A Story Within a Story

A bored mind is one that is lacking imagination. I sat there, looking out into the crowd of people talking to one another. I sat there with no one next to me, just staring off into the blobs of people. I never realized how alone I was until I went around other people. I created this isolated cave where I needed little interaction with others. I was content being consumed with the imaginary characters that felt so real to me. At times, I would pretend being gathered in a circle with these characters that I became to cherish so much. It brought me back to a time when I was social.

Yet, tonight, my oasis of delusion is tarnished. I can no longer pretend those characters are real. I am sitting here, looking out and witnessing what real people are. I do not know them personally, so I can not determine whether or not they are better than the characters I know so well. The conversations are muffled together, so I can’t judge whether they’re as thought provoking as my own. Yeah, they all seem to be happy. They all smile and nod their heads up and down.

I still am not sure what brought the urge to venture out tonight was. I returned home from work and was sitting about the couch, diving in to Ham on Rye for the second time this year. I was able to relive my rebellious youth with the help of Charles. Yet, an overwhelming urge to get out took hold of me. I finally surrender and put my worn jacket back on my back. I didn’t know where to go and ended up wandering aimlessly. I witnessed a crowd of people and decided that, that place is better than others.

The bartender was friendly enough. She threw a napkin down in front of me as soon as I was seated. She asked what I wanted very quickly. And I decided to go with the first label at that point. No point in asking questions that I would not understand the reply of. So, I made it easy on both of us. She filled my drink up and wondered over towards the other side. She was favoring a couple and an extra at the end of the bar. I’m assuming friends, or regulars, keeping her company. Every once in a while she would venture over and ask me if I was good. I nursed my drink, trying to hide the face of discomfort after each sip.

I avoided eye contact, all together. My eyes dart from one side to another, resting sporadically on a group, or individual. I did not put a lot of thought for why I would stop, but I would. I tried taking it all in. If by misfortune I did make eye contact with someone, I’d quickly glance over and forced myself not look at that person for 90 seconds.

About two-thirds of the way through my drink, I requested another one. The bartender, remaining in character was still friendly and filled me another glass. I took a deep swig of what remained when she placed the new one in front of me.

“You here for the show tonight?” She smiled at me and took my money.

“I’m not really sure why I’m here. Just kind of stumbled in, you know what I mean?” I looked at her eyebrows; I had a hard time making eye contact.

“Well, you picked the right night. The bands tonight should be really good. Are you from around here?” Her smile and character was perfect. I remember reading about bartenders with a friendly demeanor. She fit the bill perfectly.

“Yup. I live down the street. Been in the neighborhood for about ten years.” I forced a smile, in attempt to match hers. It felt contorted and unnatural. I wasn’t quiet sure if she noticed the awkwardness, or not.

“Oh wow! I’m surprised I haven’t seen you around. I’ve been working here for three years. I thought I knew all the neighbors. What do you think of the neighbor over the years?”

Well, that’s a good question. I guess neighborhoods in New York change more than any neighborhood in the world. It’s a constant migration of people coming from one area and moving to the next. Gentrification, crime, I’m not sure what to attribute it to. All I know is the neighborhood has change. It use to be Hispanic and black families, but now it’s young, white professionals. I believe the term used is YUPPIE. She’s pretty good about asking good questions.

“It’s ok. The property value has gone up, which isn’t bad. Yet, the old bodegas and restaurants disappeared and were replaced by more expensive ones. Not sure if I’m a huge fan of that.”

She left with a smile and jumped to a guy who was trying to get her attention a few stools down. I went back to my people watching. I guess all my characters could be here too. I guess there was some form of reality found with in them. If an author can make them more relatable, the better the skill, right? Well, I guess it’d be taking a human and making them just a smidge better or worse. That way you can really dramatize the effect that you’re looking for.

I wonder what kind of character the bar tender could be? She’s friendly enough, so she fits the bill for a bartender in a character. But what if she was the protagonist? She would be in the upward curve of the climax. Right? I mean a bartender is not the most desirable job. Well, she can either be digging herself out of a rut or maybe she’s just surviving to continue doing her real passion. Ok, good. So I have a protagonist.

