The actress on the TV silently mouthed the lines. Her visually persuasive Italian features bespeaking one thing only. A plea beyond the confines of the mediocre role that she was playing. One that screamed in silence, “look at me!” It had been an action packed Sunday the festivities held mostly in silence. The early morning rising occasioned by a deathly hangover that had not been calculated but had been delivered none the less. The itinerary of stops the bright sunny day demanded began with filling one’s crop with bacon and French toast. A few customary “Hello’s” and “How are ya’s!” Kept to a minimum. And, oh yes! It was Father’s day. So a few of those were thrown in as well. The trip to the loft that served as storehouse of his families’ antiquities was equally economical in terms of not meeting anyone. A few phantoms flitting by his opened door as he sat before the music software studio that he was trying to reconfigure to get it up and running again. The sound was turned down to a reasonable level so as not to disturb and other residents that were somewhere else. Most no doubt still in their beds this morning tailing a few extra hours with the holiday as an excuse.
He found himself having another round of coffee in another place where on the weekends he was occasionally known to stop to wish the proprietor well as the father of a young boy of nearly eighteen. It still hadn’t dawned upon him that he himself having never sire his own son might be attempting to participate in some small way in the holiday’s ritual of acknowledgment of parenting. The fact of the matter could have been diagnosed so easily by any third party with a cursory knowledge of his loss of his own. His father had died early in the morning on a Sunday that had played out to some degree similar in appearance to this one. It was too easy to recall stepping from the elevator with the two attendants and the cargo of his father’s corpse into the silence of sunny blue sky. Here again nearly some five years later taking off two months and two days. The lingering vines of melancholy still hung about intertwined with his heartstrings, Though he had become almost a total recluse to the outside world he no longer would outwardly indulge such sentiments. The world was the world and what was past was simply from a time before and no longer the center of daily worship.
The old limousine sized sedan in nearly perfect shape edged through the twists and turns requisite to return to the multi-unit structure that was now considered home. There was no need to hurry home but no constitution sturdy enough to withstand another series of drinks. Especially from the same small neighborhood institution where the previous evening he had been laid low. It was his fault not the staff that he let them keep coming consuming the last and silently acknowledging the next. The food from earlier along width he second round of coffee had erased what the aspirin and the frequent trips to the toilet had to some degree fended successfully off. A vague sense of fatal lethargy was now temporarily in charge of his mortal being. He didn’t intend to endure it cooped up alone on the day by himself. His course was set to pass the usual left turn before his building’s shadow to drive the blocks past to the one remaining parking space in the enclosed lot on the restaurant. He considered his strategy as he walked between two cars. One coveting another space that was in the process of being vacated. And the other behind that was nervously anxious enough to intimidate a furtive friendly hand signal hopefully waving off the danger of being struck by its antsy driver.
The world’s hardest working bartender was busy behind the bar working hard as he entered. There was a protocol that he had fallen into as he sat before the man dancing with an efficient economy of motion maximizing the throughput of mixed drinks in balance with the other customer’s sitting lazily around just as effortlessly making further demands. He thought twice about ordering another coffee. His stomach already felt tissue thin. “A Mexican hot chocolate!“, he thought. Something that was both non-alcoholic pleasing to both body and soul. A couple of steak tacos before the drink to help pave the way. He had sealed his own fate, but in a pleasant way. The salutations were incremental between the bartender and himself. One did not lightly break the working rhythm of someone who you treated like a friend. Everything would work out in a way not too different than it usually did if you left things to be handled as they always were within the hands that were there for that purpose. The hot chocolate idea rhetorically went over like a lead balloon. A good joke that left a couple punch lines hanging about the general melee of fulfilling other orders. “Which do you want first?“ The question of protocol of these two culinary opposites resolved in having the tacos first, and then sweet chocolate immediately after. The customer settled back and reviewed a couple emails newly arrived on his smart phone. It was still early the afternoon not worn on to far past weekend dinner times.
A shadow past behind him. One that he could not immediately ‘pick up’ on a matching identity to. He turned a bit right and then left to catch a better possibility of vantage from. He heard a disembodied voice somewhere near inquire about the disposition of the empty seats on either side. Like a cork popped a visage suddenly swung around into his direct field of view. The recognition of which was supported in the next swing of the second hand of a clock by the face of a weekly regular. The unexpected glowing appearance of something he had become generally unused to in past years in the high beam of a genuine smile. She sat down in one of the quickly offered chairs and related that she and her significant other had just returned from the Michigan summer retreat. He plumbed the file drawer of memory and tabbed through the dossier of previous conversations for the best repartee to offer in kind. The conversation continued on providing an upbeat turn to what up to that point had been an otherwise ‘drole‘ and emotionally empty day. Then her husband came! An old wizened old self-obsessed codger who by previous experience from other nights in the bar was too often drunk and cantankerous. And never inclined to show any sign variance in his often obnoxious behavior. The obvious question bespoken from many other lips along the way being how had these two been fitted together long enough to have still be tolerable company?
