(a short story by Timothy J. Verret)
The man picked up on the negative nuances of others. He would carouse bars and find that everywhere. A sad clown, once a thriving entrepreneur, drinking his red-nose sorrows away. A lass with her skirt over her head showing all the well-to-do businessmen her shiny tattoos down there where all dared wish to go. The bartender who pretended to drink the shots that the lonely men and women bought him. The man was, for the most part, well and good for those kind of people. It was the positive nuances that really got to him. It was the ones who were actually having a genuinely good time that gave the man the most grimace and grumble. You know the ones: Laughing, joking, smiling, caressing themselves and each other, all aglow with merry and cheer. The man grimaced and grumbled at them. The flashing lights of the dance floor coupled with the sex-dripping music helped to occasionally hide his grimace and grumble, but nothing hid it for very long. He thought to himself, Why do they get to be happy when I’m so miserable? This thought was the man’s mission statement for a life led lowdown and tortured and unequivocally uneventful. He had no earthly idea that this particular night at this particular bar was going to change all that.
The man was drunk but lucid enough to know he was lonely. He deemed a four-cornered, rectangular bar as a very strange thing. Sitting alone there, an empty stool on both sides of him, he glanced around the bar where everyone sitting there had at least one person sitting next to them. Most had two. He dreamed of being at an island bar, just him with no one across from him. No bartender either. I can pour my own drinks, thank you very much! he said to himself. At such a bar, he wouldn’t even mind no one sitting next to him like tonight, just so long as there was no one he could see across from him. And most definitely no mirror on that opposite wall. Whoever designed this particular bar in this particular bar was a Nazi, he thought, to have put up a mirror so he could see the years of yearning etched on his less-than-attractive face. But this particular bar was where he was tonight and soon he would leave it, go home, curl up with a good book, and pray and cry before retiring for the darkest of nights.
“This seat taken?”
The man, looking down because of the mirror, thought to himself, Since when can a mirror talk back to you?
“Excuse me? I was asking if this seat was taken?”
The man looked up to where the sound was coming from. It was to his right. He looked up into the eyes of a saint, a man with a smile and a man with green-grass eyes and a man with a soul.
“NO! I mean….uh….no. Of course, no one is sitting right there at that seat that you are pointing at and you can see that it’s empty, that seat there, you are pointing there at and, yes, that seat there. You can sit at that seat there if you’d like?”
The saint reluctantly sat, not being sure after the man’s nervous tirade that he was even welcome to sit at that seat there that he was pointing at, yes, that seat there.
After the saint sat, the man did not grimace or grumble.
“You come here often,” asked the saint.
“Often? Yeah, I guess so. I mean, this stool I am sitting on doesn’t have my name or anything on it, you know, but it’s pretty comfy, all things considered.”
“My name’s Brian.” The saint offered the man his large hand. The man felt a warmth and magic in the saints large hand, even before he took the hand in his.
“What’s your name?” the saint asked.
“Yeah. I’m Brian, remember?”
“Oh, you want to know my name?”
The man wanted out of this bar so bad.
“My name is….”
“Oh, my name?”
The man wanted to die.
The bartender interrupted the man to provide his name.
“Yeah, like he said….my name is Trevor.”
The man shot a look at the bartender that was, GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY FACE RIGHT NOW!!!! The bartender got that message LOUD AND CLEAR and went off in search of another shot he could pretend to drink.
“Well, it is very nice to meet you, Trevor. I’ve never been to this bar before, so I don’t know anyone here. But now I know you, Trevor, and I’m glad about that. You see, when I come to places like this, I pick up on the negative nuances of everyone around me. You know, like that sad clown over there who was probably once a thriving entrepreneur but now is drinking his red-nose sorrows away. And then there’s that lass with her skirt over her head showing all the well-to-do businessmen her shiny tattoos down there where all dared wish to go. Can you believe her? And even that rude bartender who provided me with your name when I wanted it to come out of your lips. Your lips, Trevor, and not his. And look how he pretends to drink the shots that the lonely men and women buy him. Can you believe him? Now, I’m well and good, for the most part, with those kind of people. But it’s the positive nuances that really get to me. It’s the ones who are actually having a genuinely good time that make me most grimace and grumble. You know the ones: Laughing, joking, smiling, caressing themselves and each other, all aglow with merry and cheer. You know what I’m talking about, Trevor?”
Trevor grinned and greeted Brian with grace.