I was sitting at my usual bar, slowly sipping on a rocky whiskey, when I saw her for the first time. It was a chilly November and she walked in wearing nothing but jeans and a t-shirt with skeletons printed on it. She was alone, seated herself two chairs away from mine at the bar and ordered herself my favorite whiskey.
“On the rocks please.” She asked the bartender. He gently placed the glass on the counter. The beautiful girl sipped on her drink, relishing every sip as if it was holy.
“You know staring is not very polite.” She eyed. I hadn’t realized I had been staring at her, but I wasn’t the kind to show my embarrassment so instead, I tried to reply calmly.
“Well, you did order my favourite drink.” I said.
“Is that all?” She replied with the same composure.
“It is a chilly evening and young miss you just walked in dressed in a thin t-shirt. I couldn’t help but wonder why wouldn’t someone wear a jacket at least.”
She smiled and said, “Well, I think it is not too often that one enjoys coldness of the cold.” And I had nothing more to say. I was mesmerised by this confident woman, with a contagious passion for life.
“Sir, should I get you another?” The damned bartender interrupted my thoughts, “Yes thank you.” I quickly replied.
I had originally planned on leaving, but I couldn’t resist, but try and spend more time with her. “And what do you mean by not enjoying the coldness of the cold?”
“Well, it’s just us humans, during summer we are always in air conditioning and in winter we layer ourselves with coats. I am not such a summer fan, but winter, it’s magical. I want to feel it completely.” She dazzled a smile.It made sense, what she said, somewhere along the line I did loose my enthusiasm for life.
At the age of thirty, I already felt like fifty with the estate business always fluctuating. “How old are you miss?” I couldn’t help but ask her.
“Old enough for you to be interested in me I suppose.” She giggled. “I’m twenty-four.” Well, she wasn’t so young then, maybe it was her spirit that was.
“I would love to join in your enthusiasm for winter, sadly I don’t think I have the energy to keep up with you.”, I said.
There was a moment of silence, she looked at me with her wide eyes, and there, again that smile. “You know, I think you must be thirty-thirty two, but your behaviour is that of an old drone, don’t you think you should live a little more?” But after the question, her face became serious.
I sipped on my refreshed drink. “I guess you are right, but where do I start?” I asked her as a joke.
She continued to look at me, her eyes focused, but then they looked through me to the window behind me. “Wait here a moment.”
She quickly got off her chair and rushed outside. I had the curiosity to wonder where she went but not the energy to turn and let my eyes follow her.
“Can you see her?” I asked the bartender.
“I’m sorry but spying on beautiful women isn’t my forte, sir.” He replied the way he said sir was always so stern, another odd cookie of my life, the bartender.
“You are as cold as the weather Steve.”
He just smiled and continued to do whatever the hell he always does.
She returned in a few minutes with two ice cream cones in her hands. “Here” She handed me one.
“It is already so cold, it’s already freezing, isn’t it?” I looked at her waiting for her to react.
“Well you did say you wanted to enjoy winter with me, so have it, chilly on the outside and inside. And since it is cold, you can slowly enjoy your ice cream, without having to worry about it melting, right?”
I couldn’t help but follow her instructions. That was the first time I ever had chocolate ice-cream with whiskey, but maybe, just maybe, it was that girl who made the experience enjoyable.
“What’s your name stranger?” She suddenly asked me.
“It’s John. And you are?”
“Rene, the writer.” She said it as if she was a superhero of a sort.
I laughed at this charming little girl. “I was just about to ask you about your occupation.”
“Haha, well it was a fairly anticipated question.” she teased me,”What is it that you do for a living, John?”
“Ah, I’m just another estate dealer. Nothing interesting enough to talk about.”
She suddenly jumped up on her chair and got closer to my eagerness,”On the contrary I feel everybody has a unique, untold story. Will you share yours with me?”
I was a dumbfounded. I laughed and regained my composure. “Untold, maybe. Unique? I doubt.”
“Then would you share your story with a stranger?”
