I sat there at the bar like I did most nights. Soaking my liver in alcohol. Not that it should be all that much of a surprise to anyone I let know any little bit of me. And that’s not too much for too many. So imagine my surprise when a gal sits next to me. Not a stool away from me, but right next to me. She reaches across the gap and touches my hand. Her touch is cold.
“A drink for your thoughts?” she asked.
“I’ve done worse for a free drink.”
“Bartender, I’d like to buy this young man another of what he’s having.”
“Hey it’s your lucky day, a lady buys you the cheapest wine I serve.” He snickered.
He brings me the glass, and leaves a tab in front of the gal.
“You want a drink?” I asked
“No I don’t drink much.” She paused. “Sometimes when my brothers and sisters get together, which we do once and a while.”
“Yeah family can make you drink. Or at least that’s my excuse.” I thought a minute. :”Not that I really need one.” I gestured with my glass and swallowed the last of the red wine.
“Well I have some time to wait, why not tell me something about yourself.”
“Cause I don’t do that for most people.”
“Just easier on me.”
“I bet I know something about you.”
“Oh do you?” I reached for the new glass she had ordered for me. “I’ll tell you what you humor me and tell be about your siblings and I’ll tell you something about myself. How’s that pretty lady?”
“Seem fair enough. In the interest of keeping this going, I’ll ask the first question.”
I thought for a minute. Took a long drink from my wine and set the glass down. “Tell me about one of your brothers.”
“Okay. One of my brothers tends to not be cut out for his duties in his later life. He abandoned them for something more satisfying.”
“That’s nothing new, people do that all the time. Not many people like their jobs. But most people have to have one to survive.”
“He did it for a long time, but he got tired of it. He longed for something else.”
“Don’t we all. Not many people like their lot in life.”
“Some of our siblings didn’t understand. One of my brothers intended to chastise him, but it turned the other way.”
“Why didn’t he like his duties?”
“He tired of all the destruction.”
I took another drink. It was almost empty. I called to the bartender for another glass.
“I guess it’s your turn pretty lady. What do you want to know?”
“Why drink like you do?”
“I’m pretty much at a point that there’s no wondering anymore. I’ve been doing it for so long.”
“Did something spark it?”
“Probably, but the ironic thing is with alcohol is after a point you’re just doing it and the booze itself is why you stopped caring or remembering.”
“Don’t you want to remember?”
“Some things yeah, but mostly no.”
“Anything for a lady.”
“Don’t you worry about the health problems from excessive drinking?”
“Yeah, and that’s more irony. I guess I do have a reason to drink. I know death is waiting for me and I never know when. It could be at anytime. And the fact that it is the end of all things makes it more a blow to the ego. It puts everything on this planet, living, on the same par course. Death. A patch of ground. That’s where we all end up and there’s no avoiding it.”
My drink came and I finished the one I had, set the glass down, grabbed the next and drained half of it. I looked over at her and she had the most comforting look on her face. Like the one blanket that makes you so comfortable, you’d slip away from life in it. But I thought that I could see a little flattery in her eyes. The kind that made you think you were special above all. The kind your mother gave you when you did something wonderful, yet so mundane, when you were young. The kind of look your first lover gave you when you looked down into her eyes after all of two mintues.
“Okay I guess it’s your turn.”
“What’s your brother like that was gonna chastise Mr Destruction?”
“He seems to have his head in the clouds, as some humans say.”
“He’s a dreamer?”
“He is a Dream.”
“Oh like gals would say he’s a dream come true?”
“I’m sure some women have said such.”
“How’s he about his duties?”
“He takes them very seriously. He thinks all should take their duties very seriously. It is the way of life. Tending to our duties helps keep balance in the universe. He feels that those that abandon these duties care about no one but themselves. It makes it harder for him and Destruction to get along.”
“Dream seems a bit serious for someone with his head in the clouds all the time.”
“That was just a figure of speech. He’s probably the most serious of all us siblings.”
“I do what I have to because it is necessary.”
I drank the rest of my wine.
“Still sure I can’t interest you in a drink?”
“I guess it won’t kill me.”
“Hell no pretty lady, one won’t.”
“So it’s my turn now?”
“Sure. Bartender, two bottles of Chimay please.” I looked over at her. “You don’t drink much, huh?”
“This is one of the best beers man has created. Okay now shoot with your question.”
“I am perplexed at your fear of death yet you seem oblivious to the course that your actions are taking you to that inevitable.”
