Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Whiskey then Wine

He held the glass of whiskey like an object to be disposed of. The glass was long and narrow and he pinched the glass, his fingers overlapping his thumb and he sat there poised with the glass in his hand.

The liquid was the colour of old photographs, that dipped in tea colour, and it tasted like bitter nostalgia to him. It burned its way down his throat and there it lined his stomach, churning it and making him irritable.

He made frequent glances to the doorway, as though expectant of company. He hadn’t arranged to meet anyone, but he wore his best pair of shoes, they smelt of stiff leather; he reeked of newness and he sat there on the edge of his stool, his frame leaning in so close to the table that his chest pressed tightly against its wooden top. He stretched himself far forwards as though involved in a discreet conversation, and he played with the spent ends of cigarettes, biding his time with small and irrelevant acts.

His eyes would follow the grain of the wood, and his fingernails would pick at the lacquered finish of the table top; names had been etched in and were bound only by shards of splintered wood. He followed the curves of the letters with his fingertips and he spelt out the names, he whispered the names softly, he sees her name and he whispers it aloud, it doesn’t sound the same anymore; it sounds vacant and hollow, it sounds like an echo.

The amber liquid sloshed its way up the length of the glass and eschewed its way into his mouth, the rim of the glass propped up by his nose. His surroundings now drenched in the amber of the whiskey, as he views the room through the bottom of his glass.

He drinks it all and the room regains its colour. He sits by the table and he waits, he sits and waits with no drink and no reason to be there. A barman begins to light the candles on each of the tables; the candles are wedged into the necks of wine bottles. The barman lights the candle by his table, he watches as the flame gently licks the air and he watches how it wavers at each little movement he makes.

Wax trickles down the stem of the candle and it sets before it reaches the neck of the bottle, the streams of wax running down the glass remind him of tears. He touches the wax and he rolls it, creating shapes; he presses it into the table and then flicks away the crummy mess. He looks like a bored child.

Another man sits alone at the next table; he has been there for some time. He pours himself another glass of wine from the bottle that rests before him, he has noticed the man sat on the table beside him and he has noticed he has been sat there alone for some time, alone and without a drink.

“Care to join me?” He asks.
No response is made, he blinks and his eyes stay shut for too long.
The man with the bottle of wine picks up his bottle and rests it by the other table. He fetches another glass from the bar and begins to pour the man a drink. He pushes it towards him.
“Good day?” He asks.
Again the man doesn’t say anything, his breathing becomes more pronounced but he says nothing. He hasn’t touched his drink. He hasn’t looked up.
The questioning man does not feel disheartened, he enjoys his wine and waits, he waits for the story of the man waiting for no company; he can sense his eagerness to speak.
He finally takes up his glass of wine and he sips at it to begin with, and then the deep red diminishes fast.
In answer to the man’s question, “Awful, my day was awful. I thank you for the wine.”
They order another bottle and then another, they are the last to leave the bar.

It is quiet outside, it is late and it is midweek, in a few hours time they will be getting ready for work. They walk to a park where they sit on a bench, they read the names etched on the bench and they imagine the people who own these names, and they all seem much more interesting and much happier than them. One of the men reaches into his pocket and pulls out his house-keys, he turns to the back of the bench and he writes his name, then passes the keys to the other man and he does the same. They wonder what people might imagine when they see their names.

They fall asleep underneath their jackets, their clothes smelling strongly of alcohol. The park is near the University and in the morning students pass by the two men, they are mistaken for tramps, but nothing is said directly to them, there is just a faint hum of unease.

A girl stands by a tree a few steps away from them, she takes her camera out of her bag and she repeatedly takes pictures of them. She looks at the two men earnestly; their jackets overlapping, the sleeves connected like holding hands. She looks at the two men and she sees them experiencing something she has always wanted. She is happy for them.

They carry on sleeping, oblivious to the eyes that are watching them.

Emily McPhillips

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