It was such a waste. His hand, holding the glass. The glass. The bar it sat upon. The room. It was all such a waste of potential.
He closed his eyes, and for a moment he wasn’t there. He was afraid to explore that feeling, because he knew that it was just going to be another waste. And so he simply re-opened his eyes.
Behind the bar, around bottles of whiskey and Gin, he saw his eyes meet his own. They looked empty, but he knew better. Somewhere, under that armor he called his mind, was a raging beast. It was not thrashing, because its cage was too strong, and throwing itself at the wall, bars, and windows of such cage had only managed to bruise itself, but it was in there, pacing, seething, and anxiously repeating its mantra.
As he reflected on this, he became aware that he was squeezing the glass too hard, and his ligaments were taut with the strain of it. The glass was almost empty, his hand relaxed, and the reflection in the mirror started to soften.
“You feeling well, friend?”
The unexpected words shook him out of it a little, and as his face reddened, his eyes glanced towards the left and he forced a smirk—a smile being beyond him still—and glanced at the bartender.
“Yeah, just a bad day.”
That wasn’t actually true. This day had been fairly average. Bad week? Bad month? Bad year?
“Ah, I hear ya! Had a few mi’self, now an’ then,” answered the tallish, bearded, and exhausted-looking man. He looked like he was having a bad day, himself. They held each other’s eyes for a moment, and he shifted in his barstool and fidgeted with the glass. Now looking at the glass itself, He drained the rest of the ale from the glass, nudged it towards the bartender, and pulled out his wallet.
“One more, please.”
“Yes, that will be fine.”
As the bartender poured the pint, he leaned back a little in his chair. Now he didn’t have to force the smile, because one came on its own. It was all so absurd. All of it was just so damned absurd. But what could he do? Knowing it was absurd didn’t make it any more likely to change. He simply didn’t know what to do.
The anger subsided and gave way to the building buzz in his head from the ale. The beast inside had relaxed, and perhaps would take a nap, soon. That would be good. It was such an effort to keep the cage secure, and he felt better when he didn’t have to think about it. He felt better not having to bolster the cage when that beast was trying to get out, because he knew that if it did….
As the bartender slid the pint glass towards him, he traded his cash for it and took a preliminary sip. It was just what he expected; cool, velvety, and a touch creamy. The foam at the top stuck to his lip, and he had to brush it off with his sleeve. The bartender made change and left it on the bar between them, and then walked to his left, where two men had just sat down at the end of the bar, allowing the warm summer air in.
Looking in that direction, turning in his stool ever so slightly, he vaguely took in the room.
The bartender was talking with the men who had come in, but he was not interested in their words. He absently watched them laugh and quickly swallow a small glass of whiskey, as the bartender poured a second, but none of this was interesting.
There was something that was catching his eye, outside. He took another, larger, sip, and put the glass down. The late day sun was creating shadows on the street outside, and a few streams of it pierced the glass of the window of the pub. Within, the amiable men laughed with their glasses of whiskey in hand. Beyond them, outside, were some trees, swaying gently in the summer breeze.
Along the Liffey, the late day traffic was moderate and the world looked bright and possibly hopeful. It was Ireland; it would rain soon, probably. What was there, out there, for him? The world was bustling, people were going home after a day of work, and others were just standing and chatting with each other. He felt so distant from them. Even the men who were now sipping at their second whiskeys, just a couple of meters away, seemed so distant.
He felt lost, alone, and uncertain. And he was all of those things. He was very far from home, and had no way to get back. He was an alien here, speaking the language but not understanding the culture nor the people. And he didn’t know what to do.
There was so much to do, but he didn’t know where to start. He just didn’t know. But it was about time he did something.
He, of course, said this to himself every day. And every day he did nothing.
He had nothing to do, and no reason to do any of it.
With that thought, he picked up his wallet intending to put it back in his pocket. He peeked inside, and noticed he’d used the last of his bills to pay for that drink, and the nominal change on the bar left him with not enough for another. He peeked left, right, then closed his eyes. He hated doing it, but there was no other way, right now. He concentrated, and something in his mind became awake, terrifyingly awake, and then he did his business. After the thing went back asleep, his mind returned to the numbness within which he was more comfortable, and he took a deep breath of both relief and wonder. It was like slamming the door in the face of someone bringing you bad news. After you’ve done it, they are gone, but you also wonder if maybe you should invite them in, serve them tea, and find a way to deal with the bad news.
He would be serving no tea today, however. Today he would keep that door locked and pulled the curtains closed.
As he opened his eyes, he looked at the stack of large bills that had appeared in his wallet, knowing that this amount would be enough for a while, and he would not have to awaken the damned thing, again, for a while.
Which was good. Because turning the damned thing on made him feel unlike himself. It made him feel too big. It made him fear what he could, and perhaps what he should, be doing.
He put that out of his mind, and took another sip of ale.
Note to readers.
I have not been writing much, recently. I am feeling….a bit reticent. But I have to trust my instincts, eventually. This may or may not turn into a series of posts like this, which I’m hoping will turn into a larger project. This is only nominally edited, and it came to me spontaneously. The scene is from a larger saga, and if I keep working on this, the story will take shape within the boundaries of a very large universe in my head. Some of you, perhaps, might recognize something here, and may have guessed the name of our protagonist.
For now, it remains as it is. I must, I must, I must get back to writing. It is, I have found, the best sort of therapy, and is an exploration of the beasts within me, who do, indeed, need to be exercised. This is the best way I know how.