The husband sat tightly wedged leaving his weight and his elbow as a partial obstacle slung towards the hungry man as a plate of tacos suddenly arrived. He kept up the conversation as genially as common sense about food gone too cold would allow. A word here or there in the back and forth of conversation between the threesome. The woman now wife still enthusiastic as most females are in a longstanding proclivity of wont to do. Casting the long unused enthusiasm of girlish youth into what was a lively inventory of the first man’s professional experiences over the years in different parts of the country long ago traversed. The details of the same shared in equal measure of liveliness not simply back to the wife alone but to her gentleman as well. Past history should have warned what had happened next. As the speaker was now leaning back upon the back of his chair. The old codger suddenly leaned conspicuously forward blocking the view of the other man from the wife. This was not a momentary gesture! But as the seconds wore one a movement with preconceived intent to abruptly interrupt the event with purposeful silent intervention. An arm from the other side finally pushed the gentleman back and the roof the way her words continuing without having been summarily diverted. Nothing seemed too out of place until it appeared that the man had spilled some of the wine from his glass upon his left wrist.
“Why did you do that!“, squalled the old man turning to his wife like an injured child. She glowering back at him with a prudish expression of displeasure. The bitter winds of hurricane were quickly gathering about the vicinity. The solitary customer, his throat dry, was now wondering about the scheduled arrival of the hot chocolate. The banter beside him left an awkwardness that put the previous felicity in danger of rapid dissolution. This situation was something that he was not unfamiliar with but had long been retired to the back of his mental closet. His own father and mother had picked up the habit of a daily round of sometimes viscous bickering. As much a result of the strong heart medications leveraged over the constant increasingly pain distress of a slowly failing hear muscle. A similar note of crotchety was all too familiar here. This was the proverbial sour that came along with the sweet that marked relationships of similar duration on a not too infrequent basis. The old man looked at the blood from his wrist periodically inspecting the small bar napkin that he had been using as a compress. “Why did you do that?“, he whimpered again continuing to mule like an unloved child demanding what he thought was his due in unrequited sympathy and remorse. The voices of the two dancing back and forth between soft protests and much louder shrill accusations! “Where was the damn hot chocolate?” “Had the cocoa beans left Colombia by mule train yet?” The snarling had started in counterpoint with the coming of tears.
“Maybe it’s time we split and both live separately and apart!“, the woman’s voice softly sounded. There was an frank obviousness about the situation now. She had raised two sets of children from infancy to adulthood. She was no longer willing to support her husband in his continued infancy to cradle him the final distance to his grave. The atmosphere was tense. There were no kind words available from others to defer a level of tension that one could all so easily slice with a knife. It was time for any uninvolved parties to retreat as far as possible from ground zero before the blow up. The count down was well under way with no sign of the chocolate on the near horizon. The man held out his credit card as subtly as he could to be able to attract attention from the struggling bartender. The phone which had been a occasionally persistent distraction what now chiming and nagging away nonstop. The customer was like a fox caught in an unshakeable trap. He was ready to at all costs chew his own paw off and then live with the immediate consequences rather than get caught in the caustic pyroclastic downpour of this imminent emotional seismic eruption. The woman was sobbing now. Their ordered food hadn’t arrived by now either. It was impossible to imagine them not taking it to go as to more immediately travel their own separate ways. The old man childishly fed the volcano caught in a reciprocating loop of victimized recriminations and clueless supplication. The hot chocolate was lost somewhere still on the way!
How sad that his own father and mother had too often at the very end of the existence of the former been blown apart in a like same manner. There was so much guilt piled high in the landfill of past discarded emotions. He just wanted to get the fuck out of there. The bartender finally had taken the credit card to the cash register to ting it up. “Your hot chocolate is ready and I will have it put in a to go container.“, the bartender said. His angst ridden customer wasn’t angry so much as just desperate to be gone and away of the dual harbinger of bad recollections on the bar stools beside him now embroiled in their own toxic flavors of discontent. Any appetite for something soothing and sweet had gone sour. He verbally collared the bartender who had performed another miracle of time management in preparing a prodigious number of mixed drinks for the inexhaustible thirst’s of the phalanxes of unseen customer sitting out of sight in the dining room. A good tip was implied in the totaled scribble rendered in haste next to an equally unreadable scrawl passing as the man’s signature beside the word “name”. The man jumped up from the stolid preparing if necessary to perform acrobatics of rapid escape. A hand extended forth with a bag within which was purported to contain the legendary almost lost fatally elusive chocolate ensconced in ‘take away’ brown bag apparel. Suitably polite artificially upbeat goodbye’s expeditiously sallied forth over in the direction of the wrangling couple. The bar’s threshold was past. A car’s motor started and off he went into what had now become night.
The apartment was pleasantly cool and empty. He set the bag down on the counter having held it upright in one hand to prevent any accidental spills from occurring. Only the bad ‘JuJu’ of the last experience could confer with fate to tumble it over. He was not read to surrender this hard won prize. A pair of scissors and a sharp knife were employed to surgically remove the blown paper wrapped and its accompany Saran wrapper that tightly enclosed the Styrofoam cup. Its structural resistance seemed to jealously preventing access to the beverage. Like the cinematic fury of the throat encompassing tail of an Alien spore tightening when challenged. With much effort the bare lid had been excavated from the layers of its wrapper. The milky chocolate revealed now cold with an evil looking creamy foam congealed floating cancerously upon the liquid’s light brown surface. He could not blame any party. This was the way of the world. Thirty years? Or fifty years of cohabitation! This proverbial sour and the sweet was too much for anyone to reckon with in such a fucked up modern world. The man pondered what had inadvertently turned out to be his own solitary existence. The sweet was not longer necessary as it had once seemed. As for the sour, his own persistence in personal emptiness had long ago eliminated that.