I'm sitting in this dimly lit bar, drowning my sorrows, and slowly killing myself while I'm at it. I see another poor soul doing the same thing two stools over. He's popping a pill, followed by a swallow of beer too. My pills are apparently stronger than his, since I only need to pop one in my mouth about every third sip. Then I notice that he is drawing something in the sweat of the beer mug on the bar top. I said, "I can tell you a story about the figure that you're drawing, if you want to hear it."
He turned his hung down head from the bar top and looked up at me. "What makes you think you know who or what I'm drawing?"
"I can because it is a self-portrait and also a portrait of me. We both have lost our meanings of life. You're much too young to be feeling that way, and I'm much too old to care, but I think I have to care about you. Something in your manner and that drawing are calling me to write about you and your misery. I think that we're tied together in some way by some invisible string. You draw and I write; that's how we'll survive the tragedies that have befallen us. Before you even think it, I'm not gay; just lonely and tired of the everyday grind that life has left for me. You're a young man and have a very great talent for drawing. I can see that from the drawing you're now doing that you lost a great woman, someone who was the love of your life. You feel lost and alone without her. You're not alone; I too lost the love of my life. We had fifty-four great and wonderful years together, but she's gone now, just like your love. My love died, but I can see that your love only left you for another."
"How can you see all that in my doodling? How can you know the heartbreak and anguish of losing someone to another? Someone who doesn't even come close to deserving her; how can you know all that just by looking at something in the wetness of a bar top?
Like I told you ... ah, I don't even know your name. Mine's Bill, Bill Monroe, I'm seventy-six years old, and I'm tired of living. My loving wife succumbed to cancer two years ago; she was stolen from me by a ravaging disease that claimed her body four years ago, and ravaged her for two years before she finally gave up and died. Did your love lie in a bed for almost two years wasting away from what was a healthy looking body to an emaciated husk of a human, all skin, and bones? My wife, who weighed 205 when she was diagnosed four years ago, barely weighed 65 pounds when she died. She was light as a feather and I was afraid that she would blow away in the wind. My son and his family were constantly there until she died, but they had their lives to live, and I became lost in the shuffle within six months. I could no longer stay in the house that we had lived in for forty years. The memories were almost too much, so I sold it and got an apartment. I lost my great grandchildren first; they were far away, and we lost touch. Their lives didn't include 'Pop Pop' anymore. They had their own lives to live and since I wasn't around, except in the cards and the money I sent at birthdays and Christmas, I became almost nonexistent.
"Then the grandchildren were next. They became more involved in their daily lives and the struggle life hands us in our middle years. Lastly, it was my son and his wife; they were now coming close to retiring and they promised me that we would go traveling, but we also lost touch because they were too involved in their plans to include me. So, here I sit in this bar, popping pills, and drinking beer with someone as lost to society as I am. So you see, I can feel the pain of heartbreak, the pain of loneliness, and the pain of disappointment.
"You, with the resilience of youth and the support of someone you loved, tried to break into the art world with your drawings and paintings, but just as you were breaking through that invisible barrier that separates the new found artist from the has-beens and the never-will-bes, you lost your reason for living to someone famous. You don't need to deny it; I can see the expression on your face. You lost her to a famous artist, someone who you thought would help you break into the glorious world of new art. Then you found out that he only wanted her, not you, and he needed to be around her in order to get her. To do that, he needed to bring you into his world until he had her in his clutches, then he could dump you and have her all to himself. No need to say yes or no; it's a story as old as time, and just as painful to watch and bear as watching a loved one waste away to nothing."
We sat at that bar, two stools apart in space, and yet two souls in agony over what life had thrown our way. We were suffering in silence, contemplating our next moves. Would we really finish what we had started, and take the last pill that would let us slip into the arms of Morpheus, then ride the boat across the Styx to our eternal damnation for taking our lives, or would we emerge from the ashes of our lives like the Phoenix, and rise above the pain and suffering of our lives and go on with new determination, a new goal, to become what we had always dreamed of being. Only time would tell.
