Every time I went to the bar, I saw him sitting there.
It didn’t matter what day it was,
didn’t matter if it was early or late.
The same man was sitting in the same spot, alone.
Some days he was nursing a beer,
other days he’d be sipping coffee,
but every day he’d be sitting there, alone.
I never heard him speak a word,
the bartender would bring him a new drink
when his was empty, he’d pay and leave a tip,
all without speaking.
There were times I’d feel compelled to speak to him,
make small talk, try to draw him out of his shell.
But, somehow, I could never bring myself to.
Maybe it was because he never looked at people,
not even when the bar was crowded,
or when someone bumped into him.
Maybe it was the look on his face,
neither smiling nor frowning, utterly blank.
Even thought I could never speak to him
I looked for him every time I was there.
Eventually I noticed, he didn’t just sit,
he was writing in a notebook.
Not constantly, he’d sit, stare off into space for a while,
then pick up his pencil, write furiously for a moment,
then stare off into space again.
Once noticed, the notebook was as constant as he,
a thick, five subject notebook, looking battered and worn.
When I first noticed it, he was barely a fourth
of the way into it.
Watching him became kind of an obsession,
I felt drawn, compelled.
Sometimes I would walk past him,
try to see what he was writing,
I never could.
Some nights he’d only fill a page or two,
other nights, whatever muse inspired him
led him to fill a dozen or more.
As time went by I watched him progress,
slowly, but steadily through his notebook.
Halfway, three quarters,
until one night, he reached the end.
My curiosity was still burning,
maybe he had just finished
the next great American novel,
or maybe a screenplay
that I’d soon be paying to see.
Even more than that, I wondered,
now that his project was done,
would he become sociable?
He waved away the bartender, who was approaching,
a fresh drink in his hand.
He sat and stared for a moment,
then wrote a brief something
on the inside of the back cover.
With that, he closed the notebook,
placed his mechanical pencil on the top of it,
placed it gently, almost reverently, and stood.
I watched him walk out the door,
wondering if I’d see him the next time I came out,
perhaps with a new notebook.
When I looked back at this seat,
I saw that he had forgotten his notebook.
I grabbed it, rushed out the door,
hoping to catch him, to give it to him.
When I got out the door, he was nowhere to be seen.
I was about to head back inside, leave it at the bar.
I was sure he’d be back for it soon.
I paused with my hand on the door, battling with myself.
I wanted to look inside, see what he had written,
yet I knew it was private,
he had never shown it to anyone.
I ended up taking it home, unopened.
I figured I’d return the next night, give it to him.
I’d assure him that I didn’t read it, and then maybe,
maybe he’d tell me what it was.
But when I returned the next night, he wasn’t there.
I left my name and number with the bartender,
said to have him call me if he came looking for it.
A week went by, with no call.
I returned to the bar but he wasn’t there,
the bartender told me that he hadn’t been in
since that last time I had seen him there.
I couldn’t believe it,
I was sure that the notebook was very important to him,
and said as much to the bartender.
As I said this, there was a tap on my shoulder,
I turned to see a guy that I had seen at the bar before,
seen him, but had never spoken with him.
“You must be talking about Peter, always sat right there.”
He pointed to the writer’s usual spot, and I nodded.
“Sorry to tell you this, but he’s dead.
Hung himself about a week ago.”
He walked away and I left the bar,
unsure of how to feel.
I got home, picked up the notebook,
it seemed to weigh a hundred pounds.
I wondered if it was the loss of the notebook
that had driven him to suicide.
I disregarded that thought,
he hadn’t even come back that night,
to look for it.
I put the notebook down on my nightstand, still unopened.
I had trouble trying to sleep,
feeling more grief than was warranted,
after all, I had never spoken with him.
Mixed with the grief, was guilt,
maybe if I had spoken, had reached out...
Finally, I fell into a restless sleep,
riddled with half-formed nightmares.
I woke early the next morning, not rested,
the notebook sill on my nightstand
where I had left it.
I picked it up, considered throwing it away,
after all, it wasn’t mine.
But instead, I sat on my bed and opened it.
His penmanship was neat, precise,
almost too tiny to read.
The first page was simple, a list,
titled “The List of My Regrets”.
Nothing shocking in the list, no major sins or crimes.
Friends he didn’t believe,
people he never got to know better,
women he never asked out.
The next page he had doodled on,
a series of geometric shapes, some simple,
some complex, others placed just so,
to form a stark face.
I flipped through the pages, reading some,
skimming others, a third of the way in
I found a poem.
There was more raw emotion on this page
then I had felt in my entire life.
The poem was about love,
and all the expected images were there,
but somehow he had constructed it in such a way
that reading it saddened me nearly to the point of tears.
There were other poems, as I worked my way through the notebook,
even some short stories.
Some pages only had a few words written,
but even these sparse entries had a feeling of finality, of completeness.
Even though everything I had read gave the feeling
of rightness, some sort of unexplained symmetry,
the tone kept growing darker, more somber,
as I neared the end.
The last poem, on the last page, written on his last night alive,
made me weep with it’s simple purity.
“A life filled with loneliness warms nobodies soul.”
The last line of his last poem.
I felt more guilt now than ever, if I had tried,
maybe I could have made a difference.
Maybe I could have eased his loneliness,
warmed his soul,
saved his life.
Then I read what he had jotted down,
on the inside of the back cover,
the last thing he had ever written.
Just three lines.
“I know you’ll take this notebook
and I want you to know,
it’s not your fault.”
More crap from my leaky mind