A short by Lisa ‘Hooch’ Boyles
The room is filled with a dense, hovering cloud of smoke, but if one were to look really close, they could just about discern the bar that lay surrounded in its mist, the small crowd of business people out from work, and the young man named Jack sitting alone at the very end. He has been perched on that stool since lunchtime. His shoulders are slumping over and his head hanging. A bottle of whiskey rests in his left hand, and he gently swirls round his half-empty glass in his right. As a slightly staggering couple walks out, they shout their farewell to him over the din. He doesn’t look up, but merely grunts in ahalfhearted manner of acknowledgement.
“Maybe it’s time for you to go home, mate?” the Barman asks. He reaches forward for the bottle but Jack just waves away his hand. He draws the bottle closer to himself, cradling it possessively.
“Thanks, man. But imma stay here a while longer” Jack mumbles, still without looking up.
Three hours passed, and the bar had emptied leaving the barman alone with Jack. Neither seemed overly keen about acknowledging the others existence. Both seemed content to continue with what they were doing, whether it was washing the counter top or staring down at the bar. This arrangement unfortunately could not continue for too much longer.
“I’ve got to shut the bar now. I’ve already stayed open half an hour later for yeh. Can I give you a lift somewhere?” The barman asks, throwing his rag into the back room. Jack looks up gradually, as if only just realizing where he was.
“I’m sorry, man. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know what…” he gestures carelessly towards the clock and sits up. His eyes are cloudy, but his words curiously coherent. “I just needed a night to clear my head, y’know?”
“No worries, it’s fine…”
“Hey, do you remember being eighteen?” Jack interrupts.
At this the barman looks slightly taken aback, but he recovers quickly.
“Yeah, I guess. Long time ago now, it’s probably not as clear to me as you.”
“I’ve been thinking about it all day. We’d always skip out of school and drive around like there were no cares in the world. Seriously, that beat up piece of shit was the only place where I felt in control. Nothing bad could happen to me whilst I was on that road. Y’know, unless I crashed the damn thing.” The barman drew a stool towards him as Jack spoke and sat down. He felt a curious interest in this young man’s story, and was eager to keep listening. “A lot of shit can happen to you in this life. I know. I’ve seen it. Hell, I’ve lived it. We all have in my house. But that pile of junk my brothers gave me made it all disappear.
“But it’s not even about that car, though, man. It’s about that girl. Y’know?” Jack’s eyes look imploringly at the barman, who just shakes his head with a confused expression. “That one special girl you meet who, just, understands what you’re about. But you’re too young and stupid to know when you’ve got a good thing going! We always said we’d break on out of this town, move on into the city and make it big. We’d be rich and not care about the world. And that car was where those dreams were made, where those dreams were lost, where new ones were made.” Jack paused as he smiled to himself. “Hey, that wasn’t all that got lost on those back seats,” he said with a sly smirk.
“I get ‘cha” the barman began to offer.
“No. No, but you don’t. She did. She knew everything about my life, my stupid fucked up life and she did not give two shits. The only time we fought was that night we skipped prom, but then our song came on the radio and it just didn’t seem to matter anymore. But you never, ever appreciate a good thing when you’ve got it.”
At this Jack stands up, forcefully pushing his stool back so that it topples over with a small crash. He begins to pace frantically up and down the length of the bar. “I just wish we could go back and tell ourselves where we’re about to fuck up. ‘Cause I’d go back right now and say, ‘hold up, Jack. Don’t mess this up.’ But I can’t. And I lost her. I felt too sorry for myself to fight for her, and that was it. Here it is, five years later and I’m sat at some bar telling my life story to some stranger.” He grabs his jacket off the stool and begins to head towards the door. The barman starts forward towards Jack, seeming to hang on to every word.
“Wait, what happened to her?” he asks.
“She died two days ago, and she never knew I loved her. We never even got to say goodbye.” Jack replies as he walks out of the door, his eyes glistening.
Inspired by the lyrics of Never Say Goodbye by Bon Jovi (Song, Slippery When Wet, 1986) and loosely inspired by Four Brothers (film, John Singleton, 2005)