Loner • /ˈlōnər/
A conversation with a bartender and patron.
She left me. She did. Took everything but the car. The same car I met her in while she worked at the Dairy Queen and man, she looked so hot in roller skates. Cherry Red. That’s what I called her. Cherry Red hair, pouty red lips with legs that went on forever. God, she was so beautiful back then. I used to wonder why she picked me, you know? I had nothing going for me. Not a damn cent to my name but my dad’s car. All I knew back then was that I would love her for the rest of my life.
My dad won his car off of a loner in the corner bar. He called the guy a loner because he was always in the same place and with never anyplace to go. This is the same bar my dad would sit in late at night while my mother struggled at home alone with three kids. I remember I used to walk to the corner and peek into the dusty window and see my dad hanging over the bar with a shot glass still in his hand. I can’t believe they just left him there instead of telling him to go home. I’d sit on the newspaper stand and keep looking in to check on him to see if he’d wake in time before the bar closes—or at least until my mother called me from the porch. I asked my mother why we lived so close to the bar. She said it was because dad didn’t know how to be anyplace else, and at least she knew where to find him if she needed anything.
My dad used to take us everywhere in that car. Long rides to the beach meant all the snow cones I could eat. I missed seeing him make my mom laugh till her cheeks turned red. I use to wonder back then what he would whisper in her ear to make her that would make her blush so. As a grown man, I can think of few things he might have said in her ear and it may have had a lot to do with getting a new baby sister the week before Thanksgiving.
A lot of things changed after that. No more trips to the beach and no snow cones either. I had to settle for the orange juice cubes my mom used to make out of the remaining juice we didn’t finish at breakfast.
I always wondered what happened to my dad. He had lost his job somehow, and my mom had to go to work to pay the bills while my dad stayed home to care for us. Well, he mostly sat in his big chair and stared at the television even when there was nothing on it. He wouldn’t move until my mom came home and moved him. I think that was around the time the bar opened on the corner because he would just sit in there instead of sitting at home. My mother would have me call him home for dinner in the evenings, and then he went right back and sat on the same stool in the bar every evening. While the other boys were off playing ball or chasing the neighbors chubby bulldog off the porch, I would just sit on the paper stand on the corner. Peeking in the bar window now and then to check on my dad.
The day I graduated high school my dad died. After the funeral, my mother handed me his leather wallet and the keys to his car. She told me she was sure my dad would want it that way. It wasn’t long after I left for college that my sister called me to tell me that our mother had suddenly passed away. I remember leaving everything I had in my dorm room and drove all the way home stopping for gas only once. It was just my sister and me for a while until I met my now ex-wife at the Dairy Queen and fell in love.
But all that’s gone now. Except for my dad’s car. I think after having kids of my own and with me working every day to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads I forgot just how many families meant to me. Boy, I wish I hadn’t started drinking either. Damn it. That’s when all the problems began. I would find myself in a bar as soon as I got off from work and minding my shot glass instead of my wife and kids. I guess I started thinking that my wife would still be there for me, you know?
She wasn’t at all like my mother.