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I don’t know Joe, living a lie is better than living a life alone...

Nightlife, a short story accompanying the original oil painting by Theo MichaelHave you seen the guys on television, the guys acting out as bar staff, they are always polishing their glasses, and here I am, doing it right now. The difference is, I am not exactly staff, I own this joint.

A survey I once read said everybody wants to own a bar or cafe at some point in their life. Me, I worked hard, saved a lot, and made it happen. It’s not a bed of roses, but you are never lonely.

On the downside, it is long hours, the plus side, you make a lot of friends. Some customers even think they live here. Mike Jarrett is here again, he comes most nights. Well he’s more than a customer, we go a long way back, school friends actually.

‘Hey Joe’ he shouts out ‘How about a drink for my wife?’

‘The usual’ I ask?

‘Yeah, Gin & Tonic with a slice of lemon, for me another large whiskey.’

I pour them out and get back to my polishing. I can hear Mike reminiscing.

‘Hey Tina, do you remember the time in Paris, when that young girl asked me if she could buy a drink. I said sure, why not. It was only at the end of the evening when we got a bill for 100 Francs we knew what she meant. They had to call the police, but we certainly weren’t going to pay her bill. ‘

I look up, Mike is laughing his head off at his own story. He catches me looking.

‘Hey Joe, don’t you think my babe is gorgeous?’

‘Sure Mike, she certainly is’ I reply as I always have.

‘Throw us a box of matches, will you, my Tina needs a smoke.’

I throw him a box from behind the counter. ‘They say smoking is not so good for you, harms your health you know, ever thought about quitting?’

‘Well, maybe one day, but it won’t be tonight.’ He is in a jovial mood. ‘Tina drink up, you’ve hardly drunk a drop. You know I hate drinking alone, another round Joe, same as usual.’

I pour the drinks and volunteer to drive Mike home, it is close to closing time. He is downing the drinks down a little too swiftly.

One can never predict how busy the bar would be in the evening. I have a couple of part time staff that I could call if I couldn’t handle a busy night. Tonight has been quiet. I’m not bothering about cashing up, leaving it to do in the morning.

As promised I pick up the car to drive my friend Mike home. He staggers a little. ‘My darling’ he says, holding the door open, ‘careful how you get in. I’ve never noticed how long and sexy your legs are. Joe, take your eyes of my wife’s legs.’

‘Mike, I am not even going to answer that.’ I reply. ‘You’ve had a little too much to drink and I am going to take you home.’

I start the car, drive off and take the first turning left. It isn’t quite the right way, but it is something I have to do. Life can be so cruel and unfair.

 I ease up at Northwood cemetery. I’ve been coming here a lot lately. Looking in at this time of the night, over a small brick wall, you can see a beautiful array of candles all lighting up the tombstones, creating a most restful and calming mood.

‘I want to visit someone Mike’ and start to get out of the car.

‘Do you want me to come with you Joe?’

‘I would like that if you don’t mind.’ I replied.

He turns around, ’Tina, you look a little bit sleepy, best you stay in the car. Joe and I won’t be a minute.’

We walk through the graveyard, it is so peaceful. The atmosphere is contagious, it takes a hold of you and makes you believe. I stop at this handsome marble tombstone, someone had spent a lot of money on it. I gently grab Mike’s arm.

‘Mike’ I say ‘I know you’ve had quite a bit to drink, but can you read what it says on the tombstone?’

‘Cause I can’ he takes a few seconds to focus and begins to read out loud. ‘In loving memory, Tina Jarrett, born April 1940 died June 1975.’

He looks at me like a child. ‘My wife is dead?’

‘You know Tina is dead Mike, a car accident, a year ago. My friend you really have to come to terms with it. Do you understand what I am saying?’

He looks at the floor and eventually finds the words to answer. ‘I don’t know Joe, sometimes I do, but most times I don’t. Living a lie is better than living a life alone.’

He breaks down and weeps. I have no idea how to help him.

There are no words of advice that I can give. I put my arm around him to console him. After a long silence he regains his composure.

‘Thank you for being here for me. Let’s get back to the car, Tina is still waiting.’

I look at him in disbelief!

‘Only kidding Joe’ and he forces a smile.

I breathe a sigh of relief, there is hope after all.

Story by Theo Michael

 



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