I drove to Issaquah with the top down, my favorite brown jacket wrapped me in an orgasmic layer of comfort. “Pink Floyd” played through the speakers, of course. (It plays now, though a different album.) I sped through the twisty roads and trusted the GPS to get us there safely. Of course it did.
At the bar I ordered the barleywine I’d come for, and a cheap order of buffalo chicken sliders. My mind didn’t process in that moment that combining spicy food with a barleywine may not have been the best idea.
I read a different book now, Top 10 Volume 2. The book had one issue left, and that’s the time it took me to drink my beer, have the spicy sliders, and notice a man and woman sit down at the bar.
The bar curved and they sat at the spot I had occupied last time.
There was something about the man that struck me as familiar.
He looked to be fifty years old, or so. He had short hair, and when he turned to the woman on his left, I could see a surgical scar on the right side of his head. He was quiet and rarely spoke.
The woman was quiet too, and for a while she stared into her phone. He moved the silverware around, slowly. The server got their orders, I read my book and finished the spicy lunch, trying to enjoy my barleywine as I hurried myself along. I had plans after this.
It was the same man. The man who spoke to me while I sat here and read a different comic book, drank the same beer, had a small order to munch on. The man who spoke nonsense last time, and I reacted so poorly. He was simply looking for someone to talk to, and I rejected him. He said that I would, he expected it.
The man smiled and looked happy, when he spoke to the woman next to him. I recognized a lot of his features from that night, but not that smile. I don’t believe I ever saw him smile before.
What happened to him? Was that a sign of an attack, of an illness, an accident?
When the server placed a basket in front of the two, he beamed and reached for the fries, snagged a handful and happily munched on them. He ate the dark-breaded sandwich with glee, clearly enjoying himself.
He looked happy. The previous madness was gone. He was no longer Mad Max, the Bar Warrior. He had come home, and was comfortable here.