Outside the bar

Between the bookstore and the funeral home is a stub of a street, practically a driveway, and that’s where the door to the bar is. It’s mid-summer, the air is a warm bath. I’m waiting on a friend.

I sit down on the curb near the edge of the streetlight’s circle, but not in it. From the shadows, I hear muttering, and a wiry man walks into the light. His short dreads are bouncing as he shakes his head side to side.

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no. You all go away.” He’s pacing around the edge of the light, still shaking his head at the ground. “I’ve had enough of you! Go.”

“Are you ok?” He doesn’t respond, I’m not sure if he hears me. I try again. “Do you need help?”

He lifts his head and he nods. “I just need some peace,” is all he says.

I pat the curb next to me. “Would you like to sit down?”

He stands there looking at me, and then at the curb. He checks over his shoulder into the shadows and then sits. He’s shaking a little and rocking a little. He wipes his eyes of tears I didn’t notice before. I put my hand on his shoulder. “It’s ok,” I tell him.

“I got stuff up here, in my head.” He knuckles it twice. “Won’t leave me alone. I know it’s not there but it’s there anyway.” He stops and listens a while, a finger behind his earlobe. “Anyhow I think they don’t like you. They quiet now.”

“That’s good.” I don’t know what else to say.

“Can’t keep track of they coming and going. Tires me out.”

“Can I help you get home?” He doesn’t need my help, we both know that. This helping thing, I see how it is. I want to make myself feel better.

“I live nowhere. Sometimes I go to my sister’s house, but not like this. Her kids, they don’t need to be around this. I gotta protect them.”

He puts his head in his hands, elbows balanced on splayed knees. “Can’t get an apartment without a job. Can’t get a job without an address. Go to the shelter, hope the demons fly.”

My friend arrives, her red hair swinging. She yells at me. “What are you doing? Come inside!” Maybe she thinks he doesn’t catch her meaning, or maybe she doesn’t care. I want there to be a right thing to say. I don’t know what to say to either of them. I stand up, shake his hand like a preacher, wrapping my left hand around to make a knot. He sits back down. “It was nice talking with you, lady. And don’t mind her.” He smiles and points a finger at my friend. “I think she one of them.”