A Bar For All Occasions

by Foster Trecost

Nights like this don't happen often, nights when I wander the streets of an unknown village, dark and quiet streets that offer little in the way of diversion. But there I was, alone at an hour when it shouldn't have mattered, but alone nonetheless, and not wanting to be.

I walked until I found a light shining through a tiny window, the first sign of life I'd seen and thought someone left it on by mistake, but I wanted to be sure. Closer, I realized it wasn't a mistake at all, rather a gathering place of sorts, perhaps the only one in the little village and if not, surely the only one open. Companionship awaited--I'd go in and buy someone a drink and he'd buy me one back. We'd talk and tell stories, listen and ask questions. And drink some more. Before going in, I peered through the tiny window to gain a preview of where I'd be, of what it'd be like. And the things I saw brought back my loneliness, made it more. I stared at a morbid bunch of old men, each sitting alone. No talking, no music, just stone faces that moved only to take another drink.

I went in anyway, sat among them, became one of them.

With nothing said between sips, cocktails disappear long before the ice melts; after three I stood to leave. I hadn't bought a drink for anyone, and my only words were to the barman. Hard faces seemed harder, people seemed somewhere else, and it was time I went somewhere else, too. Just before I pulled the door, someone stopped me, grabbed my arm at the elbow and said, “We're all glad you came, thanks for stopping by.”

Glad I came? I turned to see who had appreciated my presence. I scanned the room, the same room I'd been in, but what I saw wasn't the same. Stone faces animated to life, smiles shone at me, glasses raised to hearty here-here's. I gave them a confused smile and  left. Outside, I shut the door, took a few steps and turned around. Glad I came? I went back to the tiny window to look inside, unsure which version I'd see, but stopped before I got there. It didn't matter, I didn't want to know. I went home instead.