I sit at a bar, my bar, the rundown shithole of a building that I always end up at no matter how much I try to excape it. Even though the old girl's gone severely downhill in the past couple years, I still don't mind it... the worse it gets, the fewer people that go in there, the more it feels like the old Irish pub that it always claimed itself to be. A dark wooden bar with far too much lacquer on it, lights that are never quite bright enough, and a crowd that always seems depressed. There is a boxed-out corner with a couple of pinball games and that old basketball game where you shoot hoops to beat the clock. It gives the place the atmosphere that the boardwalk in Atlantic City has when you get too far from the casinos... attractions, multicolored blinking lights, a magnificient atmosphere... but a massive sense of sadness that lays in the air like a woolen blanket, as if all the brown buildings are telling us, I've had better days than this. Where have they gone?
I am talking with my longtime compatriot about our dead friend. We go through our stories, the ones we have told each other a million times but never tire of hearing.
"One month dude. One month from tomorrow..." he says.
"And then it's been three years," I say.
"It seems like it was twenty years ago that he was alive, like it never fuckin happened... but at the same time it seems like yesterday I was at his funeral.. Jenn didn't know what the fuck to do with me... It all seems like it never happened, like it was a distant dream that fades into myth as I get older.. we will tell stories of him one day, and he will be no more real to them than Julius Ceaser..."
An olive skinned girl walks by me, dressed to the nines in a black jacket, tight jeans, and high boots. Her yuppie compatriots trail behind her, clad in their sport jacket blazer looking things (or whatever the fuck you call them). The smell of Prada overwhelms me instantly, sits next to me at the bar. My heart palpitates. So familiar... Ignore it, boyo.
My buddy is quiet for a moment, a break in the conversation, and I catch the song that is playing on the jukebox. It is, of course, the one fucking song that I have never heard in a bar because it is so very sad...
I'm sorry I'm bad, I'm sorry I'm blue,
I'm sorry bout all the things I said to you,
And I know, that I can't take it back...
My friend begins talking again, but I am ignoring him for a moment, catching this moment where the senses are being hit so deftly, and this song means so much. And... then my phone vibrates.
I know you worry when I fly. Letting you know my plane didn't crash and I'm checked into my hotel. Be good you jerkface. Goodnight.
My heart screams and tears and claws at my chest, and I realize that what I said to my buddy about fifteen minutes ago is deadly true, a promise that I made to myself long ago to not let this fucking girl slip through my fingers as so many others have.
"I'm going to marry this fucking girl. She is fucking it. I don't give two shits what anyone else thinks, but after this one, I am done. Never surrender.."
Later on, I drunkenly tread across the ice to get in my truck, slowly pulling out of the icy lot, and Flogging Molly comes on the CD player. This is the CD I had on when we made out last December in a parking lot outside a Dunkin Donuts, and I remember how badly Track 5 ruins the mood, as the accordian in the intro completely fucks up the Irish aura.
On the way home, I begin to wonder if my life is ever going to be more than just missing people. It has been a long time since I was content with anything, especially myself. There has been an overwhelming emptiness in me for the past month, something that I cannot understand and have not had before. It is not a depression, or an anger... those things have long since flown from me. It is just emptiness... like when Hunter S. Thompson talked about Phoenix.
"It's a strange world. Some people get rich and others eat shit and die. Who knows? If there is in fact, a heaven and a hell, all we know for sure is that hell will be a viciously overcrowded version of Phoenix — a clean well lighted place full of sunshine and bromides and fast cars where almost everybody seems vaguely happy, except those who know in their hearts what is missing... And being driven slowly and quietly into the kind of terminal craziness that comes with finally understanding that the one thing you want is not there. Missing. Back-ordered. No tengo. Vaya con dios. Grow up! Small is better. Take what you can get..."
Learning to not live in the past is the toughest thing for a smart man to do. Learning to regret nothing is even tougher. When I die, my heaven will be sitting in a dim but peopled Irish pub with a thatched roof where the Pogues and the Dubliners play together in the corner singing songs like, "The Irish Rover" and "If I Should Fall from Grace With God" and Alex is next to me and Ryer is on the next stool and a pint of Guiness is in front of me and I never have to cash out... just sit and listen to those old songs, and want for nothing, and miss no one. Then there will be no more emptiness... only happiness, the indelible happiness that comes with good friends, good drink, and true love.
The song that made me realize that we're really only here once.