It’s been some time since I wrote 1 of these, but seeing as I’m in my last month, I figured I’d bring back this feature for an appropriate send off.
Bar regulars are a varied lot. There are the assholes and the loners, but somewhere in between sits the patron saint of all drunks: The one who’s drinking until he (or she) dies. The bar is the pharmacy for the depressed lot who can’t afford therapy or medication, or who just find it easier and less humiliating to self-medicate.
Look around: One of those bar stools is occupied by someone on their way out.
The Nearly Departed might be funny or morose, talkative or monkish, man or woman, but no matter their character they have arrived for one reason: Life is unbearable and they want to numb themselves until it’s over. The bartender is their Kevorkian.
In a perfect world, every person who suffered from depression, bi-polar disorder, anxiety or one of the other related mental illnesses would find peace and solace through some healthy outlet. This isn’t a perfect world. It never will be. Actually, in a perfect world a lot of bars would probably go out of business, so I guess there’s no such thing as a perfect world.
As someone who works and spends a lot of extracurricular time in bars, it’s not hard to spot the outgoing mail. Maybe they are the Dylan Thomas-type, sacrificing their mental health for their art until they succumb at the bottom of a pint of Guinness. Or maybe they took a job straight out of high school and they’ve been stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque loop ever since. Either way, their shoulders slump in resignation.
It might seem sad, but really, there are worse fates than to waste away in a place where you feel at ease and welcomed. They know your name, they know your drink and they know when to leave you alone when you’re in one of your moods. Some people search their whole lives for such an environment.
But your first impression was right: It is sad. Not because they will die – we all do – or because they are finding peace at the bottom of a glass – we’re all addicted to something. No, the sadness comes from the knowledge that at one point, there were infinite paths set out before them, and either because of bad choices, bad planning or bad luck they settled on a road of least resistance.
It’s not the kind of sadness that deserves pity. They would reject yours if you offered it. It’s just the sadness inherent in living, because despite all the childhood pep talks and optimistic sloganeering, it isn’t possible for everyone to achieve their dreams. The world isn’t so kind.
Some people will, inevitably, fall to the wayside.
And in most of those cases, it’s not the priest or the rabbi that picks the fallen up. It’s not even a good Samaritan.
It’s the bartender who pours the shot, pops the cap off the beer and says, maybe for the hundredth time, “Hey, how was work?”