At the Bar..
There was nothing unusual about the night, no air of celebration since it was still the middle of the week. The patrons trickled in and out in handfuls, never permitting the lounge the privilege of ever feeling crowded.
I was working my shift behind the bar for the day-4:30PM — 12:30AM-, doing my best to look excited and cheerful. In my two years working at the bar this was probably going to be my worst act yet. My day hadn’t gotten off to the best start that morning and I was almost tempted to call in sick. Knowing how my employers frowned upon staff taking sick days I figured I could manage to drag myself in and put up some sort of front, long enough to earn my pay.
I figured I would meet a mixture of the day’s regular characters who could either put an interesting perspective on my plight or be some form of welcomed distraction, the regulars who constantly stayed hunched over the bar top staring endlessly into their drinking glasses, the sports enthusiasts who had grown addicted to the act of having a lager and screaming at the TV screen simultaneously, the newbie couple who figured having a simple drink wouldn’t be indicative of either party taking their relationship to a rather awkward stage. The last group always made the best item of entertainment for the evenings; watching them go from stiff and formal before ordering their drinks to older impressions of giggling teens with restless limbs as they usually would seem after several drinks was a transformation I never got tired of. Unfortunately for tonight such a thing was the last encounter I was anticipating.
The previous night, after work, I had managed to make it home with bed being the only thing on my mind. That was till she called. Not like her calls weren’t expected, but this call was different. Her tone was different, the things she spoke about were different and somehow my emotions which typically stayed well buried and hidden were so close to the surface. By the time we were done talking it felt all too familiar; the slow throbbing pain in my chest, the helpless drowning feeling and the self-loathing.
It was one of the reasons why I had ended the relationship several years ago, the way she made me feel; so bare and vulnerable. In those moments I also felt oddly satisfied but when the fights came up the emotions were so visceral and amplified, the vulnerability and drowning feeling felt almost unbearable. I wondered if this was what love felt like or some form of emotional prison, ultimately I chose to end it convinced the relationship was toxic. There haven’t been any new relationships since then. Little did I realize that my night was going to experience several interesting insights.
Mr. Gbenga had been a bar regular way before I started working there and as soon as my first day I quickly found out why the other bartenders lit up when he walked through the door. Not that he was a particularly generous tipper or anything, he always just seemed to be the life of the bar whenever he was around to have a couple of beers. From what I gathered he worked in a Parastatal and the friends he brought along on occasion seemed to regard his opinion highly. By the time I had become familiar with him I soon understood why, he had a wealth of knowledge about a whole lot of things and before I realized it I was also getting advice from him as well.
Mr. Gbenga had a very cunning way of getting people to open up to him, almost like he derived some sort of pleasure from knowing something new about people he spoke with. I had joined the Bar hoping not to have to discuss my background with anyone of my colleagues but it just so happened it had been a full house the day I found myself telling him I had a University Degree in Political Science.
“..a degree in political science???..” Mr. Gbenga was silent for a handful of seconds before he said anything else. He would always want to have me air some my opinions around some of his drinking buddies after that, which I was not too comfortable with. So it just so happened that he had come to have a drink all by himself on this particular night. I had already given a couple of other regulars my distant, non-involved look by the time he walked in and I believed the same trick was going to work on him.
“Caleb, how’s it going? Please let me have a beer please, my regular.”
I tried to respond in my driest tone, “Afternoon sir. Yes sir.”. Mr. Gbenga seemed not to notice as he had started staring intently at his smart phone and typing rapidly.