February 19

I was at the bar, perched on one of the tall chairs and I had just ordered a whiskey neat. I was all by myself, partly out of choice and partly because I had no choice. The friends I had, slowly left owing to time, work, and family until I was all alone. There were a few colleagues, but they had their families too to spend the weekend nights with. But that was okay. At 35, one doesn’t complain about being alone since most part of life has drifted by in regrets, heartbreaks, and learning life lessons. I let out a sigh and the bartender must have read it as a sign of impatience, so he quickly presented my whiskey before me. I was thirsty for a drink, so I grabbed the glass and swallowed the alcohol in one shot even before the bartender could turn away from me.

“Refill, please,” I said and put down the glass in a little thud. He nodded and went to get the bottle of whiskey and I sat running my finger on the rim of the glass while I waited. A few seconds later, I felt a tap on my right shoulder. I turned to see someone I least expected to see, standing next to me, wearing a kind smile. Not today I grumbled to myself and smiled back.

“Hey! How have you been, man?” I gave him an awkward hug and patted him like it was the norm for greetings between two men who came to drink after work.

“I’ve been good. What about you? You look different. Five years, eh?” he asked.

“Good different or bad different?” I shot back.

He laughed in response to that and invited himself on a tall chair next to mine and placed his glass on the table.

“Your refill, sir.” the bartender said as a matter of fact and left quickly.

We picked up our glasses and clinked them. “Cheers!” we said in unison and took a sip.

“So, what are you up to in life?” he was the first to talk.

“Nothing much. It’s just work and some bar time occasionally,” I laughed. He didn’t seem to share the joke. It wasn’t really a joke. He looked… disappointed? He had known all about me though we weren’t ‘friends’. He was more of a well-wisher. Or maybe not so much of one! I wasn’t quite sure what name to give the familiarity we shared. Nevertheless, the look on his face was now becoming worrisome.

“I… I have a good job, man. It pays me really well. I have great clients. I bought a house a few years back and my parents are all happy. I think you know my sister got married. She has a 3-year old son. He’s quite a kid, you know? I keep flying out of the country so often that I have lost track of the countries I’ve visited. Everything is good, man,” I continued hurriedly trying to sound as reassuring as possible and washed down the last few words with the whiskey.

“Excuse me!” I signalled to the bartender and pointed to my glass. He nodded and I turned back to look at my company for the evening. This was not how I intended the conversation to flow. In fact, I didn’t want a conversation or company. Could he not just pick himself up and go back to the table he came from? Why couldn’t people just leave me the hell alone? But I was already alone. In this wide, wide, world full of people, I was all alone. It was true what I told him. What else could a man want? And yet, I felt alone. That feeling never passed and clung to me like a bad hangover, except it never left. There was a trench inside my soul that wanted to engulf me the minute I set foot into it. A clock kept ticking in my head reminding me that I was not dead yet. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a soulful conversation with someone. 

“Mmm. So, you have everything?” he interrupted my thoughts.

“Of course!” I answered irritably.

“Of course,” he said, “except her.” He raised his glass as a goodbye, turned around, and walked through the maze of people until he disappeared.

“No! Wait!” I said in a whimper that didn’t even reach my own ears.

But he was already gone and I was left with my refilled glass of whiskey. Alone. Again.

 

 

(Image Source: John Stezaker, 1976)

 

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