I walked into Vesuvio that day feeling the sting of my birthday weighing heavily on my conscience. I needed a strong drink of the liquor sort. I ordered myself a Bohemian Coffee which turned out to be the most intense hot liquid I could have asked for and settled into a wooden seat in the dark corner.
A man walked into the bar and sat down at the table next to mine. I had seen this man earlier in the day while browsing a cigar shop over in the adjacent neighborhood; he was a man you would not forget too easily. Of all the people I have ever seen in the City By The Bay; this was the one who fit the spirit. An embodiment so profound you would think he had fallen out of a former era. Clad all in black – leather shin-high boots, long velvet coat with fringe and silver buckles, his head was covered with shoulder length silver hair on which a top hat was resting delicately, a long beard to match the tresses, round black shades, and an intricately detailed cane.
After getting settled at his table, he stood up and walked to the bar to order his poison. When he spoke, his voice was not as a natural voice is, but it was a voice created through what I can only speculate was an electrolarnyx. It was mechanical and robotic. I watched him out of the corner of my eye while sipping my brandy and amaretto coffee drink. He seated himself once again at his table beside his cane with me in direct sight.
Patrons would walk past this man, never saying a word, but every single one of them, all men, would simply give a slight nod in his direction, and he would give a simple gesture back. He was a man of connections, of vibrations and was completely intriguing to me.
The man never looked about the dark, musty, room; in fact it was hard to tell exactly what he was looking at behind his sunglasses, if anything. He sat quietly and relatively still, save for when he took a swig of his drink.
As we sat near each other, my mind was overcome with all the things I thought he could possibly be. It was a foolish idea, of course, but one purely based out of curiosity. A man such as this surely would not be privy to the mundane aspects of life that I myself have grown around. No, it was true he never had to deal with rent or with grocery shopping. He never dealt with rush hour traffic, or mechanical repairs, or family functions. This man was The Great Gatsby, living in seclusion and throwing lavish parties at his mansion. Hell, he was Hamlet; riddled by tragedy yet always searching for Ophelia!
This man was a symbol: a symbol of casting away the mindless every day constant chatter in which we all partake. This man never gossiped; this man never talked about the weather. He felt deeply about the world. He was a reminder to take the world for more than face value.
This man was a distraction. Birthdays by nature are mundane and meaningless, simply yet another excuse to focus solely on the self. The distress felt from the celebration or mere notice of a birthday is derived from a lack of vanity meant to feed the ego.
I left the bar before the man did. He did not stir as I got up from my seat, but I hoped he noticed. We were strangers whose lives had intertwined for just a glimpse in the history of time. Two parallel lines that decided to defy the rules for a half hour on a Thursday afternoon in July; lines from different backgrounds and origins, intersecting and then continuing on their separate paths, never to unite again.
Story taken from My Name Is Laura (2015). Available for purchase here.