#0016 – The Bar

September 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

The pint of beer slowly perspiring on the table before him would be his last. So he was determined to enjoy it, he decided.

It was miserable outside. A humid morning had given up to the merciless onslaught of a savage storm. Rain lashed at the window by his side, illuminated in drops of high-definition by occasional sparks of lightning. It was apt weather really, but it didn’t accurately reflect his mood. He was surprisingly calm and collected. His fingers did not shake as he reached forward and took the icy glass in his hand.

He’d been coming to this bar for the last twenty years, he surmised with a rueful grin. Of course, it hadn’t always been done up like this. Flashy neon signs for brands he didn’t care for. Polished chrome bar rails that showed every fingerprint that had ever touched them. These things had replaced the home-spun charms of the bar’s glory days; kitsch tankards and faded photographs of the bar’s previous owners. His memories of them were still sharp, even if those images had not been. Roger and Alison had been dear friends of his; relationships forged by countless conversations held across the bar as he sat perched atop the scruffy stools, the stuffing spilling out of tears and cigarette burns. He missed them, truth be told, the pair of them tragically killed in a car accident close to five years ago now.

He’d been coming back here out of respect. Or was it obligation? Of course, he hadn’t always come alone. His wife Rosemary had been his constant companion. They had shared many drinks and meals at this spot by the window, even if the table itself had changed over those years. As summer afternoons had receded into autumnal evenings, they would look out on the coastal road that picked it’s way along the rocky front outside and watch younger couples than themselves caught up in their own private worlds. Watching lovers walk along the promenade arm in arm, with smiles radiating on youthful faces, had always brought a smile to Rosemary’s own features. She always had been sentimental like that. She had always had an empathy that surprised him; able to so closely entwine her emotions with others.

He sighed deeply and removed his battered baseball cap, yellow and stained with age, and laid it gently on the table. Such reminiscing was thirsty work. He took a full swig of his beer, grimacing at its tangy aftertaste. He smoothed the remaining strands of snowy hair across a head studded with liver spots, a constant reminder during his morning shave of the inexorable passage of time.

His wife had been soppy alright, but he would be lying if he said his own heart was made of harder stuff. A born romantic, he would often surprise Rosemary with thoughtful gestures. Weekends away and fulsome bouquets of flowers were par for the course, obviously, with any old joe able to pick a bunch at a service station or book online these days. More subtle gestures had cemented their marriage, like when he had gone through a phase of hiding love letters in pages of books she was reading or, during their courtship, when he had turned up at her workplace in a horse and carriage, courtesy of a couple of mares from his father’s stable.

He chuckled softly, and savoured more of his beer. A passing waitress – Sarah? Sandra? – favoured him with a smile. Yep, he’d been a softie alright. But there’s no doubt it had paid off. He had loved her fiercely, and she had loved him back, from the first time she sat with him in that resplendent carriage, right up until the twilight hours of that dreary September evening last year when she had passed away in her bed, him perched on a rickety wooden chair beside her, her frail hand clasped in his own.

He glanced again out of the window, distorted by rainwater. Afternoon was beginning to succumb to a deepening dusk, punctuated by the fragmented glimmer of red and white headlamps glistening on the road. There were no couples sauntering on the seaside this day. No memories being made along the promenade. A man with a briefcase and an inverted umbrella, screaming obscenities in the wind, sloshed down the pavement in a comedic bow-legged dance in a vain effort to not put his expensive loafers down into ever-widening puddles.

He drained his beer quietly. The months since Rosie’s death had been hard, but he was feeling happier now he had come to his decision. A load had been lifted, and he wondered bemusedly why he hadn’t thought of this solution before. An old Van Morrison number began to filter over the stereo system; an odd choice for a trendy bar, but a welcome one all the same. Rosie had always loved Van Morrison.

He reached into his frayed old windbreaker and produced a crumpled sheet of foolscap paper. He spread it out on the table before him and smoothed it out with a gnarled hand, before taking a fountain pen from his other inside pocket. Twisting off the cap, he suddenly found himself wondering what he would write. The details hadn’t really been thought through, he realised. He brought the nib of the pen to the paper regardless, and soon the words began to flow.

Dearest Rosie, he wrote. I miss you so deeply that I can hardly form the words. All I know is that I am too tired to live this life without you anymore.

From across the bar, the waitress watched the old man write quietly at the table by the window as she wiped the suds from a clean pint glass. A half hour passed, his beer long since finished. She was about to go and ask him if he wanted another when he rose slowly from his seat, the letter clasped in his hand. It was the last time she, or anyone else, ever saw him.

Image is for illustration purposes only. Photo credit: Amy Massey.

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