The result of another writing exercise…and the slow recognition that almost everyone I write about is seriously messed from by previous relationships. Ah, hindsight.
“Thirsty?” Jim asked, as he watched Phil throw back yet another pint of beer without coming up for a breath.
“L’il bit,” was all Phil would say as he signaled the bartender for another round.
Jim had seen Phil drink before, but there was something different tonight; something desperate about the way Phil was pounding them back that reminded Jim of a man who was trying to drown himself 12 ounces at a time.
“Something you wanna talk about?” he asked, as he watched Phil connect the sweat rings left on the bar by the humid glasses; a massive game of connect-the-dots with no picture in sight.
Phil just sat there, head down, slightly slumped forward. The fact that his eyes were open was Jim’s only clue that he hadn’t fallen asleep; that and the random ministrations of a finger on autopilot, running across the bar.
Without Jim realizing it had happened, two more pints had suddenly shown up on the bar, bubbles rising skyward to form a frothy blanket across the top of the glass. Jim looked at his own mostly full glass and realized that he was falling seriously behind. Over the sound of his own gulping, he thought he heard Phil say something.
He looked over to see Phil staring at him with very weary eyes. Jim shuddered. Phil was only two years older than his own 42 years, but right now, he had the eyes of someone twice as old; someone who had been run over by life and was too tired to hide it.
“She called today,” said a voice that seemed to come from nowhere. “She called the office.”
Without explanation, Jim knew that “she” was Phil’s ex-wife Jacklyn; a wraith who liked to appear every so often to throw Phil off kilter. It wasn’t anything malicious, mind you. It was just that neither of them had ever really accepted that they were divorced. Phil and Jacklyn were proof that no matter how much two people love each other, no matter how much you live for the other’s company, that is still no guarantee of a successful marriage.
“How is she?” Jim asked, as much to fill the void as out of interest.
“Dunno,” Phil replied, between mouthfuls of beer. “I was out.”
A new low, Jim thought. Phil hadn’t even spoken to her and he was in a state. This didn’t bode well for the rest of the evening.