The Bar Patron (short story)
He could tell the seasons of the year simply by the clothing of the patrons in the bar; never mind the weather outside a mere 15 steps away from where he sat. He knew it was close to Christmas because the measly few young people ordering their Jager shots and Red Bull-vodkas had scarves like rainbows wrapped loosely around their fragile necks; covering purple veins with translucent skin, thin as paper, unblemished and cold. Rivers of yarn in shades of red and blue and grey and green leave drops of lint on the wooden bar-top like little colorful termites. Grayson wears neither color nor scarves. Year-round he’s draped in ill-fitting denim jeans and black t-shirt, covered with a simple dark green windbreaker. Sunshine or snow, rain or drought, he’s in the same outfit, sitting at the same bar stool, drinking the same cheap whiskey.
It’s summer now as he looked around and viewed thirty and forty-something year old married men, beaten down by work and relationship, grasping for air at the bottoms of whiskey glasses and in the bubbles of beer…it’s the same sullen men year in and year out, though now they wore slacks and polos, jeans and short-sleeve button-ups, or tweed and twill jackets of beige and brown. Grayson could only guess the exact temperature just beyond the door 15 steps from his worn and weathered, leather upholstered bar stool; but he didn’t care so much that he’d rise from his place and check, nor did he even ponder the heat altogether too deeply. Instead, he took another sip of his ever-half drank and watered down whiskey, wishing only that he could remember what it tasted like. He couldn’t even remember why he loved the libation so much, only that it was a impulse to which he was condemned to placate for the rest of his conscious days.
He had a family once; a wife, a couple sons and a life that some men could possibly be a bit envious towards. Grayson, unfortunately, had a first love, and that love came to dictate his life and his every decision. Spirits were the ruler of his world now. Whiskey. He didn’t know exactly when or where the affair first began, but it did signal the end of a happy home.
Now he could tell spring was afoot from the umbrellas and sirens. Tornado warnings in North Texas were an occurrence akin to hurricanes in Havana; they came with the territory. Sipping the ancient amber infusion from his glass, he could hear the horns blow dolefully in the distance through the infinite pitter-patter of springtime showers, ever mindful of the thin ‘crack-crack’ heralding the arrival of hail on concrete. “April showers bring May flowers,” Grayson said to no one in particular, recalling what his grade school teacher would announce to the students in her soft sing-song voice. It felt more like, “April showers bring May/hem.” He chuckled at his paltry pun, lost in wistful nostalgia.
What did he know after all? Grayson was a divorced father of two who sits in a bar drinking, smoking and ultimately, being alone. Grayson lights another smoke from a ¾ empty pack and thinks about his youngest son, Branom. He’s a skinny thing of 4 with cow-licked hair and shy to the world; but the spark he has, the one he shows now and then could light up a cave in an eclipse. To be sure Grayson loved both his sons equally, however, Branom is the quintessential “daddy’s boy”. As the French say, ‘C’est la vie’.
His mother, unhappy with her life, found comfort in the arms of another; and here sits Grayson, guessing the seasons, isolated and forlorn while puffing away on menthol tobacco and endlessly sipping on cheap whiskey. Yes, ‘such is life’ is an appropriate adage on the hands that humans are allotted. We watch our lives go and go and go with nary an ounce of appreciation or awareness for the brevity of our existence; and before we know it, life has eclipsed our youth and we’re left watching the perpetually-young come and go, and the only thing that changes is their outfits in accordance with the seasons.
It’s summer again and the girls are showing up in shorts that are far too short and tops that reveal more and more cleavage as though fabric were oil, and the Gulf had just run dry. Such is life. Each person here will drink until their liver is content, then pay their tab and stumble foolishly to their vehicles to drive home to empty apartments, patient pets, full houses and angry spouses; and they will never consider the danger into which they put everyone else. The young fear nothing and the young will never die. So life goes.
Grayson looks from the recesses of his forever half-empty glass to the wall nearby and sees the picture of a bar patron smiling wide as sunshine and holding a half full glass of the brown drink, standing tall and proud in denim jeans and black t-shirt with a dark green windbreaker thrown haphazardly over his left shoulder and bar manager, Dallas, holding a certificate: Darts Champion. Next to the photo is a newspaper clipping, cutout and framed neatly with the headline, “Local Father Involved In Fatal Drunk Driving Accident”.
Grayson takes another sip of his never ending drink and lights another cigarette as he watches the Fall-crowd walk in with lamb’s wool sweaters, cotton cardigans and not a care in the world. So life goes.