I watched as my young friend (?) struggled with his own conscience, debating what he should do, just as I struggled with the same question. Could I actually complete my plan; could I take enough of these pain pills for my back and fingers, and actually slip off into a deep sleep never to waken again? I had always wanted to write, but I guess I had no real talent. I tried and tried to get published for over ten years. I tried almost all genres of fiction, then I got desperate and wrote a true story of my life; everything from my birth to that time in my life, when things were so great. But I wasn't famous, and I guess I wasn't that good of a writer, judging by the thousands of submissions I made and only receiving rejections. How could a writer break into that glorious world of authorship and acclaim if he was never given a chance. The most I could do was post stories on the internet. I had well over 200 stories running around on the internet, spread out over seven sites that accepted stories, by the time I was in this seedy bar, trying to drink and pop my way into death with the pills. But even then, not one had ever been picked up by a publisher, and they never would be. Yet some new author came into being every day, and one had to wonder how they did it. Their stories were no better than mine, some were even worse, but they got a break and I didn't.
How could that happen; you sent stories to the same publisher that took that hackneyed writer and published him. His story lacked depth, it lacked a good plot, and it was not that well written, so what did he have that you lacked? Had he put more coins in the Karma bank than you? Did he have more money than you, and cut a deal where he paid the bulk of the publishing costs, or what? Who knows, certainly not the reader of such crap? But they were published writers, and you're nothing but an internet author. Those people only write tripe and porn, they are not writers. WRITERS write about people and things that matter to other people who buy books, digital books, and crap like that.
During my introspection and meanderings within my own mind, I felt that my young friend was doing much the same of his life. What would the outcome of his internal battle be? Would he accept the friendship of someone who was as miserable as he, and somehow be able to go on with his life? It was hard to tell, but noticed that he was no longer popping pills and drinking his beer; but then too, neither was I.
Some time had passed before the young man looked over at me and said, "I'm Antonio Martinelli; 'Tony' to the few friends I had. Thank you for what you said, Bill. I can see that you are a man for whom words come easy. I can draw or paint, but I'm not so good with words. You were right about everything. His name was Giuseppe Todaro; he is Italian, and he could definitely paint. But his paintings depicted things and ideas; they didn't look like anything real. To me, his paintings were just splashes of color and jagged lines. I couldn't understand his works, but it seems Maria did. His paintings spoke to her on some level that I could never see or understand.
"She met him at a gallery and asked him if he would look at my work and give us an honest opinion. The gallery had some of my drawings and a couple of paintings on consignment, but nothing sold. Maria said that they had to go into the back warehouse to find my works. The gallery man had said that he would prominently display my work in his gallery. Even he lied to me; he couldn't be bothered to even show my paintings.
"Once Giuseppe saw my drawings, he said that they were very good and he would help Maria bring them to the front so that they could be seen. He worked with Maria and me to get me more exposure; he even talked the gallery owner into having a showing just of my work. I actually sold two drawings and one painting, but I later found out that it was Giuseppe who bought them so that he could look good to Maria. The drawings and the painting were of Maria. The drawings were mainly of her sitting at a table, but the differences were in the way in which the light shone on her face. The painting was her in a long gown, dancing with me at a ball. I posed her, and painted myself into the picture afterwards. It brought her inner beauty out, as well as the outer beauty of her face and figure. The showing was for a whole weekend, but nothing else sold and I was downcast and miserable.
"Maria continued to see Giuseppe, trying to get my paintings seen by other galleries, and I was busy painting and drawing everything from landscapes, to people, to just things in general. I even tried to paint anger, pain, and suffering when she left me for that man. But nothing was real anymore; my muse, Maria, was gone. I stopped caring. I can understand your grief, Bill, for I too have lost a part of me. Can we find someone to be our crutch, our support, who knows? Maybe we can; maybe we can help each other like you said. I do know some people who might be interested in your words, but I think I'll have to just face the fact that I will never sell a drawing or a painting again."
He raised his almost empty glass and said, "Here's to lonely men and lost reasons for living."
I raised my glass and we touched rims as I spoke; "Here's to a friendship that might have started out in the gutter, but may it soar with the eagles in the future."
We drank our beers and set the glasses on the bar, as the bartender came down and asked, "You guys want another beer?"
Tony said, "Not tonight, I think I need to have a long talk with my new friend. I think we have a new business to start. I hope to never see you again, but who knows what the future may bring."
I added, "Goodnight to you, good sir. We've enjoyed the evening and hope that we never have to come back except to reminisce about where we started our new lives."
"Get out of here, you faggots, don't even come back here. We don't need your kind around here!" the bartender said, as we left his establishment.