Remember dear readers, I’m sharing my creative process… the below has not been heavily edited, so it has flaws. But, I trust some might enjoy… (updated, September 15, 2018)
“How do you drink that stuff?” She asked. She pointed along the bar with her right hand over at the tulip shaped glass half-full with dark Guinness beer. “Isn’t it really heavy?”
“With intent, just look up at the pub light above you, the golden harp symbol, it’s my beacon,” I said. I pointed upward. She curiously looked up above her at the round, two-sided Guinness signage bolted into the column near the ceiling. She had quietly sat near me with a safety stool between us at the back half of the rustic bar for just past ten minutes. “Plus, I’m lazy, the taps in front of you, short distance for me back to mothers milk.”
“Ha, but, I’d get full,” she said. “Does it taste like coffee?”
“A bit, I stay away from hard liquor,” I said. “Being drunk, and alone, stumbling up a dark alleyway, even in St. Pete, is not a good idea. By the way, I’m Rob.”
“Bree, first time in here,” Bree said. She looked above me at the chalk board with colorful hand written information about local upcoming events for the month of October. “Students my story, straight out of St. Louis.”
She had a clear, pale complexion, and long sandy blonde hair that she let curl down the right side of her thin neck line. She innocently fiddled with the hair-ends, with hands and fingers that worked for a living. If she hadn’t spoken a word, she could have easily been mistaken for a petite waitress working a busy Welsh pub fighting off stubby sailors while dishing out sarcasm.
“Well, Bree,” I said. “Welcome to the Moon. What are you studying to be?”
“Scientist, I think, maybe marine biologist,” Bree said. She sipped her clear liquor well-drink escorted along the glass rim with a green lime wedge. “I don’t know, I’m always confused, but yeah, science, I like science, I just don’t want to have to sell stuff, that’s scary.”
“I live that fantasy,” I said. “I sell stuff.”
“Hey hun,” Edwina asked. She had leaned onto the bar. “Either you kids want a menu?”
“No thanks,” Bree said. “I’ll stay with my adulting beverage.”
“As well,” I said, as Edwina dismissed me; she raised her eyebrows at me like a disapproving mother, and she quickly turned away from me to engage other the bar guests. “What does adulting really mean?”
“I still get carded,” Bree said. A large teenage bus-boy returned on the other side of the bar with a plastic tub full of dirty dishes. “I card people at my waitress job, it’s the law, after all, I don’t argue, I need the money.”
“Ah, got it,” I said, as I watched the bus-boy fill the under-countertop stainless steel dishwasher with his bounty. “Got to pay the bills, would you card me?”
Bree glanced over at me. She had inquisitive brown eyes above a somewhat turned up nose. She had eyes that had paid attention.
“Yeah, just for kicks, I’d card you,” Bree said. She smiled. “Under thirty, that’s the rule.”
I sipped the Guinness, and I placed the glass back on the round white coaster that had developed a moist brown ring.
“You are quick, and funny, what if I’m over fifty?” I said. I tapped my fingers on the marble bar top near her. I shrugged. “I’m not hitting on you, I promise. I’m just goofing with you.”
Bree had studied me for a moment, my eyes, and my face.
“Yes you are,” Bree said. “At least you’re a dude, sometimes it’s women, St. Pete’s got all types. But don’t get me wrong, most are really nice, actually I’m flattered, but it’s just not my thing, you know.”
“I get it,” I said. “We’re on the same team.”
Edwina returned from the far end of the bar, she asked if we wanted another round; we both had agreed we did. We quietly sat near each other on the creaking wooden stools hidden near the bars thick back column.
“Sorry,” I said. I blushed within the dark bar. “I’m full of nonsense, especially these days.”
Bree picked up her drink, and she nudged over and clinked my glass. She took in a serious gulp.
“What if I like older men?” Bree said. She held up her glass. “Cheers!”