“That’s not a question, missy, but I’ll give it a shot. The alcohol gives me the escape from the grip of death. While it may hasten it, as human beings we are always able to reason that we are the one that will drink like a fish and live to ninety despite the evidence that slaps us in the face.”
“Why is that?”
“You ask that like you’re not a human.”
“Fair enough. No matter that every human dies, no matter that time marches on despite man’s interpretations of some divine intervention, despite that people never find that mystical fountain of youth, despite the fact that money cannot buy you extended life, no matter your parents died, and their parents and their parents, and your children will, and their children, and their children, and on and on, individual humans still think their special by lying to themselves about their eventuality. That’s why religion is so popular. It convinces a person to think otherwise. But it’s all lies. Death visits everyone. No one escapes.”
“A person gets what everyone gets? A lifetime?”
“I like that. You get what everyone gets. A lifetime. Nice.”
“Is that enough that it is now my turn pretty lady?”
“Do you like your drink?”
“I cannot benefit from its contents.”
“That just means you drink more. You have a high tolerance.”
“Something like that.”
“Okay tell me about one of your sisters. We’ve heard two brothers. Do you have any sisters?”
Yes, I have three.”
“Okay. I’ve met you in a bar, and you’re the prettiest gal I have met in a bar. Which other one would I?”
“Well there’s my sister that has a desire for everything thing. You might fancy her.”
“I can’t imagine.”
“She’s a bit androgynous.”
“Yeah I really imagine.”
“Yeah I know I’m not a typical man. But go on ahead and tell me something about Desire.”
“She wants a little bit of everything and she doesn’t mind mixing up other people in it. She tends to play with people and be a bit selfish. She doesn’t much care for the consequences for her drive. She has a way of being everything to everyone.”
“Well I guess so if she digs guys and gals.”
“Well that’s part of it but not all.”
“I get you. I bet she’s a stand up gal.”
“She knows how to attract attention.”
“Oh I bet she’s a minx in heels.”
“You are a peculiar man.”
“Hey I love gals that love being gals. Feminine is what makes a gal attractive in my book.”
“So not me?”
“No you’re the prettiest thing I’ve seen despite.”
“It’s the alcohol.”
“No really, you are the prettiest gal I have ever seen.”
“Well Desire seems to appeal to both sexes because she has the skill and tenacity to provide what they both want despite what they feel they desire.”
“Ain’t that a bitch?”
“No, people not knowing what they want. That’s something I don’t have an issue with.”
I had long finished my Chimay but noticed she hadn’t touched hers. She really didn’t drink. Boy what the fool I must look.
“Does death define your life?”
“I guess it does mostly.”
“I guess because I am more worried about the result of my death than I am of my life.”
“And why that?”
“Because humans tend to give big accolades to legacies, yet they are all in vain. People that accomplished so much in their lives are eventually forgotten as the generations pass. No matter how much one man infected and influenced the species for good or bad, if a hole in the ground is all they receive then what is the reward for good or bad? Charles Bukowski is one of my favorite writes that has inspired me in many ways. A fellow unapologetic alcoholic and a great writer. But if he has no clue just how much his writing has touched me cause he’s been long decomposed, then what good are great works?”
“Isn’t enough that you have done those good works whether they are recognized or not?”
“I dunno, do you think about the good the dung beetle does?”
“I try to consider all life.”
“Well you’re above most human’s consideration.”
“Harder than most people pretty lady.”
I just couldn’t help myself. I wanted to keep the conversation going but I couldn’t help the drinks from coming. I guess that’s my lot. Eventually I come out as a drunk to everyone I meet.
“So is there another brother?”
“Yes, one left.”
“What’s he like?”
“Very serious. He’s chained to his duties.”
“That sounds familiar.”
“Naw. Not now. I have been, but that sh*t gets old. You only live so long, am I right miss?”
“Maybe that’s his Destiny, not that I really subscribe to that thought.”
“It’s does seem to be.”
“What’s he like other than his work duties?”
“He’s very serious and cares much for his siblings.”
“That’s cool. I’ve never been much for family. Mine was small and we aren’t that close. I mean civil but we don’t agree on much.”
“That’s a shame. Family is important.”
“If you say so miss.”
