I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting in this bar. This is a common refrain that I’m getting tired of writing, but it’s perfectly true. I’ve been in this bar for as long as I remember. Perhaps I was born here. Don’t be daft, of course I wasn’t, but who can really know?
The journal I keep suggests I’ve been other places. I just have to wait here long enough and I’ll move on.
Perhaps this is all purgatory? But there’s no such thing.
The bar is dark, kind of a dive. I’ve been doing tequila shots. I’ve been doing tequila shots for my entire life, as far as I can tell. Yet I’m surprisingly lucid. Perhaps the bartender is watering my shots down. Perhaps I ought to water him down.
While I wait for my next drink to come, I flip through my journal. I apparently died last time. So I’m a dead man in a bar drinking watered tequila. This isn’t how I imagined my life would be. But then, I don’t know what I imagined my life would be. I can’t remember the before time. I move through one dreamworld, taking notes on things I promptly forget as soon as I move to the next dreamworld. Can I even be sure that I am the me that wrote the journal? If I forget all the things, then am I not a new me and not the me that was? And which me is the real me?
Perhaps the tequila hasn’t been watered. Perhaps I’m just a philosophical drunk. For now, there is only one me, this me, the me that is me.
You know, I’ve never thought to try leaving the bar. I’ve never claimed to be the smartest tack in the cookie jar, after all. Right, off we go. I stand, collect my journal, and nod to the bartender. He doesn’t demand money. Perhaps I have a tab. Perhaps I’m a regular. Perhaps it’s on the house. Perhaps this is a free bar. Perhaps I own the bar. I have no idea.
I wander to the cloak room. Surely I have a coat to collect. Surely not a cloak though. I’m not a vampire. Or am I? As I search through the rows of lockers for the one that matches the key I’ve found in my pocket, I notice someone standing in the corner, facing the wall. Too much to drink for you too, I guess?
I find my locker, collect my coat. As I turn to leave, the figure in the corner whirls and grabs my wrist. I pull it back, prepare to yell. Who the hell are you, what the hell do you want?
It is She.
This is the first time She has interacted with me if the journal is to be believed. This is significant. This matters. This has to matter, this must be important.
I cannot speak. Unsurprising. She doesn’t speak either. She merely grabs my hand and I follow her out of the cloak room, down the corridor, past the bouncer, and out onto the street.
Another fellow has just left the bar, and is walking slightly ahead of us. She looks at me. Flicks eyes towards him. Squeezes my hand. We follow him.
It’s late at night, dark. It’s been raining, the pavement shimmers, the city lights are reflected. The man ahead of us walks at a reasonable pace, never looking back. We need not hurry, we need not hide. I know not why we follow him and I cannot ask, as is typical. I must learn for myself. I must say what I see.
On this corner, a food cart sells yakitori, and it smells so good and I cannot remember having ever eaten, and after a lifetime of tequila shots, a bit of grilled chicken and leek would be amazing but also would probably be the most dangerous thing in the galaxy. It doesn’t matter either way. She doesn’t stop and so neither do I.
We pass a small bar just closing for the night. The owner is gently trying to coax the last patrons out and on their way home. A large fellow stumbles, catches himself against the wall. Apologizes. Asks if anyone has seen his umbrella, oh no where is his umbrella. The owner produces one and inquires if this is it. The big guy is so happy he seems on the verge of tears. I wonder if the umbrella actually has a strong meaning for him, or if this too is just the product of tonight’s overindulgence.
The fellow in front of us, He who She and Me have been following turns into an apartment building. She stops short. Looks at me, shakes her head. We can’t follow him inside. After a moment, I hear someone above us cursing. She pulls my hand towards the alley, and from there up the fire escape of a neighbouring building. We climb, and we climb, and we climb.
She stops. She flicks eyes at the apartment building. I look, and see the man we’d followed on his balcony. He doesn’t notice us. Perhaps we are far away. Perhaps it is dark enough. Perhaps we are invisible. Perhaps we do not exist. But we exist together for now, so that’s something?
The man is trying to do laundry. His washing machine is on his veranda. He kicks it, he swears at it, he slams on the buttons, but it won’t work. He is angry.
I feel She squeeze my hand again, and in a flash we are transported from the city to someplace far far away.
We are in a desert. I on my back, she some distance away, standing amongst giant wrought iron music staves. The sky is red. There is no wind. There is no sound. There is only the sand, the staves and us.
She is the sand. She is the staves. She is She, and I feel that, in some way, She is me, a part of me.
There are things I want to say but I cannot say, She sings, but maybe I can sing them. I’ll try.
She sings about capturing the happiness of dreams and holding onto it for the next time you fail. But to be human is not as easy as all this. Everyone bears the wounds and scars of life, She sings, and only time can make them bearable. Time, She sings, does not heal. It hurts to be pierced by the indifference of the universe, and She would not blame anyone who cries.
No one wants to be alone, She sings, and the only one who can stop loneliness is oneself. If I know you exist, She sings, I can feel safe, and sleep soundly. Me? Or the generic you? Is what I want to ask, but my tongue is always stuck and to interrupt her song would be inexcusable.
Someday I will be able to say the things I cannot say now, She sings, but not today. Today is not the day I say the things that cannot be said, She sings. Perhaps one day, She sings, I will love again.
Until that day, She sings, I will sing. Until that day all I can do is sing. If I know you exist, I can feel safe, and sleep soundly, and until the day I can say the things that cannot be said, I will sing, She sings.
I slowly regain my feet. Our eyes meet. The red sky is reflected in hers. What is reflected in mine?
She gives me the slightest of smiles. It bears no malice, only gratitude.
She turns to sand.
I turn to sand.
We blow away.