“Cheers,” I said. I studied Bree. She wasn’t flashy, with lots of curves with fake breasts. She had not worn fashionable clothes, or any jewelry. At that point in her life, I suspected, she lacked the resources for anything fancy. But in my eyes, she was beautiful. The kind of girl that had casually strolled past me in my youth. She was beautiful in a way any man with his senses about him would have understood.
“Well, Rob, Guinness man of mystery, not hitting on me,” Bree said. She tilted her head as she looked over at me. “What makes you feel alive?”
“Now I think you’re hitting on me,” I said. I grinned.
“We’ll see,” Bree said.
“I have an answer,” I said. “It’s not what, it’s when.”
“When?” Bree asked. Her expression appeared puzzled from my response, as if I had performed a verbal magic trick. I sipped the Guinness drink. I gazed back across the bar at the crowded Snug section for what appeared to have been a modest office party, and then I looked through the windows at the outside dinner guests that sat under the canopies while being dutifully served drinks, or plates piled with deep-fried comfort food.
“Sunday morning,” I said. I winked back over at Bree. I nodded. “Yeah, Sunday mornings.”
“I don’t understand,” Bree said. Bree fiddled with her hair as she turned to face me.
Perhaps I’d discovered just enough Guinness courage, perhaps I just wanted to talk to a pretty girl about life, and not get lost in conversations about politics, or sports, or other lost topics that I had little control over.
“Let me paint a picture, it’s just before dawn,” I said. I stared down at the tiled flooring that separated the bar area from the ebony floor boards for the dining section. “In a comfy bed, cocooned under soft sheets in a cold bedroom, spooned together for warmth; I can sense her calm breath, as if she’s barely breathing, her hands within my hands.” And it was as if the sounds within The Moon went silent. It was completely still. As if Bree and I had sat under the stars in a random corn field, are faces washed over by the glow from a harvest moon. Bree just stared at me, her full lips barely parted. She protectively grasped her drink glass in front of her with both hands. “The only sounds are waking birds in a nearby oak tree, just outside our window,” I said. I pointed upward with my forefinger at a working ceiling fan. “The constant ceiling fan sharing cold air, our legs intertwined, we stay barely asleep for another hour, then I slowly get up, and I make her black coffee, eggs with burnt toast.”
Bree sipped her drink. She nodded; she smiled.
“I didn’t expect that,” Bree said. She crossed her thin legs, and dangled a well-worn flip-flop. “Divorced?”
“You’re smart, but you asked, the times I’ve felt alive, they are the quiet moments, shared experiences,” I said. I heard the steam from the nearby dishwasher being released from intense pressure. “And you? What makes you feel alive?”
“Living the dream, slowly,” Bree said. She glossed her right hand palm over the dark bar edge either admiring the aged patina, or trying to grasp a serious thought. “You’re really interesting…”
“I guess,” I said. “When I find someone interesting, if they ask me a good question, I feel compelled to give them an honest answer, I just rarely come across those people.”
Bree sipped her drink. She rubbed her forefingers and thumbs along the glasses bottom edge merging together condensation drops.
“I’m just lost,” Bree said. She looked over at me. “I wish I had everything planned out, you know, what do you do?”
“I peddle expensive insurance,” I said. I shrugged. “Doctors, hospitals, folks like that.”
“That sounds like selling stuff, no thanks,” Bree said. “Kids?”
“By night I’m an author, or really early in the morning I write, you know, a dreamer,” I said. I sighed. “No children, I went for the donut, careers and writing always seemed more important. You have any?”
Bree shot back a glare at me as if I’d vomited on the bar.
“Ah, no way,” Bree said. Her chest heaved with a deep breath. “And not planning too, let my friends back home be breeders.”
“I get you,” I said. I raised my glass. “That’s a lifetime sentence, minimum eighteen to twenty years.”
“That’s what I’m thinking,” Bree said. She wiggled on the stool. “Plus, I’ll get fat, he’ll leave me.”
