I sat at the end of the bar, wanted to be left alone, wanted to just have enough drinks where I don't feel a thing. This night, I didn't want to feel a thing.
I had my baseball cap pulled down low, flannel shirt, cowboy boots and jeans.
A man sat two stools down, about sixty years old, smiled at the bartender, ordered a drink for himself, and ordered one for me too
whatever he wants, he says
I appreciate it, I say, and look down at the wet bar napkin in front of me, start tearing it apart, slowly, bit by bit.
Having a good day?
You look pissed off
Well, I say that you are. You sure are troubled by something
Not used to people talking to me so directly like he does, sorta surprised, pleasantly surprised. He wasn't irritating as hell like ninety nine percent of the folks that I run into, he was dressed like me, had calloused hands, had dirt and grime all over him.
A working man
He makes a toast, holds his whiskey up high, looking through it, then downing it.
Here's to a goddamn beautiful day
I reckon so
So tell me whats going on with you
Ha ha, no I'm good, really, all is good, and I look right at him, not disrespectfully, but I really don't feel like getting into it. Trying to tell him that without being rude.
folks don't want to hear my problems, everyone has them, nobody gets out of this damned life alive
Then he begins, like he had to get this off his chest and I am there and he chose to have me hear it. Maybe somebody somewhere sent him to me, crazy as it seems. Like he came a long way just to tell me some stuff that he has been thinking about for a while.
You know, there are a few things, things that everyone has that are hanging around their neck, like some kind of jail sentence. Scars from something. Men seem to hold stuff like that inside, and it tears them up, sends them to dark bars where they mull over everything by themselves and they don't come to a conclusion, they just think and think and then they drink and the next day, it is all just still right there, maybe even more so than it was before. Could be a woman that broke his heart a long time ago and it is still fucking with his head, or a child that is far way that he doesn't see enough or a loved one that passed and he feels like he never got to tell them how much he loved them. Maybe he is just down on himself and the scars are there and they reopen every once in a while, and they reopen unexpectedly and then the downward spiral begins. Bars and well, he finds himself tearing apart a napkin like it will help break it all up and then it'll be gone.
But it never really leaves
And I've learned, I am a little older than you, that there are ways with dealing with this shit that engulfs you, that is always in the back of your mind, sorta buzzing there, always there, always there.
I down my whiskey and I have to admit that it seems like he is reading my mind and I sorta get pissed off that this stranger is so close to me and he is hitting the nail on the head about me and my shit in my head and its like he can see inside my brain and what I think and I never met this old man before.
Here is what I know, young man. I know that if you look back, it never solves a damn thing. I know that right now is what matters and Ill tell you a story, one that changed my life.
I was in a church one time, a snake handling church, a hardcore church in the West Virginia mountains, and it was strange and surreal but I remember that the preacher came out and it was deathly silent amongst the congregation and he said just one thought to the people.
He said, I don't care what you did ten years ago, I don't care what you did ten minutes ago, I want to let you know that Jesus forgives you and your new life begins right now. You know what it meant to me? It meant that whether you are religious or not, life starts right now, and you can't beat yourself up about anything in the past because it doesn't do a damn bit of good, it just makes it all worse and you know that this is true, don't you?
I nodded my head.
I started to shake just a little as I held my whiskey glass.
So I walked over here when I saw you because I saw a man beating himself up in his mind and trying to forget all the stuff that he has done and dealt with in the past, and I saw you shaking your head as you were drinking like you were trying to get your mind right and I couldn't wait to tell you that the key to it all is to forgive yourself and let it go and begin again, and it doesn't matter if you have to begin again every damn day, just do it, forgive yourself and strive to make this day better than the last.
Some days will be rough , but everyone has rough days, from the highest CEO to the lowliest worker like myself. You have to know that, you are not alone in struggling.
Just let it go, young man, let it go and you will be much happier.
And then he waved the bartender over and said he'd like one more whiskey for himself and for his friend and to cash him out, also.
The bartender brought over two whiskeys and he downed his in one gulp and stood up.
And then this man whom I never met walked over to me and put his hand on my shoulder. I looked up at him and nodded.
And then he left a fifty dollar bill on the bar and stated walking out. He looked back one more time at me and called out
remember what I said
I will, I will