Ian said with a smile as he opened the gate for me.
“Until there is no more south.”
“Well, there has to be water technically.”
“You are a smarty-pants technically.”
I shrugged him off.
He started Alaska and we drove our way out of the city.
It was a dull night but you could think about the white beaches all the way to ignore that. I saw the blocks leaving behind, and then the streets and freeway exits, leading us to highway.
I had never had a road trip before that, maybe I never had needed one. Miles after miles as we kept crossing the state, I counted the yellow lines on the road and the green mile markers those passed by.
I switched off the light, we could not see each other now. Maybe Alaska was invisible for the world too. Well, except for the headlights.
I looked out of the window, wide spread grasslands which looked substantial and no matter how fast would we drive they would return back a yowl of fear, like we were always in their claw, like some eyes were looking from across, always.
I rolled up the window back.
Ian was driving, I could feel him beside me. I felt safe. Few cars would pass every now and then with their high beams on.
It would not have been a nice idea to distract Ian, so I laid my head back on the headrest and thought watching the roof over my head.
I concluded that you can’t do too many things in a car, and when you can’t do many a thing, boredom takes over your mind slowly and then all of a sudden you feel like the most bored person surviving.
We had had our food at our homes and what we had to do was to drive all the way to somewhere far we had never been before.
I saw some lights at a distance on the road, I looked at Ian, pulling up my legs up to the dashboard.
He said, glancing me.
“I would like to stop for a while.”
He looked confused.
“There are lights at some distance, maybe there is some bar or something.”
He looked towards the lights as we drove closer to them.
“Yeah, seems like it.”
We reached there, I keeked through the window. It was a small bar named the ‘The Melted Snowman.’
He stopped the car by the road.
It was not a pee call, it doesn’t call me that often.
I just wanted to breathe for a while. I walked up to the bonnet and on my toes I jumped upon it just to get my ass fried like a steak.
“Fuck, Fuck, and Fuck it burns oh my God.”
“Why the heck would you sit on Alaska’s head, it is sure not expected to be as cool as its name.”
I kicked in the sand.
We left the car there.
The bar looked like a chalet, having no décor at all, at least on the outer. The main door had a knock ring. After a few knocks a young woman opened the door for us.
“Welcome to the night.”
She said with an elegant smile. And
welcomed us in.
I smiled back to her. Ian followed me inside.
The summers were leaving and it was cold at nights, but the inside felt warm and cozy.
There were round tables placed unorderly and few men were sitting on the long straight benches kept by them. Some gossiped with beers in their hands. ‘The Yellow Rose’ was being played softly from an unknown source. It seemed to be an old man dive kind.
We approached the counter, there were plenty of drinks in the back bar but none to serve, so we sat down on the stools kept there.
From the left, a staircase led to the first floor.
After a while, I looked at the woman and called her to ask if there was any bartender present there.
She had sat on a small stool kept few feet away left of the main door.
“You might be willing to be a friend first.”
She said from the distance and stood up to approach us.
“Friends with whom?”
I squizzed Ian and asked looking at the Woman.
“With the old man.”
She said pointing her finger towards the staircase.
“Isn’t this place fucking weird?”
Ian whispered in my ear.
“Seems so, let’s look out for the old man anyway.”
We stood up and walked up the staircase which led us to the first floor. The roof was arched and coinciding on the top like a hut’s, forming a long line across the large room, it was almost as high as our heads where we stood but high at the center where the bed was placed. There were a few paintings, copies of some famous ones hung and a fireplace along the left wall. An old man had been lain on the bed, contemplating the burnt off wood in the fireplace. Looking right into the amber of it.
He did not notice us entering.
“May we come in?”
I said in a low voice hoping to get noticed.
The old man looked at me, just with a slight shift of his eyes.
“Of course, children, you are welcome, come have a seat.”
He said in his low deep voice with a smile more elegant than the woman at the floor below had, which was also considerably good.
This person looked true, tenable and convincing his oldness with his looks. Freckles and wrinkles on the face, a little beard on the chin and a bunch of white hair sprouting in a disarray on his almost bald head. He looked wise.
We approached him and sat on the stools kept beside his bed.
He wore a sky blue coloured night suit with full sleeves and a thin blanket covered him up until his waist. A glass of milk was kept on the table in front of the bed with a radio and a television.
“The woman on the ground floor said we might be willing to be your friends in order to have drinks.”
Ian said with a slight hesitation in his voice.
The old man laughed slightly, and then he coughed, lifting himself a little bit with the support of his hand against the mattress.
I pulled out my water bottle from my bag pack and offered to him.
“No, it’s okay, Thank you sweet.”
He said and laughed again lying back on his bed now.
“Marry is a sweet girl, but she is stupid. That is the deal with most of sweet people anyway. Before I came here up on this floor, I told her to let only my friends drink from the bar.”
“So, we would not be having our lone stars tonight?”
“Oh certainly you would, there are also Lakewood, Deep Ellum Brewing, Rabbit Hole kept in the store room.”
The old man smiled.
“What is the thing with friends then?’’
He replied and then continued.
“Whither go you?”
“To the south padre Island.”
“Then I am afraid you would have to wait for a while before you could continue your odyssey.”
“The radio broadcasted a thunderstorm on the highway 83 a while ago.”
I looked at Ian with a pile of shit in my eyes. He looked back and laughed slightly.
“Then you tell us the story, sir.”
“Call me Bob.”
Ian reached out his hand to shake with Bob’s.
Bob took a sip from the glass on the table and kept both of his hands on his chest, his fingers interlaced and then looking at the roof he said in his husky and slow voice.
“I have owned this bar for thirty long years, I have seen evenings when it was full of women and boys and men and the evenings when music and beer would flow through their minds. The world was better those days. And I had stored barrels and barrels of Ale and Wine in the store room so that I would never run out of it to serve. I was an obsessed person, obsessed of the smooth life I had.
The woman you met, Marry green, has been working here for few years. She is a sweet stupid woman, which you would not be able to recognize at first.
So, as I grew old and the crowd grew lesser and lesser, I started making friends who would visit me regardless of a few things others would have minded. And to keep them intact, I started to serve free wine. And then only the friends remained, maybe because the wine was free.
But I was never worried about it.”
“You had a lot of wine.”
“Yeah, you mix a little of water in it and nobody notices it.
So I had five friends, before I felt this strange immobility in my limbs and had to lie down on the bed for my days and nights, which I still do.
I was still fond of my friends, so they would visit me often in here. Gossiping as they would sit here on these stools and drink. Eventually they stopped coming, one by one and I was left with only one friend, an old Mexican guy, Rafael. Who happened to die last winters.
I was left alone. With the small house and a lot of wine in the store with only Marry left to serve me.”
He took a brief pause.
“I told her to serve only to my friends for free, and to have the rest of pay if others come. Hence, she asks everyone entering if they would be willing to be my friend first.”