Disclaimer: this story is purely fictional.
I like people. I enjoy their differences, their similarities and their stupid habits that make them them. When I wander the streets in search of that perfect oasis of liquor and darkness, I can’t help but be drawn to people. It’s a demented beauty really. Perceived only in the mind’s eye, this appreciation of the molded figures that are just so malleable. I really like people.
I like to follow them. I’ve been told that isn’t natural. But what exactly is natural? Webbed feet are natural but people cringe at the thought. Did you cringe? I did, but only a little. Still that doesn’t stop me from wanting to follow where those connected toes go, what waddling path they take. I like following people, even when they think it’s creepy. Don’t worry, I’m not a violent person when I follow them. If they happen to notice me, I just tip my hat and smile affably. Smiles say a lot about people.
There are sad smiles, a sign of recognition that it’s okay to feel wretched. People are only human right? There are genuine smiles that radiate this aura of happiness and content. These remind me of that sense of relief like ah, finally good times are here. But my favorite gestures aren’t the ones that reach the mouth. The smiles that reflect in the eyes, like the perfect catch of light photographers strive for. They shimmer a glimpse, only a glimpse of the blood warming in the chest with an expansive reach wrapped around the top torso. And if you’re lucky to catch this kind, hold onto it because that warmth you see in them can infect you, too. Maybe for just a moment, so be vigilant.
This is just one of the many reasons I like people. They are just so full of light and life, and it pulls me in. I want that light too! I know it’s harder to find it when you’re three glasses deep into greedy scotch. But hey, a guy has his vices. And maybe I’m indulging in it right now but I can still sit on this worn out bar stool and watch people. Watching can be just as enjoyable as following. Less people are concerned by a guy at the bar wobbling a bit then the black-cap fellow on the street a few paces back.
There is so much to learn from human behavior. A woman in the corner is on the verge of tears; her friend is telling her a heartbreaking tale of a cat that passed away. A young guy strolls in and is probably not tall enough to reach the bar let alone drink at it. He picks his nose conspicuously to shield is immaturity.
A man stands abruptly two stools down, his chest puffed out like a peacock. The woman with him is pleading for him to stay but he takes his coat and leaves with the final word. He was not into it when she did that with her finger. Fascinating isn’t it – this water hole of the city jungle. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I really like people.
And scotch. It just feels so sweet, that burning sensation down my throat. I can see what the hype is, why people gravitate towards liquor. It’s like a minimal act of masochism. Hurt a little to reap a greater reward. Isn’t that what most people say; what’s that phrase I hear sometimes with gym-goers? No pain, no gain right? I could jump on that train. I mean look around here, there is plenty of pain in this room.
First off, everyone is going to need to boost his or her glasses prescription with the lack of natural light. And each time I’m in here, there is usually the village idiot performing his momentous cirque du soleil audition and that’s painful to watch. Of course there is always someone crying or stone-faced in anger defending he did not have sexual relations with that woman. It may be a shit-show but I personally like to have the box-seat view. Well worth the price of admission, eh?
When I nudge his shoulder with my elbow, I feel like our talk is coming to a close. I look at his drooped head, gazing absently into his numberless glass of amber. It appeared enticing at first, the way he made love with his eyes to the serum. It had prompted me to order the same. But now he has plateaued and I’m racking up a high bill of time. I nudge him again.
“Stanley,” I say.
“Hmmm…..?” He looks at me with tired, old eyes; the lines around his mouth are deeply set. He’s had a lifetime of drunken laughter.
“I think it’s time for me to go. What do you say old pal?”
I stand up, brush the dust from my wrinkled trousers and finish the finger-smudged glass in one smooth toss back.
After I fit both arms into my dark coat and shrug upwards, I grab my hat from the bar-top. I place the other firm hand on Stanley’s shoulder and give him a jostle for farewell.
When I step two paces back, I watch as Stanley’s torso stiffens and his hand lose its grip on the used glass. His back rounds to protect his tightening chest and he slips from the stool to the floor, landing hard on his spine. People jump to actions slower than they jump to conclusions. The bartender runs to the spiral cord telephone and dials. Three or four people surround Stanley, jostling me to get to him. Others just watch with curiosity, sympathy and fear.
I move forward and crouch down beside Stanley, knowing full and well that I’m not in the way. I shift my hat to my right hand and raise the left to Stanley’s cheek. He looks at me finally no longer in a stupor but in full recognition.
“Don’t worry,” I say. “I’ve already told you that I really like people.”
I place my cap on my head and stand up, looking down at Stanley.
“So, what do you say old pal?” I say.
I stroll out of the joint with my hands in my pocket. I smile to myself, thinking of that small warmth spreading fleetingly across my chest, reflecting those last genuine catch lights from Stanley’s eyes.