Murphy’s Pub, part iii

Part i. Part ii.

He had been in the men’s room for a while. Trish glanced at the Guinness-issued wall clock for the third time—“After work, it’s Guinness Time!”—and was about to get up, when the bathroom door creaked open.
A different man emerged from the restroom.
Well, it was the same quiet man who had gone in, make no mistake, but he didn’t look like the vagrant who had wandered into the pub some time before. His face was washed, with a fresh shave to boot. He’d even combed his hair. Trish dropped the pencil she was holding, and let out a low whistle.
“My, you clean up well.”
“Uh, thanks,” he replied, looking down at his boots to hide his reddening cheeks. They were not hidden well. After inspecting the floorboards for minute cracks for another few seconds, the embarrassed, yet cleaner, quiet man limped back to his stool. Whatever ailed him, Trish thought, it couldn’t be splashed off with water and soap. A grimace, and a sharp intake of air, accompanied the creak of the stool as he sat back down. Seeing his discomfort, she got up, and on her way over to him, picked up a shot glass. This she placed, upended, next to his coasting beer.
“Next one’s on me.”
“Thanks” he said, and polished off the beer. He held it out, with a slight nod of the head.
She popped open another bottle.
“Good on the whiskey?”
He nodded. “Yeah, else it’ll be a short night.”
A pained smile spread on her lips. “I wish all my customers were so self-aware. A nickel for everybody who had one too many in here, I wouldn’t need this job.”
“A man’s gotta know his limitations.”
“Ain’t that philosophical. Who said that? Aristotle?”
“No. Clint Eastwood.” Deadpan. With a wink.
She laughed, slightly embarrassed. In her defense, it did sound pretty philosophical. Not an earth-shattering, poignant, observation, but then again, often the most poignant philosophical points were basic. A-B-C. Philosophy gets a bad rap. Trish wasn’t alone in viewing philosophy as a muddled, archaic, discipline, loaded with abstract principles, run-on sentences, and SAT words. For some branches of the philosophical tree, this could be true. Sometimes, though, it could be as simple as “live simply.” Or, Clint Eastwood.
“I’m gonna use that one.”
He shrugged. “Well, it isn’t mine, so I guess go for it. But it is true. People could save themselves from loads of trouble just by realizing what it is they are capable of… and what they ain’t.”
“Like how?”
“Well,” He paused to take a pull of his beer, “take your drunks. Any given night one of em’s in here, I can guaran-damn-tee it ain’t their first time out boozin’. Right?”
“Okay…”
“Okay. So, if they’ve been drunk before, they probably have some idea how they arrived there. How much it took. When the lights went out. That sort of thing. Man’s gotta know…” he trailed off, and sipped his Coors, again. “It’s isn’t just drinking, but it’s a good example. A lot of times we do things, knowing full well it won’t turn out well. Or that it will hurt. Yet we will do these things, again and again. The hardest part to grasp, for me, is that knowledge that we disregard. Drunks don’t think about the hangover. Until they’ve got one.”
He had put his beer back on it’s coaster, and was kneading his right hand with his left. Trish regarded him with an arched eyebrow. It wasn’t just the shave and the comb-over. Something else had changed since he emerged from the bathroom. Since he’d sat back down, he had opened up. Jeremy no longer looked like a stray dog who’d wandered in out of the cold. Now, there was life in his eyes. His responses were now actually sentences, rather than one word grunts.
Trish lit a cigarette, holding the pack out to him with her other hand. He acquiesced, taking one, while leaning forward towards her other hand, which held a pink lighter. His grimace had not gone the way of his stubble. She took a long drag, and slowly exhaled it toward the ceiling, head tilted back.
They smoked in silence for a bit.
She glanced at him, and saw he had pulled some kind of necklace out. Which pocket it had come from she didn’t know. The medallion was in his calloused hand, out of sight, but the chain was silver, linked. He was peering into his palm.
“Whatcha got there?” She was curious.
It took a second, but he finally looked at her, as if her question had torn him away another place. He stole a glance into his hand, then his eyes darted back to Trish.
He sighed.
“You don’t remember me, do you?”

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