I Never Even Called Her By Her Name: A Barside Encounter with a Muse
In hindsight I must have appeared as a curious figure, reclining in a rattan chair and intently scribbling in a journal, flanked as I was on one side by a collection of empty Hurricane glasses. On the other, by the various disjecta membra of an extravagant shellfish lunch. Evidence of what was, honestly, the more productive part of the afternoon so far. I never noticed that anyone had walked up behind me until she leaned over, gently touching the side of my face turning it ever so slightly upwards, and kissed me on the cheek, whispering into my ear as she did “…and then a girl I didn’t know walked up and kissed me”. At that point I did the only thing I could – I laughed.
At one time she had undoubtedly been beautiful. You can just see it in some people, no matter what their age or condition, they radiate an aura of beauty about them through their entire lives. Now in her sunset years of the early seventies, by my best guess, she still managed to retain a spring in her step and a twinkle in her eye. She had been walking back from the dock I suppose when she spotted me, a latter day Hemingway wanna-be, looking far more serious and intent on what I was writing that I should have been given my surroundings on what passed for The Black Marlin’s patio bar. The entire encounter lasted only seconds; we shared a laugh as she disappeared through the restaurant courtyard. She had, it seemed, completely thrown me off guard in a way I was not used to at all. Whatever I was planning on writing that afternoon was forgotten. As I sat there, sipping on my well-let’s-not-keep-an-accurate-count-of them Hurricane of the afternoon, I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly had just transpired. Although no longer beating my head against the wall of writer’s block, I was it appeared, still at a loss for words.
Over the next hour I constructed her whole biography in my head. She was, I deduced, a widow. Successful, undoubtedly, in her own right in her own time. An actress maybe, more suited for the stage than the screen I thought. Certainly not a business-woman in the modern sense of the term. At one time she had been the life and soul of the party, beloved by all who knew her. One by one, her friends had passed on until finally her husband’s passing left her with few ties left. However, in a stoic display both worthy and expected of her character, she steadfastedly refused to give in to either grief or self-pity and continued to live life to the fullest, as she always had. At the time I couldn’t decide whether she traveled the world now, seeing those sights that most people spend their entire lives longing after, or just visiting repeatedly the places that had always meant the most to her. Looking back on it, I’m fairly certain it was the latter. There had been a brief moment, after the laughter had passed, when I thought about walking after her. I would offer to buy her a drink, sit down with her, and find out what her story was. I’m glad I didn’t. Any contact beyond that brief moment would have destroyed it’s meaning, leaving it somewhat hollow and cheap, turning it into nothing more than just another bar story. Instead, I sat in my chair sipping my cocktail. Eventually, after much time spent in contemplation, I turned to a fresh page in my journal and began writing anew.
I don’t know how much of this invented biography of my passing admirer might be true, but I’d like to think some of it could be. One day at an unremarkable bar cloistered among the palms and pines, she had found a man half her age obviously struggling with his thoughts, desperately in need of inspiration. She had done her best to impart a little frivolity into his day. I bet that was something she was always good at doing. As a result, she cleared my head of the tangled cobweb’s strangling my creativity of the moment in a way the Hurricane’s just weren’t. In return, the best I can hope for is that our momentary encounter between the bar and the marina, on a beautiful early summer day in South Carolina, left her as uplifted as it did me.