As I sat within the bar gloom with my new friend, I realized how every person made life choices along the journey that sometimes the answers were only revealed decades into the future, and at the most unexpected moments. It was clear in my mind that I would never have been a father, or a grandfather, or have grown children to look after me into my winter years. I was aware I’d die someday, but I had hoped to have someone else there holding my hand for support, as I would transition into the afterlife.
“I guess we’re both on our own,” I said. I nodded. “Cheers.”
“Cheers, but you have a life,” Bree said. “I’m up to my waist in debt, whatever, I’m glad I came in here, I walk past all the time, toward school.”
I smiled at Bree; I thought about all the restaurants and bars that littered downtown St. Petersburg, some were easy to enter because they were brand new with lots of bright lights, but the Moon was dark and aged. It took a tough internal will to walk into the Moon, alone, and not have lived past twenty-five years.
“Don’t be fooled by age,” I said. “As you get older the stress changes, but it’s always there, it’s just the difference between looking forward, or looking back.”
“You got me,” Bree said. She finished off her drink, the green lime slice rested alone at the bottom of the glass. She contemplated if she could afford another. She glanced over at me. “Maybe hang?”
“Sure, I’ll hang,” I said. “Hungry?”
“Yeah,” Bree said. “I’m fine, I’ve got food at home.”
“I understand,” I said. “The foods good here, really.”
“Good to know,” Bree said. She leaned forward searching for Edwina down the bar who was lost into a pleasant conversation.
“Like sushi? I know a spot, real close by, you’ll love it,” I asked. I finished my Guinness. I placed my debit card on the bar, and nodded over at the bartender, Kate, who had just entered the bar to work a shift with Edwina. “My treat for a good conversation, you can tell this oldish man about science.”
“Hey love,” Kate said. “You already cashing out?”
I glanced back over at Bree, she hesitantly nodded a yes.
“Let the old guy buy dinner,” I said. “I can swing it, besides, I like talking to you, it would be my pleasure.”
“I love sushi, can’t afford it much,” Bree said. She gripped her nap sack. “Thanks. You’re not an axe murderer?”
“He’s harmless,” Kate said. She returned with both bills. I paid them. “See ya, hun.”
“Just looking to make a friend,” I said. I got up and I stuffed my hands in my pants pockets. “Besides, think of it this way, I’d rather hang out with a smart twenty-something with hopes and dreams, than a forty-something with kids and an agenda.”
Bree smirked at me as she got up.
“You’re good writer, aren’t you,” Bree said. We turned toward the front doors. Behind us, Edwina and Kate cleared the bar area, and wiped the marble top with moist rags.
“If he tries anything funny,” Edwina said. She pushed her eyeglass frame up her long nose. “Kick him in the nuts.”
Bree turned around and waved at Edwina.
“I have mace,” Bree said. “I’ll blind him.”
“We’ll steer clear of the alleyways,” I said. I shook my head as we left the Moon. “I’m a good story teller, not a writer, I love the story, but I’d be a starving artist.”
“Would I be a good story?” Bree asked. We stepped down the front stairs, into the warm night, and onto the concrete sidewalk. And we blended in with the tourists, and the local crowd.
“I think so,” I said. “I think you’ve got potential.”
“Thanks,” Bree said. She looked up at me. “You’re serious?”
“Absolutely,” I said. “Can I make a recommendation, take it or leave it, I don’t tell people how to live?”
“Sure,” Bree said as she almost walked into a large bronzed frog. “That would hurt, but it’s cool.”
“For sure,” I said. “Live for moments, aware of the future, if I could go back in time, the only change I’d make, focus on the moment, don’t worry about years.”
“I’ll try that,” Bree said. She smiled at me. “You like saki?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“I do,” Bree said. She brightly smiled. “I’ll show you.”
And for a brief moment, I had felt twenty-five, again.