“It is easier to share stories with strangers.” Not everyone I suppose, but true never the less.
We started talking, I didn’t want to stop after that. She told me a little about what she wrote about when I asked but I did most of the talking, I told her an awful lot about myself, I told her how dull my life had become, from the adventurous life I had when I was young. And for the first time I talked about Sarah after she passed away. The emotions I didn’t want to feel rushed to me after all this time. Rene didn’t cut me off, didn’t show pity and only soothed me with her gaze. She was a good listener, I could hear her phone vibrate on a number of occasions but she never picked it up. But whenever I tried to ask her something about her, she would change the subject. Just when I was about to ask her why she was there, a man stood in between us.
“Rene, why did you leave so suddenly? You weren’t picking up my calls, do you know how worried I was? I have been looking all over for you.” The young man genuinely looked worried.
“Adam, I have nothing more to say. Please just go away.” Rene’s eyes were getting teary. I almost got up in concern but I didn’t actually know her, my intervention wouldn’t be right.
“I’m sorry Rene, but running away like this isn’t the solution. Please let’s go home and discuss.”
She seemed reluctant, but she got up. He gave her a coat, which she took, but held it in her arms. As he paid for her, looking at me she said, “It was wonderful meeting you John, I hope you find the joy in living again. I’m sorry I couldn’t know more about you.” Sadly she smiled. Know more about me? What about knowing more about her?
“Rene, I don’t know what’s going on and I shouldn’t meddle, but I’m glad I met someone like you. Your zest for life is contagious, I hope that will always remain the same.”
With a sad smile, she nodded, took Adam’s arm and they were gone.
That night I sat there for hours, wondering why had I come across Rene, the way she was, attracted me, but was it all just a lie? Just a facade that lasted for a couple a few hours? Then was her charisma a lie that attracted me? I wondered for a long time. I kept visiting the bar as usual but not even once did we cross paths.
Sometime around Christmas though, one day, as I sat in my usual seat, the bartender approached me, I asked for my drink. “Yes, I shall get it in a moment. Umm..sir, earlier today a young lady came in here, Miss Rene, she asked me if you are a friend.”
“And what did you say?”
Steve cleared this throat,”I said we were mainly acquaintances. So then she quickly handed me a letter and left.”
“Letter? What letter?” He always wasted a lot of my time. He soon retrieved the letter and placed it in front of me.
I impatiently opened the white letter that had been handed to me.
‘John, Hello again, I am writing this to thank you, stranger. That night when I walked in the bar, I just wanted to forget everything and everyone, haha I don’t even know why am I telling you about my private life but I suppose I’m trying to unburden myself. The other night at the bar, that was my boyfriend. I hadn’t realised but I started to loose myself in that relationship. And when he told me that he’d cheated, I suddenly didn’t know how to fix everything. I was left with the feeling of nothingness and so I ran, I ran like a coward, but John, I’m glad that I did. I met you. I might never see you again, though. I ended things with him that night. I am moving away for another job tomorrow morning. I just wanted to let you know that the conversation we shared over whiskey and ice cream, it reminded me of the person I truly am. I want to be that person again. I’m glad you offered to join the eccentric merriment. I’m, now off to discover another place and another me. And I promise I will do my best and keep myself inspired along with trying to inspire others. Thank you.
PS : I hope you live your life hoping for a better future. I couldn’t say it that day but I’m sure Sarah wants you to be happy. Please love your life and move forward with that handsome smile of yours.
Four hours and thirty-two minutes I sat in the bar that day, drinking Rene’s favorite whiskey and re-reading the letter written by a stranger of no significance, who urged me to move forward.
I never saw Rene again.
I did visit Sarah for the first time, though, although it was almost after a year, but it wasn’t as miserable as I thought it would be, our meeting had been due for the longest time.
There I stood in front of her grave, with a bottle of Jack in one and an ice cream cone in the other hand. I could almost hear, my Sarah laughing at me for getting her an ice-cream in November.