That summer, David graduated and received his coveted law degree. Richard flew in to celebrate and was then going to ride home with him before they set off to change the world. I was going to miss David and we made the keep in touch promise but I knew that after a few emails, our lives would take their own unique paths.
The last time I saw him, he and Richard were getting into his car. David raised him arm in triumph and yelled “carpe diem!” I smiled because I knew that if anybody could seize the day, it would be David.
The next morning, the news came over the wire that David had wrapped his car around a tree. He and Richard died instantly. I was thinking that I was glad we hadn’t been more than just pseudo friends. If we had, I would have been devastated. As it was, I just felt guilty because instead of being overwhelmingly sad, I was thinking that I was glad we weren’t better friends.
About a week after David died, I wandered into The Bar. Life was going to be different now. There would be no jokes, no talking about our lives and no talking about our favorite subject…women.
Life is so unpredictable. You can be on top of the world one day and the next day, you’re gone. All of your plans and all of your hopes and dreams come to a screeching halt in the blink of an eye.
I needed some element of comfort and intended to seek it in a bottle of brew but for some reason, “old guy” seemed to be silently beckoning. I brazenly went to the bar and sat one stool away from him. It took a minute for me to try to start a conversation, which was met with little more than a grunt.
After a few minutes, he said “you lost your friend, didn’t you?” I was taken a little aback and said “yes. He wasn’t my best friend but he was my friend and I will miss him.”
Old guy said “people say life is all about love, but life isn’t all about love. Life is all about loss. With each one, you feel your soul being torn apart and it leaves scars so deep, there can be no healing.” Then he extended his hand and said “my name is Nick Fuller, not old guy.”
I was embarrassed. He must have heard me refer to him that way during one of my conversations with David, when I was obviously inebriated. I offered my sincerest apologies and he halfway smiled as he said “I’ve been called a lot worse but I would appreciate it if you just called me Nick. And what should I call you?”
I told him that my name was Josh Hamilton but everybody called me “Scoop.” Nick looked at me through weathered eyes and said “I don’t get the impression that you work for Baskin-Robbins, so that must mean you’re some kind of journalist…maybe looking for that one story you hope will make you famous?” It was obvious that there was more to Nick that I had originally thought.
“What do you do Nick?” I asked. “I drink,” he said. I chuckled and said “what do you do when you’re not drinking?” He looked straight ahead and said “I think about drinking.”
Night after night, I had seen him sitting at the counter, staring into his beer as if looking for an answer somewhere in that glass of escapism. Something had apparently happened to this beleaguered, battle-worn man whose only friends seemed to be a cigarette and a beer.
I shook his hand again and thanked him for the conversation, coupled with the obligatory “nice to meet you.” As I left The Bar, I only had one thought. I wanted to know more.
To be continued______________