It’s almost midnight on a Saturday, and the young girl, well she’s not so young anymore, sits on her bar stool, fondling a bottle of beer. The barroom swells with people, but she sits alone. It used to be she came here to wait for someone, it really didn’t matter who, but that was a long time ago, and she knows there’s no one, no one who cares if she comes or if she goes. In this room full of people, she realizes she’s somebody nobody knows. Invisible to the world.
There was a time when she sat on a bar stool, just like this one, and the image in the mirror reflected streaks of makeup running down both cheeks, and it made her cry all the more. But she stopped putting on makeup when she realized it was only herself she tried to fool. And the well of tears had long since gone dry.
Molly left her family a few years ago, and she still doesn’t understand why. It must be genetics. Her father—she recalls his name being Michael—ran off and left her and her mother when she was a young girl. I guess she just returned the favor. She hates her father and she hates herself for the same reason.
As she sits and sips on her now warm beer, she occasionally glances in the mirror and catches herself peering back at the men, seemingly enjoying life, no more than a few feet behind her. Men who don’t know she exists. Now and then, while she stares, her eyes catch the eyes of one of the men. And when it happens, he quickly turns his gaze, and it’s painfully obvious to her that he’s not yet drunk enough to be interested.
Tonight, however, there is one man. She finds herself staring at him, and notices him staring back, but, unlike the others, he doesn’t avert his eyes. It’s strange. The cigarette smoke clouds her vision, but the man is somehow familiar. But she can’t place him. He’s a much older man, who appears road weary. At first she assumes his age at seventy or more, but upon closer inspection, she realizes he must be ten years younger. And it occurs to her, the same could be said for her. She could never pass for the thirty-five she is.
His eyes, though tired, give him away, appearing much younger than his face. She recognizes those eyes. But who and where? Too many long nights with too much alcohol and too many drugs. Her mind is gone and the memory with it. If she could only remember.
She’s someone’s daughter. Yet, no claim has been filed.
The old man’s hands shake as he lifts the glass of whiskey to his lips. He sits alone at a table in the corner of the barroom. People pass him, but no one sees him. He’s in a world of his own. One that he created.
He wasn’t always alone, but when he left his family, the loneliness became part of the deal. As lonesome as he is, he has no regrets. Not for nothing he’s done. He’s given up searching for something he could never find. The life he’s lived is something that will be easy to leave behind, and there won’t be anyone who will mourn or miss him when he’s gone.
Across the room he observes the barflies, as they sit and drink and stare with blank faces into the mirror that hangs on the wall. He notices at the end of the bar, sitting alone, a young girl. At least she appears young to him. She might be the age of his daughter. What was her name? Molly? But he’s long forgotten birthdays and faces and walks in the park.
It’s odd, but he notices the girl staring at him, and he can’t help himself and returns her gaze. She seems familiar. Funny, after a few drinks everyone seems familiar. But this time it’s different. He feels as if he knows her. But who and where? Too many nights of booze and drugs have addled his mind and he can’t remember yesterday, let alone memories from his past. Maybe one more drink and then he’ll be on his way.
He’s someone’s father. Yet, he abdicated that role long ago.
The lights go down a notch, a signal to the remaining patrons that the bar is about to close, and it’s time to leave. For most of them, they have someplace to go, but they would rather stay here. The old man is the first one out the door, followed by several others. He staggers from the alcohol, but it’s not only the booze. He’s abused his body over the years, and each step brings debilitating pain.
Outside in the cool night air, something down the alley catches the old man’s attention, and he trips on the uneven sidewalk and falls face first into the gutter. His lips kiss the cold, hard pavement, and the world remains unaware. The late crowd shuffles by, and not one of them takes the time to look down where he lay, as he struggles to get back to his feet. Lying in the wet, filthy gutter, absent-minded, he attempts to wipe the stains from his clothes. But why? He can’t expect to remove stains that have become embedded in his shabby clothes for far too many years.
Just outside the door, Molly stands with her back against the wall, and she lights up a smoke and observes the scene unfold. She sees the old man stagger away and watches him fall into the gutter. And she feels nothing. When she notices the others file by without so much as a glance toward the helpless man, she imagines him being a piece of litter the world threw away. Once, it would have broken her heart and she would have gone to him, but her heart has long since hardened to stone, and like the others, she turns and walks away.
After Michael regains his feet, he shuffles and staggers to his waiting, one room apartment. To a life he can’t blame on anyone else. For his life, the one he had coming to him. In the darkened room, it’s just him and his bottle. A familiar old friend. His only friend. In a city where nobody cares if he dies alone.
Molly has arrived home, and after dropping her keys onto a small table next to a ratty old couch, she picks up a weathered photograph and stares at it. It’s a photo of a man and a girl. They sit happily together on a park bench. The day is sunny and they both wear big smiles. She gazes at the picture. She focuses on the man. His eyes look so familiar. She wants them to, but the tears won’t come. But still she cries. And no one hears.