I put my drink down on the table. The bar was emptying out and just a few stragglers remained. A friend had sat across the table, his hand clutching a bottle of pale ale, but now only a water ring sat in remembrance. Staring into the dark wood, I began to wander. The argument had between us, the underhanded comments, the words left unsaid. I drift further. To days, months, years past.
There was a meadow that I used to visit as a child. I would lay in the green, feel the warm air, and wiggle my toes – feeling the tickle of the grass blades. I’d stare up at this enormous expanse. Blue dotted with pieces of cotton. Squinting, I could reach out toward the white, picking the material from the sky. I’d expand my fingers, allowing for the fluff to change. Closing my eyes, I’d awaken to something new, a thing of magic.
I’m at my locker, using my shoulder to close the door. Straining, I hear the click of metal and turn my body towards the hallway. A sea of faces, the clatter of voices, and I wait anxiously. Half smiling, a group of students walk past toward their next activities. One girl looks up at me and I start to form the word “hi”. She quickly glances back down at her notebook, as if interesting didn’t begin to describe the object. With the grace of a bear trap, my mouth closes. Pretending it never happened, I clench my hands into nervous balls, the moisture ever present.
Sitting at the side of the bed, my fingers grasp at the rough blanket covering him. His eyes look wildly around for a sense of calmness in the room. There is none. A blink, then one, and two. “I don’t want to go back home,” he manages to croak out. To start over, to forget, perhaps to die – that is what he wants. I bring his hand into mine, feel the dry skin and see the age spots and wrinkles left behind from years’ worth of work. He is at a cross, and while he needs encouragement, I do too. Age is supposed to give us answers not more questions. Yet, he looks like a child in search of a parent’s strength.
Perhaps that is why I haven’t left my spot. Perhaps that is why for years I haven’t left this spot. In a place of transition, in between conversations, I sit in the grey. What is next? My elbows upon this walnut table, the pub’s jukebox spinning out a hit, I wait. A life sequenced out in memories, while I continue to stare at the condensation sitting on the wood. Regret, anger, hope even, and it feels as if I am still waiting to begin. “We’re closing up, it’s time to go.”
I look up in search of this voice’s provider. In his gruff manner, I agree. It’s time to go, venture into the unknown.
I walk toward the heavy door and smile. Three o’ clock in the morning is always a good place to start.