Let’s look around to find some side characters. A supporting lead, maybe? Okay, well let’s think this one through. The friends at the end of the bar would be too cliché, especially with the third wheel. We don’t want a love affair with a ‘best’ friend. That’s just boring and redundant. We could throw a Marriage Plot twist, but then that’d be stealing. No, let’s try something more original. It would be great if I were back home with my own ‘friends’. I’m sure they would have great insight. Imagine talking to Howard Rourke and Mike. Hahaha, one who despises most humanity and the other created a religion in order to save it. I guess Rourke created a religion of his own, in some ways. I’m getting off topic.

Something original. Original. Ok, well first I need to decide whether she’s had a rocky past, or if she’s supporting herself. I could blend the two. Came from a rough and tough family, possibly a little abuse, and then found expression through art as therapeutic. She ran away, came to the big city and is now trying to make an impact in the art world that has met so much to her. Insert RomCom plot here. She comes to New York after growing up with an alcoholic and abusive father. After her mother passed away from cancer, she left her family to come to the city to become a famous artist. Along her journey she discovers the true hardships of the art world and has to become a bartender to support her dream. She runs into a rowdy customer one night, who changes her life. In theaters this summer! NY Times, one of the best ROMCOMS of 2015. That sounds about right. Ok, let’s deviate from that.

I sometimes wonder what my ‘friends’ think of me. I am not as epic as they are. They lived such fulfilled lives. Well for the most part. I especially feel uncomfortable when Rourke is around. He is so stoic. I mean he will live a meaningless, and at times, demeaning existence as to not compromise his morals. That is pretty unique. I guess there’s others that are going through the rough patches of life and questioning their own existence. But even that takes great amount courage to do. I haven’t thought about my life in a very long time.

“How you holding up?” She’s back and pretending to occupy herself by wiping down the bar in front of me that was clean since I arrived. Her friends, or the regulars, are still at the corner talking to one another. The rest of the bar seems pretty content with the drinks they have. Also, in my day dreaming state, another bar tender came on.

I take a bigger swig of my drink, “I’m hanging in there. How about you?” I guess I should ask how she’s doing. It’s the socially appropriate thing to do at least.

“I’m almost out of here, thank god!” She let her smile out once again. “It’s been a pretty busy day. I’m just ready to escape from here and free my mind.”

So, she does have more to her than just bartending. I knew it. “That’s always a good thing to do.” I’m not really sure how to respond. Just keep up the meaningless replies, it’s socially acceptable.

“Yup, I’m going to a bar down the street. It’s going to be less crowded than here tonight. I’m going with some friends. You want to join?” She’s still wiping the imaginary spill in front me.

“Sure, why not.” I had wanted to get out. I’m just running with the urge, I’m not going to hamper a fortuitous moment to be surrounded by people.

“Great, I get off in five minutes. Let me top that off for you.” She grabbed my half full glass and filled it up to the brim. Apparently, she hadn’t been noticing how long it took me to drink my first drink. I look at my watch and I have been sitting here for forty five minutes and only drank one and half pints.   So, now I have a 30-minute glass I need to finish in five minutes.

“Sounds good.” She disappears down the bar. Talking to people and telling them that she’s leaving and whether or not they would mind closing out there tab for her. She makes her way to the friends, or regulars, and I catch the guy, who is not in the couple, peeking in my direction. Well, I guess she does live her life as a cliché. Or at least, he does.

I take the initiative to drink this pint quicker than the others. Opposed to the baby sips I began, I take bigger ones the whole way through. I’m doing more damage than I thought possible. I continue scanning the room and going off into thought.

What was I thinking about before? Oh yeah, judging my own life. I guess that’s harder than said. I mean, most people can do it, I guess. But to be completely honest, it is fairly difficult. I am not sure I would enjoy it very much. Luckily, if I’m not bored my mind can’t race to think about it. I’ll have enough stimulation being around people that my mind can race elsewhere

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