He drinks alone. He likes it that way. By nature, he’s a loner. A man who walks a solitude journey that sometimes sees people pop up in it. But mostly, they end up leaving. He’s come to terms with that. On that cold evening, he sat in the dimly lit bar next to a window, alone. It was in a far-off corner where he could see most parts of the room. Occasionally his eyes would wander about and meet the lady seated two tables away from him. The one in a red dress, and a boyfriend. He enjoyed staring at her bosom, her exposed cleavage. Her eyes showed interest but he wasn’t as much interested in her. He had other things rattling in his mind.
He was fidgeting, tapping his fingers on his short glass. He relished his space, the night and the Smirnoff Vodka he was having. That’s what he needed to face the reality of what his life had come to. It was him against his demons. Demons that had tagged along other demons.
In that moment of vulnerability, he thought about the last time he’d been to a church. It was ages ago, when God made sense to him. But as it turns out, though he’d kept his faith strong and continued to believe the best, the truth is, the spiritual void exists and it kills him. He’s never quite satisfied with life anymore. Could it be why all these things aren’t working out? Could it be? He takes another sip of the neat vodka. It burns inside his mouth. As he retreats the glass to the table, he looks at the fella on the dance floor. Shaking his body like a compass on a windy day with a beer bottle in his hand. Somehow, he envies him; he can’t remember the last time he was that happy as it seemed.
He thinks about his friendships and family. The thought of how each one of them has disintegrated puts a qualm feeling in his stomach. He talks to himself – in the thunderous pound of the bar music – ‘It must be me, maybe something’s wrong with me.’ He takes another gut-inferno quaff and empties his glass. Moments later the big-assed waiter walks up to him to take another order.
‘Give me the same shit,’ he says.
He thinks about his Dad. His eyes start getting teary. He looks at himself against the reflective window on his right, amidst the neon disco lights flashing. He hates the pain etched on his face. Weakness! How could his Dad turn everyone in his family against him? That’s not fair he says. ‘It was my argument with him. He didn’t have to bring anyone else into it. Why did he forbid everyone else from keeping contact with me? Wasn’t I meant to stand up to what I believed was true?’ It sickens him the more he thinks about it.
He puts his palms on his eyes and firmly locks away the tears. A man should never cry he says.
He wonders whether he was wrong to believe in himself, to quit the job and start his own business. Now, it’s at its knees. And so is he. He’s put everything into his photography business but still the cogs refuse to turn. He’s devastated at failure lurking behind his back, almost stabbing him to death. ‘What more can I do?’ This mental conversation nearly drowns him sometimes. It saps the life out of him and he can’t take any more of it.
The chaps seated on the table next to him open one of the windows and it starts getting colder inside the pub. He zips up his trench coat and tucks his left hand in the side pocket. He feels his phone, and packet of cigarettes. The other hand reaches for the glass and continues fidgeting. His index finger circling the glass as he thinks.
He turns his eyes to see the lady in red leaving with her boyfriend. Random thoughts of his childhood begin to flashback. He smiles, a feeble half-forced smile. But then, its short lived. Sadness has consequently become his norm. He wonders when he’ll completely be happy and forget all the shit that’s happening to him. He thinks about his girlfriend.
In all this, he’s grateful to have her. The only person who makes sense in his life. His sunshine.
The phone in his pocket buzzes and he removes it to see her text message.
-Babe, have you left the bar yet? Tell me when you get home safe.
-Hey Babe, I’m almost leaving. Will text you once I get home. Love you.
He checks to see what time it is. It’s 00:44 hours. He signals the waiter and she walks up to him with another serving of the vodka.
‘No thanks. I’m okay.’ he pays the bill, gets the change, walks down the staircase and into the streets. It’s Monday, most people go home early today. He stands outside the entrance, lights a Dunhill, puffs it and decides to walk to the next bus stop under the beautiful stretch of lampposts. He likes that path, it’s safe and helps him unwind.
As he walks home, he thinks about her.
He can’t fathom her love for him. Even when he’s felt like a looser – something he doesn’t consider himself to be – she’s stuck with him. She’s showed him unconditional love and a loyalty worth mention. He loves her. He cares for her. He wants the best for her. She’s the only one who understands him best. Having to go through all the storms and still have her by his side has proven to him just how much he loves her and wants to spend the rest of his life with her.
When he’s in a pity party, he only needs to pull out her picture in his wallet, then he’ll get back to been a man. He’ll suck it all up and decide to keep fighting no matter how hard the opposing tides hit him. She has become his strength.
He constantly tells himself; ‘if she’s stuck with me all along through the ups and downs, she deserves the very best when this passes and I finally get my foot back in place.’ But, he’s insecure and scared. That maybe it will get too tiring for her to keep believing, to keep holding on and to keep hoping that things will change. She surely has been woman enough to stick around and put up with a broken man like him. And if she ever left him, he would try not to feel bad about it, he’d be most grateful to her that she came all this way with him in the first place. He’d cover her memories with goodness. But one day he’d break down and weep his heart out. He’d try to remove her from his system with tears. It would be a tragedy.
So, he loves her today like there is no tomorrow. He holds on to her; his saving grace. Aware that he has been exposed to her vulnerably and has to live with it. And, if this too doesn’t work out, he’ll completely obliviate into being, a lone star.
(I came across this picture on the internet and thought to myself, ‘a picture has a thousand words, right? Why not give this photo a love story?’ Hence this post was birthed.)
PS: Do you have a love story you’d like me to write about? Send me one paragraph to firstname.lastname@example.org describing the story. I might just feature it here.