It was wet outside and so was he when he walked through the shadows of the bar, silhouetted against the candlelight and sitting me down as I tried to stand to greet him.
“How was the flight?” I asked.
“Good. Up and down. You know,” he answered, shaking off some excess drips.
“Makers?” I asked.
He sat down as I ordered. The barman was thick and capable keeping to himself. He seemed to be quick when we needed him, disappearing when we did not. We had always had our usual spots when he flew in, but the night called for an out of the way place where no one knew us.
“You all right?” I asked.
He raised his glass touching mine gently. We touched wood after, and I waited for his lead to see if we threw it back or sipped. We sipped.
“Where’d you find this place?” He asked.
“The thing, Google, Whatever.”
“I like it.”
“It’s growing on me.”
The years between us seemed as thick as the wood in front of us and the barman looming in the background. Life had taken us to different points, but a bar, no matter the city, always brought us back.
“When do you have to go back?” I asked.
“That’s open ended—if that’s all right?”
He glanced at me, his green eyes as wet as the windows.
“Of course.” I said.
“I just need to think,” he said.
“I got you,” I replied.
“The last thing you need to do right now is think, though.”
"Not tonight anyway.”
“We tying it on then?” I asked.
“Huh. Did you drive? I didn’t.”
"I don’t drive.”
“D’you think I got on a plane to come see you for light refreshment?”
“I do not.”
As he gazed off, I noticed his usually razor sharp face was grizzled; his thick salt and pepper hair looked slightly careless as it dried some from the rain. His hands engulfed the glass of Makers and never let off.
“How far in are you?” I asked.
“I had three on the plane, one on the ground, roadie in the cab. You?”
“I got here early to make sure. Three.”
“That’s about right.”
“You bring clothes or anything?” I asked.
“Does it matter?”
“No. Not for me.”
Moments passed in uncomfortably. For the first time in my life, I didn’t know how to approach him. I felt that my sincerity would be rejected. My humor would be spit on. My hand on his shoulder? Abruptly shaken off. My advice would sound so far from relatable it would be as if I had never met him. His energy was listless and I felt our only gift was time, this encounter was far from the usual banter we had always shared. Even so, I was glad he was with me and no one else. I felt it the highest form of respect I had ever been paid.
“I bought a pair of those oxfords you were telling me about.” I said, just to say it.
“She got ‘em for me,” he said.
“Don’t worry about it,” he replied curtly.
“They’re nice though, right?” I asked, hopefully.
“They were,” he responded.
“Look, man. I know you want to sit in silence but you’re here in front of me, so I gotta ask…What the hell happened?”
“Listen, I don’t know what to tell you, and I don’t know what you want to hear. She looked at me, and said she found something better, essentially. What I thought, what I trusted as much as my breath itself, became a falsehood. Now I—I’m in disrepair, borderline depressed. There’s no joke, no silver lining. It’s black.”
“You got on a plane.”
A memory of their wedding flashed in my mind. How it rained, then concluded under a sunset as we looked out over the city. Then I thought of the night I first met her over veal piccata at Carmine's. Next: the time I caught her naked down at The Shore. I had always been unimpressed. I always felt her snarky judgmental opinions about what I was doing with my life. We shared a lot of hugs and we pretended to love each other—for him. I was glad she was gone.
“Listen brother, I know you’re hurting---but I hated the bitch.” I said.
He looked me in the eyes. “That’s the coldest thing anyone has ever told me.”
“I’m sorry. I---” I stopped short.
“Just shut the fuck up.”
He stood up. He sat back down. I noticed his Chucks were unlaced. I was going to tell him, but decided against it. I decided to shut my mouth, for once. Perhaps the rain against the windows would bring some sort of peace, along with the occasional clinking of glassware and the soft hum of conversation throughout the bar. It was a beautiful night to drink.
“Two more,” he told the barman.
“Before there were fucking stars, I loved her.” He said, and instead of crying he sipped his whiskey.