I do not usually go to bars and pubs nor do I drink beer, but tonight was different. I was drenched in tears and heartache. My chest could have exploded from the pain if only it could. I decided to entertain myself and get myself some beer before I head home. I dropped by at a local bar, where there were few people. My goal was to drink, yet think at the same time. Just one bottle, and that’s it.
I sat at a table near the counter, placed my steno on the table and tucked my pen on my right ear. Sipped my beer from time to time as I try to clear my mind. Push the thought away from my head.
“Would you mind if I sit here?” A guy asked politely, smiling at me.
“Oh, no. Not at all.” I answered, moving my steno closer to me to give him room on the table.
“Thanks,” he said, winking at me. “I haven’t seen you here before.”
I smiled back. “A first time for everything, I guess.”
I shook my head. “Been here for almost seven years now.”
“I see.” He took a sip from his beer mug, and smiled at me again.
I smiled back.
“Are you a journalist?”
I chuckled, realizing he was looking at the pen I tucked on the right ear. “Oh, no. I just carry notes with me should I ever have ideas for what I am to write next. Fiction.”
“Oh, a novelist, I see.”
“So, how’s it been for you, Mr. Novelist?”
“Pretty nice, actually.” I said, taking another sip of beer.
“You are a quiet lad.”
“You are perceptive.”
“So, what brought you here?”
“Beer,” I simply said.
He nodded, taking another sip of beer from his mug. “I take that you are here to relieve the pressure from work?”
“Not really, no,” I answered, drinking my beer, “you are a curious lad.”
Chuckling, he replied, “And you are perceptive.”
I smirked, moving my steno closer to me.
“Is that a writer thing?” he asked again, “you smirk at people from time to time?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve been smirking.” He smiled.
“I do not know about other writers, but I do. Quite a lot, actually.”
“I can see that,” he said, winking at me. “So, what are you writing?”
“Right now, nothing. Just walking around, looking for inspiration.”
“People, you mean?”
I laughed, almost hysterically. “Why do you, people, always think it has to be someone?”
“And what then, if not?”
“Good question,” I said, taking another sip of beer. “It could be an event in your or someone else’s life, a thing you saw in the park today, a conversation you overheard in the subway, a food you ate today—pretty much anything.”
He nodded, pursing his lips. “And how about you, Mr. Writer, what inspires you?”
Smirking, I answered, “Right now, no one, nothing.” I moved my eyes away from him, fixed it at a blank space outside the bar, and sighed.
“Writer’s block?” He asked.
I shrugged. He smiled.
“What inspires you, Mr. Writer?”
“Pain,” I said, looking at him, “I worship pain.”
He sat there for a moment, staring at me, perplexed or so he seemed. “Pain?” He echoed.
I nodded, sipping my beer. “Pain.”
“Pain is universal. It is something that everyone can relate to. In one way or another, everyone knows what pain is. Everyone has experienced pain, seen pain, succumbed to pain, conquered pain, hated pain, loved pain. It is something no one can escape from. You either defeat it or it defeats you, but you cannot run away from it.”
“Deep,” he said nonchalantly. “How about happiness? It is something that everyone can relate to. In one way or another, everyone knows what happiness is. Everyone has experienced happiness, seen happiness, surrendered to happiness, fought for happiness, wanted happiness, loved happiness. It is something everyone wants. You either find it or it finds you, but you know deep down that you want it and you deserve it.”
I smirked. “You make a lot of sense. At the same time, happiness is overrated. There are tons of works out there that talk about happiness, giving readers false expectations of what happiness is for them.”
“So you’d rather tell people about pain?”
“Because pain is real.”
“So is happiness.”
I looked at him, straight in the eyes, and smiled. “You make a lot of sense, but I do not know who you are.” I extended my hands for a shake, “My name’s Czak Alastar. My friends call me Star.”
He shook my hands, smiling. “I’m Stephen. My friends call me Skip. I work in IT, and I am here most of the time.”
I smiled. “Skip, interesting nickname. And thank you for that very brief introduction.”
He gestured a bow, as if to say “you’re welcome.” He smiled at me again, this time, looking straight at my eyes. “It’s either you have been sleepless or crying. Your eyes are really red.”
I shook my head gently, smiling at how perceptive he was. “How about both?”
His smile faded. “What happened?” He asked, sounding really concerned.
“Things I did not want nor expect,” I answered. “And I don’t really wanna talk about it with a stranger. No offense.”
“None taken.” He smiled. “Can I get you another bottle of beer?”
I looked at my beer and saw that it was almost empty. I smiled at him. “Oh, no. Thanks. I don’t usually drink. I really appreciate your offer though.”
He nodded. “How about . . . uhhmm . . . coffee? Or juice? Or milk?”
I looked at him with squinted , eyes, smiling. “Are you hitting on me?” I joked.
“You are perceptive, Mr. Pain-Worshipping Writer,” he answered, “I have been hitting on you since I asked to sit with you.”
My jaw dropped.
“I think it’s time someone shows you what happiness is, someone to inspire you so you could write again, and if you will let me, Mr. Czak Alastar di Angelo, I will be that someone.”
My jaw dropped even more. I never told him my last name.
“You know who I am.”
He smiled. “How could I not? Those beautiful brown locks, those dreamy eyes, those lips that make the rose hesitate to bloom in their presence.”
I stared at him, blankly.
“When Boys Love, Against the Current, Eternal Summer, and Scribbled Emotions.” He smiled, enumerating the titles of my works. “I saw you when I came in, and I just couldn’t not help but approach you. I am a fan. We went to the same high school, and even back then, you were awesome.”
I felt my ears heat up. I felt flustered. I knew I was blushing. “I’m sorry,” I said, picking up my steno from the table. “I have to go. It was nice meeting you, Skip. It really is. But I have to go.”
“Is this how you are now, Star?” He asked. “You were different back then. Always smiling. Always bubbly. Always happy. You brought happiness to people, especially to me. Simply seeing you smile as you walk down the hallway before.”
“Things have changed,” I replied, “and you have no right to ask me that. You have no idea what I have been through, Skip. It was nice meeting you.” I turned my back and left.
“Do you not want to be happy? Why do you deprive yourself of happiness?”
That stopped my pace. I turned. “Pain,” I said, looking at him, “I worship pain.”
I stormed out of the bar, tears falling down my cheeks. Skip was a good guy. I remember him now. The guy who always said hi to me, the guy who always appreciated my works on the school paper, the guy who always asked me if I have new works, the guy who offered help whenever I really needed it. Back then, he wasn’t called Skip; I knew him by different name.
I felt bad for him and for myself. I know Skip could have made me happy. I know I deserve happiness. But I am not looking.