“It was cold, colder than anyone before. I can swear that I never got this cold. Every time I was here it got a lot warmer – completely different. Now I’m just really confused about this whole thing. I think how it could happen. Dudes here probably can’t explain either, but, every one of them has one thing in common. More like a word in common to be exact. I thought of the same thing because he could be the only one who would know that, the mystery behind this beer. How he turned it into something drinkable?”
I lowered my mug on the bar stool with a small force to it, some of the beer splashing out of it. I didn’t care about it. Only thing I cared about was the face he was making. How his face filled up with nothing. I can see that he can’t say anything about it and I thought: “Poor dude. He probably never heard anything like this and now he’s speechless.” then I see his lips start moving and his forehead shrinks. With wide blue eyes, he, questions me like a detective.
“It is what you really think of it… I think you hiding something behind the handsome wall of countless, meaningless bullshit story about the beer.”
His stare darts me in the face, but I can’t help but laugh at this and he finishes my laugh with a chuckle. We both smile at each other and he starts pouring another glass of beer. This time for himself.
As the glass pour, I light up my smoke. I know it’s a bad habit to smoke indoors, especially when my friend is a bartender, in some godforsaken wasteland. Watching how smoke lingers into the air, my mind can’t rest. I keep questioning how people even come here. What keeps them around here, and why? I don’t know, or I don’t want to know, that is why I just leave it as it is. Accept the fact as it is, they say. You probably thinking what I’m doing here, in this bar with a dinner across the street and with a few buildings around them. Abandoned in the fucking middle of a complete wasteland, even the air is heavier here. And I. Well, it’s a friendly visit on the way to ‘I don’t fucking know’ Literally I have no idea where I’m going. Think of it as a free way of life – me and my backpack. Like, the bartender has nothing to do with this in general, but I just remembered this fella from high school. Back in the day, he was skinny as hell. Now, looking at him. I can be sure that he hasn’t changed much. After all these years, he still looked like a matchstick – pale and skinny. I noticed that he’d probably go to the gym, you know, to get out of that skinny zone. By the looks of it, he never quite got to the point where people would stop calling him skinny. And I, I never do that kind of stuff. I’d rather do a couple of pushups in the morning and have a small run. Yes, the gym could make stronger, but can turn me less active, and that I don’t want.
Finally, I had enough and I wanted to know the answer to my question which was on my mind all along. For some legit time, I kept holding on to it, and finally, I decide to spill it out. To finally know what this place was.
“By the way, Nick, right?” I give a quick test to remember “Yes, you told me before last round. So, the question is: What is this place? Like what’s the name of the city because I didn’t see any sign and besides bar, dinner and a gas station there isn’t. Oh, and there is that police station? At least it looks like one, but I think there are one or two cops working on the whole block.” I chuckle in the end. Nick kept looking at me with a funny grin, creepy in a way too.
“Like the building here, the name doesn’t matter. We can’t be a town or anything. We are a simple stop for any kind of people. You couldn’t believe what kind of faces I got to see here, the stuff people do here. Stuff like drinking, smoking, drugs or sex, feels casual here” He lifts his glass and empties half of it. It lands on the counter with force. “And for a vagabond like you, you somehow manage to ask the right question.” I could feel the sarcasm from his voice, I began to worry.
“Wou, man. Relax, I’m just passing through like you said: ‘That’s what we do around here.’”
He laughs, loudly, alarming the other people there. Everyone is now looking at us and that makes me worried, but then it fades away when he begins talking.
“Are you a town or a place in the fucking nowhere?” I ask sarcastically and he laughs about it.
“More like a Bermuda in the fucking nowhere. Literally, I don’t even know how people come here, neither how people came up to this idea – build a few houses in the middle of nowhere but leave a highway.”
“Could be money?”
“Sure, sure, it’s always the money, or fame, right?”
