Tuesday, February 15, 2011


"All romantics meet the same fate someday: cynical and drunk, and boring someone in some dark café."

I still remember that time. These bottles piled up in front of me, they stop me from seeing everyone else at the other tables – but they cannot stop me from seeing his ghost. The ghost of his presence and his words.

I’d left the party earlier than I’d planned: I was bored. And as I went by the bar I heard someone calling my my name; there he was, almost buried amongst all the bottles. With a cigarette in his hand, he waved for me to come in.
As I sat down he smiled his half-smile at me, which, coming from him, was basically royal favor.
“Where are you coming from at such a late hour, young lady?” he asked, ironical as always.
“From a party” I answered, grabbing the only bottle with something left in it.
“And it’s already over? What a pathetic party!”
I laughed: “It’s not over, I just… left. I was bored there.”  He looked at me wide-eyed, faking a surprise I knew he was far from feeling – he was the very epitome of blasé.  
“Bored? At a party? It is so hard to entertain our youth nowadays!”
I laughed once again, indulgent: that huge number of bottles had obviously not affected his unpleasant sense of humor. I didn’t mind it.
“It’s not my kind of party, that’s all." 
“Well, I don’t know… people were only interested in sleeping around, and… it’s all so cheap.”
“And are you a virgin?” he asked, indifferent.
“What makes you think you can ask me that question?” I replied, calmly.
“The fact that I know you’re not, young lady.”
He smiled – a smile herald of uncomfortable and questionable truths he was so fond of. Without saying another word to me, he called over the waitress and asked for two more beers.

While we waited, he remained in silence. He was content with examining me from the other side of the table, smoking his cigarette as if he were not aware of doing it at all. I felt awkward, naked even. He was not only staring, he was x-raying my every thought.
The beers, at last. He opened one and gave it to me with these words:
“So: I have a romantic in front of me, huh?”
I was surprised: “What makes you say that?” I asked slowly, drinking my beer and not at all sure I wanted to hear the answer. But my wanting an answer or not wouldn’t make much of a difference. I went on: “Just cause I’m not fond of sleeping around?”
“No, not at all! I’d never say you’re a romantic because of that. I’d say you’re frigid.”
I choked on my beer. He ignored it and continued.
“But your sex life does not interest me. I say you’re a romantic not because of your actions, but because of your convictions. You’re quick in labeling: sleep around, cheap… labels, just labels.”
“You’re saying I judge other people?”
“You judge yourself. Not by what you do, but by what you don’t do.”
Check. I didn’t have an immediate answer for that, and silence fell upon us. Finally:
“Are you my analyst now?”
“Were I an analyst, I’d abstain myself from giving you my opinions. You clearly know nothing about analysis. You should study more instead of going to parties.” He finished, letting his eyes wander around the bar.
If his goal was annoying me – of which I was almost sure – he was getting dangerously close to it.
“What’s your point anyway?”
He deigned to look at me once more. “I thought it was clear. You’re a romantic. There.”
I sighed. Did I want to continue that conversation? He knew he wanted to: “You’re not a virgin, but you firmly believe sex should exist only between two people who love each other. Right? You never say so, but that’s what you think.”
I looked back at him.
“What if it is?”
“No need to defend yourself, I’m not attacking you!” He opened up his arms, in a defenseless gesture. I said nothing. “That’s the worst kind of romanticism: idealized and coward. The worst because it’s the hardest to get rid of. It’s more deeply rooted in our nature than anything else – just like our cowardice.” He gestured vaguely with one hand, while the other raked his dark hair.
I still said nothing, looking back at him with hostile eyes to which he paid no attention.
“It  eventually ends up like this: cynicism and intoxication, boring someone else in some dark café. It’s our fate.”
“You put yourself in this group?”
“I’m here, aren’t I?”
“Is it all still because of her?”
He didn’t answer; I knew I’d gone where I shouldn’t have, and I regretted it instantly: his face twisted for a split second in an expression of the deepest pain - but before I could even process that, he was back to his usual indifference:
“You know it’s true. You may laugh, you may think you’re immune… you’re not. Take a look at your eyes, those dreamy little eyes of yours. They dream of roses and kisses by the moonlight. Lies, little girl, lies… pretty, but still lies… when are you gonna realize that?”
Silence. He’d said everything he wanted to, and I was still trying to cope. He was beyond drunk – but did that make his speech any less true?

Dawn was making its way into the world already, and there were only the two of us in the bar. There was still a song playing – something melancholy and depressing, and he hummed along, while the waitress was already cleaning everything up.
I finally attacked: “You haven’t really changed, you know, and you’re not as bitter as you think. You just… like to romanticize your own pain. You think your eyes have tombs in them, but truly, listen to what you’re humming right now: a love song. When are you gonna get back on your feet, anyway? It’s about time.”
He stared at me, bewildered. Bull’s eye, and we both knew it. I was triumphant, he hadn’t expected a counter-attack. Finally, as if reading my thoughts, he answered, clearly amused:
“Checkmate. Fine then. You can take my king, young lady, but someday you’ll realize the moral victory is mine.”
I laughed out loud: “Aren’t you a sore loser!... You may not agree with me right now, and that’s okay – but there’s no greater feat that falling and standing up once again… young man! ” I finished, parodying him.
He bowed his head, in an ironical deference.

That was the last time I saw him. After some time, we were told he’d gone abroad. And when he came back, a year later, he was married. Married! They say his wife’s adorable, they’ve even been seen skating together on the lake. They’ve got all the comforts of a modern house, such as a dishwasher and a coffee percolator. His bar-pilgrimage days are over: he drinks at home now, by his wife’s side. They drink, watch tv with the lights on and are happy together. Some say they wanna have a kid.
The bar’s about to close. The waitress is once more cleaning everything up, just like that other night seven years ago. She may be a different waitress, but I wouldn’t know. There’s no one on the other side of the table, and I wouldn’t have it any other way: I don’t want anyone coming over, I’ve got nothing to talk about, to anyone. He was right. In my innocence, I took his king, without realizing the board and the pieces were his. All I’ve got left is the romantic legacy: hiding behind a dozen bottles, in a dark café.
Someday, I shall pass it to someone else, and fly away from my cocoon. But until then, only the darkness of a bar.


RicAdeMus said...

What a great story! Dreamy little eyes...the words of a romantic, yes. =)

Anonymous said...

well written...:)

RONNY DIAS said...

Wow! Can't say I'm impressed, 'cause I know how well you write, so I gotta say I'm proud!

abhinav said...

beautifully illustrated .. i am stumped .. so elaborate .. so true.
Just loved it ...