Two people come together in a place neither of them know.
|There are the days when you reach for the stars and then there are the nights when the stars reach for you. It was one of those nights that I met her. Stepping through the door of the bar and emerging from the shadows like a phoenix blazing out of the dark ashes of the night. As I turned my head to look, the light from the neon signs glinted off her eyes and the smoky haze in the air gave her aura a surreal quality. As she walked through the dim red light of the wood paneled room she quietly took control me and every person there that night. Most didn’t realize it, some didn’t even see her but we would all come to live and die by her actions that night.
Sitting in a booth along the back wall I had the terrifying pleasure of watching her walk all the way through the bar. She was the kind of woman that you might not look twice at on any other day. Casually dressed in a way that wouldn’t make her stand out, cleaned up enough up for work but not enough to otherwise draw attention. You couldn’t call her plain but she’d never grace the cover of a magazine. Somehow though, the moment she stepped over the threshold, she owned the room and everyone in it. This place was hers and she knew it.
What seemed like hours could only have been seconds as she passed by the bartender. She ignored the Jukebox as it cracked and hissed with her footsteps. The stares, hellos and dropped jaws bounced right off of her as she made her way towards the back of the dimly lit room. There was a calm haste in her step as she moved through the tables and chairs. She knew where she was going since before she even got there, we were the ones who weren’t sure at least most of us.
As I watched her glide through the bar towards her destination, it dawned on me that she had passed everyone else in the bar. I was the only person sitting that close to the back wall. As my mind was reaching to grasp the single most confusing clarification I’d ever experienced our eyes met and I knew instantly that I was right. That it was actually her.
I sat shocked for the moments that it took her to close the distance between us. I came out of it as she sat across from me in the booth, sliding across the faded red vinyl with a natural ease that comes from some certain familiarity with places like the one that I now sat in. I didn’t know what to say, we sat silently for a moment, me keenly aware of the pressure of the eyes that were ignoring us.
Finally she spoke. “I’ve been looking for you.”
I didn’t even know how to begin to respond to that. This woman, this average queen of an average bar, had been looking for me, and for some reason I wasn’t surprised. I managed to stammer out a response, “But, how? Who are you, and who do you think I am?”
“I know exactly who you are, and who I am isn’t important right now,” she replied. Her voice wasn’t exactly sweet, but I was drawn to it. In it I could hear the comfort of home, the mystery of the road, the sins of too many long nights and the forgiveness of so many Sunday mornings. “How is a little more interesting.”
I had a hard time imagining anything this woman said being less interesting. I was captivated, like the rest of the room had been the moment she walked in, but even more so. I was hers. So it was there, under the watchful eye of a blinking neon beer sign, that she began to tell me how.
“I’m not from here; in fact I’ve never been here before. Until two days ago I’d never even heard of this place.”
Although I had asked, it was a familiar story, one I already knew because it was mine as well.
“I was driving home from work and suddenly I saw this bar, this booth and you sitting in it. I knew exactly where it was and exactly how to get here. I didn’t know why but I knew what I had to do.”
Two days before I’d had a similar experience. A day dream while in the middle of my nine to five, a welcome respite from the monotony, an escape from the repetitive nature of my job, and one that I often take. This one was different though, I wasn’t guiding it, it was guiding me, I saw the bar, from the same vantage point that I now sat and as she had said, I knew exactly how to get here. The dim lights and smoky air obscuring the magnetic shadow that was walking toward me in my mind.
“I couldn’t see your face but I felt like I knew you, or that I needed to.”
She finally let a smile crack her lips, “It’s nice to meet you.”
I sat there falling into her eyes as the room shrank around us until it was just her and I.
“Likewise,” I said.
We sat in silence as the other patrons slowly filtered out of the room. Looking at one another and learning more in the stillness than words could ever have allowed. It was all a formality I suppose, a collective agreement to keep up appearances. I had known this woman forever, even if we hadn’t ever met.
The bartender pulled us from our silent conversation to tell us that he was closing up. I looked around only to realize that we were the only people left in the twilight of the smoky atmosphere. Resigning ourselves to the night we walked outside in the same silence that we had sat inside.
As we crossed the threshold, something changed. We looked at each other. I could see her eyes still glinting, but not as brightly, in the glow of the streetlamp. I leaned in to kiss her and I knew immediately that it was wrong, she wasn’t the girl that I had always known and just met in the bar, she was somehow different; as though the impending moment of our separation had changed her. Maybe it had changed me as well.
I got in my car and began the long drive home, thinking about what had just happened. One silent conversation, one mistaken kiss, one meaningless goodbye and I was on my way home. Sixteen hundred miles, two days, and one woman that I’ll never forget later, I knew I was a changed man in a changed life.