fiction

Where No One Knows My Name – a short story

Where No One Knows My Name. Rated G. © Elyce G 2011.

He just wants to sit at his table staring at the two other empty chairs pushed up on the other sides, drinking his beer and hating the taste of it. He just wants to listen to the music, to songs he doesn’t know, lyrics he’s never heard before, the way the melody dips to something low and scraping against his skin.

All characters herein belong to me. Any similarities to persons living or dead is a coincidence.

Bottles clink and people laugh. Lights dim over the room, spreading over tall tables and chairs without backs, over the faces of people talking together, all absorbed in their own little worlds.

He’s never been there before and he doesn’t want to talk to anyone.

He just wants to sit at his table staring at the two other empty chairs pushed up on the other sides, drinking his beer and hating the taste of it. He just wants to listen to the music, to songs he doesn’t know, lyrics he’s never heard before, the way the melody dips to something low and scraping against his skin.

He doesn’t want to think about what he’s left behind, what he’s leaving behind, if he will ever truly be able to let go. He doesn’t want to think about the future and all the uncertainties, all the “no”s that are surely in store for him.

For a moment, he just wants to exist.

The beer tastes like dirty socks, sticking in his throat, unable to wash away the aftertaste that’s haunted him for hours now.

The bottle hits with a clunk when he sets it down between gulps, between the small bits of effort he makes to be normal, to be like everyone else.

Damien’s never been like everyone else, though. Never. He’s tried, tried so hard it’s ended with him curled into his bed and hoping to God that no one comes looking for him, no one comes to ask if he’s okay.

Normal isn’t something Damien has ever understood and he doesn’t think he ever will. It makes his heart ache, the stickiness in his throat well up, and he can’t swallow what’s in his bottle.

It’s always been like this, this feeling of being alone that wells up inside as he stares unseeingly at the bar across the cluttered room. People laugh there, carefree in a way that he will never be, can never be. The sharp pain in his chest stabs at him, poking its way into his skin as if it’s trying to wedge itself in as far as possible.

In the center of the table, a knife has carved out a jagged heart. Rough edges drag around to close the points together, but inside, it’s empty, faded wood stained with long-forgotten spills soaked into the tabletop.

“Ready for another?”

The server, waitress, woman, is too perky, too happy when she smiles, and it grates. He cringes away, thin fingers wrapping around the neck of the long-since cold bottle. It’s still a quarter full. He can feel it as it sloshes against the sides.

He shakes his head once, turning away, hiding behind the short, sandy blond curls that fall into his eyes. He doesn’t see her leave, but he knows she does. Everyone does. Or he pushes them away. There’s almost no difference.

The music changes, something sharper now, a bass line resonating deep in his chest, rattling his insides, and he swears he can feel every thud. It keeps him in his seat, stops him from slipping away into the obscurity of the bar to sink deeper into himself.

He’s always known it couldn’t last, that comfortable feeling that things would be okay. He’s known it from the first moment he felt the warm, excited feeling seep into his skin when he saw her. He’s known it from the moment he’d heard the words, “Welcome to the team, Damien.” It couldn’t last. And it hasn’t.

Six months seem so short now and so long at the same time, a time that stretches too far to be real. The past six months are gone in the blink of an eye, or the signing of a paper and a cold goodbye. Cold. Everything is cold. Except his beer.

One table over, someone speaks, someone loud and too enthusiastic. Damien can’t hear the music over the noise.

No girlfriend, no job, no anything. Things have not gone as planned.

“Hey, kid, why the long face?”

Someone’s talking to him, not the perky waitress or anyone he knows, but that too-loud guy at the table behind him.

He doesn’t want to talk.

“Hey, hey, kid,” the guy says again, and Damien bites his tongue, bites back whatever scathing reply is bursting to come out if he lets it.

He should go home, go home and pretend none of this has happened, that he’ll wake up tomorrow and he’ll go into work, see her, and things will be okay. But he’s not one to fool himself, or he wasn’t. The past six months taught him that at the very least.

Without warning, there’s too much dark hair and a stupid, lopsided grin in his face, blue eyes staring right at him.

“You look like you could use another beer,” the guy says before Damien can reel back in anything other than shock, before the anger can take over.

“Leave the poor guy alone, Tanner.” Another voice, a woman, but Damien is halfway out of his chair and doesn’t stop to look.

“No, I don’t,” Damien snaps coldly, pulling his jacket off the back of the chair and swinging it on. The zipper just barely misses hitting the guy in the face. Pity.

The guy stares at him, and Damien hates the confusion in his face, as though it’s somehow his fault. Everything is always his fault. He almost doesn’t blame him, but then anger takes over again and he can’t stay there a minute longer.

He’s halfway around the table before the guy even moves, stepping back, giving him the air he so desperately needs to breathe.

“Sorry, man. You just, you looked…”

The air inside the bar presses in around him thickly, too hot and suffocating as the guy’s words trickle out into an implication that Damien doesn’t need explained. His neck flushes in the heat rising on his skin, spreading up from the shame that fills his stomach.

“I’m fine,” he lies but knows from the look he gets that no one believes him. He doesn’t either.

The guy holds up his hands in defeat and perhaps a silent apology but Damien’s never been good at deciphering.

“Offer still stands,” the guy says, turning back to his table.

There should be something to say, but Damien can’t think of it. Another beer won’t make anything better. It won’t change anything.

He starts to turn away, to leave it all behind, but the song changes again. Soft and slow, seeping into his skin like a hot shower, and he doesn’t know what does it exactly, but he hesitates.

It takes another second for him to turn back around, but when he does, the guy’s lopsided grin is back as if he’d known all along. The guy gestures at the empty chair at his table.

It won’t change anything, Damien thinks, won’t make a difference, but after a second’s pause, he takes the chair anyway.

*

FIN.

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