I used to frequent this local joint down the street from my flat. It was always dark, the only lights coming from above the two pools tables and the stage that took up the back wall. The bands that played were all local talents; nothing extraordinary but fun to see perform. I had also recently been hired to do a weekly editorial in one of the town’s small newspapers about local artists. If nothing else it was a convenient excuse to offer up to my parents as to why I was hanging out at a dive bar four or five nights a week; it certainly went over better than the time that I tried to tell them I was an alcoholic and couldn’t help myself.
Anyways, the real reason I loved going to that little hole in the wall bar was because it was one of my absolute favorite character haunts. I would find attributes and (a tad bit more frequently) flaws to add to the people in my writings; I found it made them come to life more in the readers mind.
And so one night I found myself sitting at the corner of said bar with a rocks glass full of the bar whiskey, neat, of course. The band that was playing was one I had seen several times already; I was there character hunting that night rather than working.
A drunk man preaching politics in the corner kept me entertained for a while as he shifted from foot to foot as if swaying in a fall breeze full of colorful leaves; his language was just as colorful and his standpoint also swayed at the slightest sign of opposition. I eventually grew to be bored of his roundabout rantings, though, and turned my eyes towards the bar at large seeking more promising prospects.
It was then that she walked up on the stage.
I hadn’t even noticed the band leaving, but that has been prone to happening at times when I get too involved in my brains wanderings. I turned briefly back to the bar to order another drink from the bartender before returning my full attention to the stage where, and I mean this in the best way, this outstanding character of a woman was fiddling with the microphone to get it to its proper level.
She didn’t have an instrument with her, just a few sheets of paper but my confusion was not long lasted as she began to weave a symphony of emotion with poetic verse. Her voice rose and fell in a cadence that would be the envy of the sun and moon were they capable of feeling such emotions, and in fact her words could probably have taught the inanimate what it was to truly feel; such was the magic she cast upon me.
I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Her dark hair cascaded down in waves, and her shoulders were a more alluring beach than any I had ever seen. And her eyes, they were a rich shade of green that reminded me of spring’s rebirth, going with a smile that was all sunshine.
She read several pieces, and I grew only more enchanted by her as she continued singing her tales to life. To say I was enraptured would be an appropriate description.
When she finished she walked up to the bar next to me, sparing me a quick smile as she sought to get the barkeep’s attention. He came over promptly and, after a short compliment on her performance, went about making the drink she ordered. When he came back with it I told him to add it to my tab, which earned me another smile and a look of curious interest.
“Thank you, you didn’t have to do that,” she told me in that sing song voice of hers.
“It was the least I can do to thank you for such a beautiful performance. It’s not often I find myself so moved by the words of another. Can I ask your name?”
“You may, and my response would have to be Ashley; and yours, kind sir?”
“Well Jason, it’s been a pleasure meeting you, but…”
and this is the part of the story where I feel obligated to warn you that the next sentence is as painful to read each time as it was to hear in person. Going on then…
“…pleasure meeting you, but I really have to go find my boyfriend. Thanks again for the drink.”
And with one last smile she was gone from my life, just like that. I never saw her again, or not in person anyways. I thought about her for a very long time, wrote poems about the angel who got away.
One day I was feeling particularly down about life, having just gotten into yet another argument with my parents. I sat down at my writing desk and as soon as my pen hit the paper I couldn’t stop thinking about Ashley, so I just started writing her back into my life.
I wrote us the love story we never had, from the start all the way to our own happy ending. The words just kept flowing forth, like my heart had sprung a leak and was bleeding all over the pages.
When I finished, I read over what I had just brought to life; once and then twice and again. And as I read it over and over I felt the loss of what could have been diminish until, finally, I read it one last time. I then lit the pages, one by one, on fire and watched them burn slowly to cinders. In the end it only seemed fitting that all that remained of Ashley was a pile of ashes and a dream of what could have been.