One of my regulars came into the bar the other day. He said he had read my latest blog post (not from this blog, but my travel blog), and he was shocked and surprised at how vulnerable it was. I reminded him that everything we have is human moments—our interactions and abilities to connect with each other on levels far deeper than that which we can understand. He said it made him cry. That means a lot to me, as a writer.
He mentioned his late wife, and our newly discovered intimacy made me brave, and a bit nosy. I asked about her. The bar was empty—it was just him, as it often is at 2:00 PM on a Friday. Him with his Absolut Vodka, squeeze of lime and splash of cranberry. Him with his orders that the kitchen never quite gets right. Him with the newspaper, sitting solitary at the bar.
I ask about his wife.
And he tells me a story and I feel something like tears prickling at the lining of my vision. He’s probably a bit buzzed because I pour him doubles. He probably doesn’t realize what he’s saying and that’s a good thing because I don’t want him to stop. I want to hear it all. Let’s go, I want to say. Give it to me. All of it. Unburden yourself. Let me carry it, for just a little while. You can have it back when you head out.
And he does. He weaves the story and it sounds like some Shakespearean tragedy. The story is not mine to share and so I won’t but I will tell you that some stories are so ripe with heartache that they make you want to find the ones you love and cling desperately to them.
Everyone’s greatest fear is losing the one that they love the most. That is why we fight like hell for every minute that we have with them. But sometimes, all we’re fighting for are memories.
The wells of liquor in my bar have heard a thousand stories. The bottles glimmer with unspoken truths and declarations of the greatest loves this world has ever known. And so do I.
I’m not some miracle worker. I’m not some healer or a therapist, despite the joke that bartenders nearly always are. I’m just a listener.
And as he heads out, I tell him thank you. Thank you for letting me learn about you. Thank you for letting me understand you. And he gives me a funny look, because I tend to say funny things. Weird things. Strange things. That give you pause and linger in your mind.
Liquor may loosen the tongue, but relationship loosens the heart. I am grateful for these moments, spent behind the bar. If you ever want to talk, I’ll hear you. If you ever want to drink, I’ll pour. And just know, that if you ever want a friend, the bar is quiet at 2:00 PM on Fridays, and I’m always looking for a hand to hold.