There was a bit of quiet after that. Family did seem important to this lady. It seemed that she was close to her siblings and that they were important to her. I never had a family life like that were I felt more than the normal human attachment to my family. I guess some of us either aren’t blessed with that or choose to not be blessed with that. I guess sometimes we tend to blame others than look at ourselves as the obstacle to the course that we think we want, yet never seem to attain.
“Something on your mind?” she asked absently.
“A bit I guess. You got me thinking about my family.”
“Is that a good thing?”
“It’s a good thing that I remember them but not that they are only a memory.”
“So family is important to you?”
“As much as the next guy. We were never dysfunctional or at each other’s throats, but we also weren’t close that we shared everything together, or felt that was even an option.”
“Would you like to be?”
“It’s too late now, but my younger self might have at the time.”
“Well young man you’re down to two.”
I waved the bartender over for more wine. I glanced at her full glass of beer.
“Really not a drinker huh?”
She smiled a beautiful smile that almost made me smile. It seemed so genuine and natural. She lifted the glass and took a drink. She set the glass down with the same smile on her face.
“It really is good.”
“Told you sister. Damn good stuff.”
I drank from my glass of wine and looked over at her. She sat there side saddled in her bar stool waiting for me to continue the conversation. I’d swear this gal was sent to this bar from some other force strictly for this conversation.
“Okay, two left huh? Sisters?”
“My youngest sister, she’s quite a joy to be around. Though she doesn’t always know how to behave, she is quite literally delirious with joy. She wears her Delirium like a badge like you do your drinking.” She paused. “No offense.”
“Like Bukowski I stopped apologizing long ago for what I am.”
“What else is she like? Is she as pretty as you are?”
“Though young she is very aged in life experience. She has seen more than some people her age will ever see.”
“So is that a way of avoiding saying you’re the prettiest of the family.” I said with a laugh and a drink of wine.
“I hadn’t considered it.”
“Well I am sure a lot men have.”
She didn’t answer and maybe that was my cue to leave that alone.
“Are you ready?”
“Ready for what miss?”
“Where are we going?”
“:To a place everyone goes to.”
“Well that sounds boring. Is there booze there?”
“I guess I could arrange that.”
“Alright, I’m ready. Let me pay the man.”
I reached into my wallet for some bills and put them on the counter by my tab. Then I had a thought.
“Wait you’ve got one question left to ask and I have one more sister to ask you about. Fair is fair.”
“Very well, but time is limited.”
“Time for one more drink then before last call.”
I ordered a double glass of wine and paid up.
“Would knowing when you’re death was make any difference in your life?”
“It would probably make it worse. Though if nothing could change that date then one could do all the reckless and immature things that most people avoid doing out of fear of death.”
“So if you were to die tonight, you’d rather not know.”
“F*** no. It’s going to come no matter so no sense in dreading the moment if you can’t change it. I just know I ain’t getting put in the ground sober.”
“You’re not that now.”
“No ma’am.” I laughed.
I finished the first glass of wine and took a drink out of the last one. Something was defiantly unusual about this evening. I couldn’t tell if leaving with her was going to be the night of my life or the death of me. I guess if it was going to be the death of me there were far worse ways to go than with such a beautiful lady.
“My sister, she is not understood by many. There are something in life that are needed. Like the other side of the coin. Though many don’t understand the need for it, it is there. And when one is in it, they understand that it is needed. But when one looks at it from the outside, they can’t understand how someone can need that. My sister she provides this for people. Sometimes Despair can push people to reach out for better things. To try and help themselves. Sometimes people just wallow in it and never change. Either way it is here and it is needed.”
“She sounds very misunderstood.”
“Many times she is.”
“I think I’d like to meet her. Of all your siblings she sounds the most interesting.”
“She doesn’t have visitors much to her home, but maybe she could have one.”
She finished her beer in a couple of drinks as I finished my wine. I am not sure what I am expecting to happen, but I think that whatever does happen I cannot be prepared for it for some reason. Whatever happens is going to happen and I don’t think that I can change that.
“Are you ready now?”
“Strangely I think I’d follow you anywhere.”
“Well this is one place that you need to follow me to.”
“Where is it?”
“It is the place that awaits you.”
“Remember you said there’d be booze there miss.”
“That I did.”
She got up from the barstool and took my hand. She led me towards the door. Her touch was cold yet comforting. There was something beyond human recognition that this was exactly what was supposed to happen today. My whole life led up to this day.
Then I thought I heard my name being called. I looked over my should between her and me, and there I saw myself, face down on the bar counter.
I guess it wasn’t all that bad after all.