting a story about one of the more eccentric personalities that made regular headlines in and around town. Sensing an opportunity, he looked over to her and said,
“The world is an odd, odd place, filled with some odd, odd people.”
“Yeah, especially when the sun goes down or where the bus stops.”
Again, an inward smile crossed through his brain and he remained quiet. He noticed that for him, it was getting late and the call of home was getting louder and louder.
They sat in silence for a little while more. Finally she asked if he’d like another.
”Nah, just the tab please.”
After settling up the damage and leaving a tip, he wished her a goodnight and got the same sentiments in return.
He made his way out of the bar and walked a little ways down the street. It was a nice, still night and after a block or two, he turned a cast a backwards glance at the little tavern he called home.
His eyes were rewarded with the all too familiar sight of the lights of the Number Two bus making its appointed rounds.
He boarded his chariot home and plopped the exact change into the coin box. The driver had seem him plenty of times before and wished him a good evening. He assumed his regular seat and set his gaze on the lights of the oncoming traffic and the horizon that lay ahead of him.
His mind began to wander and for maybe the first time in his life, he realized that the horizons he was searching for don’t just lie ahead.
That he was, in fact, surrounded by them.
(All names have been changed to protect the innocent .A special thanks to a special someone for the inspiration behind this little tale.).