The neon lights beckoned like the sirens of Greek lore, pulling his car to a parking spot before he even gave himself the option of a second opinion. It didn’t matter anyway. There was no angel to provide divine intervention tonight.
It came suddenly. Or it was long in gestation. He wasn’t sure either would have made things any better. All that mattered now was that she was dead, he was alone, and a beer or three were in his immediate future.
He had never been much the drinking type before. Socially sure from time to time, but he had been more the one to drive someone home so they could sleep off the bender, or holding the hair of another as they poured out body and soul to be washed away as if they had never existed. Yet it was amazing how fast a taste of the inevitability within the human condition could make a bar seem like the finest of mouthwashes. It didn’t hurt that the creators of happy hour knew their way around effective advertising either.
A few people still dotted the front of the bar, so he took a seat in one of the back red leather booths facing the street. He could feel the puff of air as the cushion deflated beneath him. The wood table bore the scars of boozy dedications to love or the love for it. A wash would have helped to make the place look dirty again. Outside the open window, the lights buzzed like yellowjackets as he buried his head in his hands. It wasn’t till he felt the impatient tap on his shoulder that he bothered to look up again.
What he could only assume was the bartender stood beside him, bald, white shirt rolled to the elbows, a spot of what looked to be blood or spaghetti sauce marring the left collar. Judging by the surroundings, both seemed like legitimate possibilities.
“What are we toasting tonight, pal?”
He looked down at his watch. 12:05 am. The choice would be easy for once.
“Life and death, my friend. Life and death.”
Happy birthday to me, he thought as he stared out the window into the moonless night.