He chuckled and turned away to another customer. He left me with my beer and tv chattering below the ceiling. It was some dumb box fight going on it. No one really cared what it showed, all it had to do was to fill the silence and entertain some eyes. None of it really mattered. What mattered was the fact I’ve seen Nick, and now I can disappear further. Kind of selfish, but that’s what I do for now. In that way, I can’t really get disappointed by my dear friend Nick. On often moments I kick my bag, which lais in front of my legs. I finish my beer before Nick can finish with his customer and raise my backpack from my feet to my lap. I shove my cup in a bag, the cup from which I drank beer the whole morning. He hasn’t noticed me getting ready to a leave. I start to think about stealing pecans from across the counter. I keep my stare at Nick and quickly grab a fist full of pecans from the bowl. It’s time to go. My backpack flips on my back and after adjusting the straps I lift off from a bar stool. I can feel slight wobbling in my knees as I land on the ground. Moving feels weird, as I feel being slightly tipsy. I can hear Nick saying something, but can’t make a sense of it. I wave my hand at his direction, hoping he will get the gesture.
Sun hits me right in the face as I exit the bar. The air feels better here. I feel more alive now, and the sense of being tipsy disappears. To be more sure I inhale with both nostrils one huge dose of fresh air and exhale it slowly. I don’t even know what day it is and I’m sensing it’s somewhere between seven and nine in the morning, perhaps ten, or eleven. I won’t doubt twelve. Brightness from the sun makes me wanna cover my head, for which I could only wish for. Reaching into my pocket for sunglasses, which I stole from some unfortunate dude at the previous gas station. In the far distance, I can see the gas station – probably the best chance for getting a ride out of here. It’s just a couple of minutes walk and I already begin complaining about the heat. All I can think about now is what my sister is doing. I don’t know why, but it just keeps mingling in my mind for the past minutes and it never happens like that. Usually, the last thought about people disappears after the minute, and that is for those who stick around.
I’m almost at the gas station and about walk into the territory of it, I hear the car approaching behind me. Immediately I jump aside, gently yet quick. I watch how it begins to slowly drive along with me, and the lady leans forward the window.
“Hey, beautiful. Care for a smoke with me?”
I walk along with it completely confused about what’s going on. For the first time in my life, I have no idea how to react to this, and blindly I say ‘yes’ I just couldn’t resist her voice. How she looked at me, with her blue-green eyes. Continuously I walked along with it until she parked in the parking of a gas station, on the way talking about how smoking is bad and people should quit it.
I felt trembling in my legs as she stepped out, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the ways I could lean her over. In brief seconds I forgot about her clothes and a picture of her naked ran through my mind countlessly. I asked her if she’s a model, but she didn’t hear it or pretended not to hear it. Either way, I didn’t stop looking at her.
“What’s your name?” She asked me after she inhaled the smoke from a cigarette.
“Stephan, yours?” I did the same gesture, figured it will impress her
“Nice to meet you, Stephan. Names Tracy.”
We made a small talk while finishing our cigarettes and got in the car. It was weird when she asked me to drive instead of her. I thought, whatever, why not. She had a lot of rock, alternative rock, folk, and so on. The huge pack of countless CDs was poking out of the glovebox. We slid into the folk music and drove on the highway. Within the moving car and wind howling outside of it, I felt blessed. The previous day I had no sense of leaving this place like this. For a long time, I haven’t felt that lucky or blessed, but who cares, right. While we were driving I couldn’t stop looking at her red hair and the smile she made, the mean grin on her face. I felt like a teenager again.
After some time on the road, we began feeling sleepy, yawning and desire for a coffee start crossing our minds, or just mine. I turned up the volume on the stereo, and AC/DC came on it.
“Oh, my favorite.”
She said and her head began leaning forward. Our eyes met and she slid down to my lap. I tried to focus on the road, and she tried to make me lose it. For a moment I wanted to ask her what she’s doing, but after it was in her mouth I lost the thought about saying anything. All I had left now was to focus on the road and don’t crash, at least try not to crash. I tried to stop smiling just for a moment, but I couldn’t. The enormous amount of euphoria mingled in my body, and I felt it rising up. Picture of her sitting on me appeared in my head and I looked for the closest place to drive off the highway. She didn’t stop, she was enjoying it and I was surprised about it. I stopped the car and she gently finished, and her head raised up to mine. Her smile was all across her face. With passionate kissing we fell into the back of a car. It didn’t take much for us to get naked and enjoy each other. For once I felt passion or love. I had no idea what it was. The beautiful act of two strangers was the title for it, for which we came up after the sex. We lid our cigarettes in her wet and smelly air inside her car. The cigarette was always the thing for me, especially after the sex, when cigarette felt more like a relaxing tool. When our eyes met I couldn’t stay silent.
“So, darling. What comes next?”
“Next? Next, we’re going to Mexico.”
To be continued…