The night was chilly. A cold wind blew down the corridor as we were going down the street. I was wearing an ordinary military jacket, with a typical khaki green shade. It had no stars on it, no signs of who I might be. It was a civil jacket and I was a civil in that moment. The lights created only a small luminescence, but enough to see the path in front of us. It was narrow and lead behind a steel plate structure. It looked more like a steel container of very large proportions. The whole part of the city was constructed much of the same way. The motto was In simplicity is the beauty. And that’s exactly what the architects had achieved. All the buildings were nothing more than simple four walled structures, not very attractive, but still efficient.
We’d walked around the corner until we found small steel stairs leading to the second story of the structure. We’ve stopped and Tommy took out a cigarette. I just watched him lighting it with my hands deep in pockets. It was not the warmest day. Overall it was the end of autumn, which is as good as winter in this region. The sea didn’t do much better at all. The shore has not been shielded from the cold northern ocean breeze.
Tommy instilled the smoke and held his breath for a moment. Then, he exhaled and watched the smoke rise from his lips. He definitely looked relaxed.
,, You should start to smoke, too. It would only help you.” He said. His advisory tone made me nervous. I’ve never liked when people told me what I should do and acted as if they knew exactly what is best for me. They actually don’t. The only commands I do not refuse are in the army. But when I leave the uniform and dress into civil I am once again myself, capable of making independent decisions.
Tommy inhaled again and started to speak while the smoke was escaping his lungs. ,,Come on Ed, give it a try.” He handed me the cigarette.
I looked at it disgusted at first, but it somehow attracted me. I felt as my hand started to shake, but I fought it. I couldn’t break my rules. They were the only thing that I had left. My rules were the only reason I’ve been still sane. If I’ll break even only one, I would soon find myself on a rule-breaking spree, doing crazy things and loosing my mind fast.
,,No, thanks. I really like to keep my lungs clean.” I opposed.
,,Yeah, you care for the lungs, but you like to keep your heart rotten, don’t you? Isn’t it strange?”
It somehow struck me. I didn’t respond.
,, Why don’t you just find something to keep your mind busy and take a break?”
,, And how is a cigarette supposed to keep it busy?” I was really curious about his argument. Somehow I couldn’t imagine a cigarette being something else than a source of cancer.
,, It isn’t Ed. It’s just something different to try. It should just represent the way you have to think. Imagine this cigarette is something else, something you always wished to do or liked to do. Just not the one, ok?” He tried to joke, but it wasn’t funny. ,, So you take the cigarette and breathe in the smoke. It means, you take the things you like and enjoy them or simply do them. You see, when you smoke for the first time, it tastes like shit, literally…”
I looked a bit shocked. ,, You have eaten shit?”
He knew I was going to ask that so he quickly skipped that question. ,, Whatever, you feel bad and sick and your tummy spins in pretty strong aches. But you smoke it for the first time, than second, than third, fourth, fifth and you suddenly realise that the cigarettes aren’t as bad as you thought, quite contrary, they are somehow tasty, they help you to concentrate, make you feel better and worst of all, they’re fun. And you know why? Because it’s a great time killer and you don’t want to let them go.”
,, You came up with this alone?”
He felt my sarcasm level started to rise drastically so he just ignored me and watched numbly.
I never realised Tommy was such a philosopher. He should use his talent, while he was still on school. ,, Now that was a speech, brother. I never knew you had such a great talent, especially in smoking topics. You should really consider writing a book, It would definitely turn the rest of non-smokers to smokers. And the tobacco industry would certainly reward you for that.”
Tommy still looked at me as he always does, when I take my moods for a walk. It was like, you’re such a juvenile dumbass, but you’re my brother so I don’t care or at least I won’t beat you to the ground for that. ,, Are you finished?” He asked with despise.
,, Well, yes. I think that’s it. Done.” I haven’t been proud at that moment. ,, So what were you trying to say with that prologue?”
He took a deep breath from the cigarette and tried to put his thoughts in order. ,, All right. What I wanted to say is, that you have to find something to do even though you don’t like it. It is just as with the cigarette. You don’t like doing it at first but after a while, you feel good and don’t really care if you hated it earlier or what are the consequences. You just do it, because you like it, because it spends time and because it is fun. You can for example stand all day by a copy machine and copy until you drown in papers. It sure won’t be fun at first, but you just need to give it some time, and the joy will come. Do you understand now?”
I nodded. ,, I think I’ve got the point. But how do I persuade myself to do something I don’t like?”
,, The answer is the will. You may have thousands of reason for not doing something, but there is still one reason for doing it, and it’s a pretty good one, I swear.”
,, And that reason is?” I became scared of his answer or that my sarcasm will once again show its face.
,, The answer is, why not?”
,, Why not?”
,, Yes, why not.”
,, So why not is a solution to all the problems.”
He threw the rest of the cigarette away. It left a sheer trail of smoke disappearing fast. ,, Come on, brother. Let’s not get cocky, ok?”
,, Sorry, it’s just…” My eyes gazed on the ground. This tarmac haven’t seen a cleaning squad for a few weeks, for sure.
,, I know. And I understand. I would feel the same way, if I were you.”
He tried to by comprehensive, but it didn’t help. No words would ever help. This was only about me, my mind and time. ,, Thank you.” I said politely, but didn’t really mean it.
Tommy raised his hand with his palm facing me. ,, Don’t mention it.” He already had another cigarette in his mouth and he held a lighter in the other hand.
,, Aren’t you smoking too much?”
He lighted the cigarette and put the lighter into the pocket on the inner side of his khaki west. ,, You think so?” His words were followed by a short but loud and dry cough.
,, Tommy, your round times are now worse than Mikers’.”
,, Really? That son of bitch must have been doing more training lately.” He laughed suddenly.
But I didn’t. ,, No he hasn’t. It’s the smoking, Tommy. I watched you yesterday and you were sweating like a fatso before a heart failure after the fourth round.”
He took the cigarette between his fingers and he gazed at it with shock. ,, Is it that bad already?”
,, Yep. I don’t care what reasons did you have to start smoking, but it’s been now two years and your condition is getting worse with every cigarette you smoke.” It was fascinating, that I cared for him even though I was apathetic what concerned me.
,, I think you’re right, brother. I quit, right now. Promise.” He kissed the two smoking fingers and raised them in the air. ,, All right. I better get going. I’m really tired and it looks like I have a lot of training to do tomorrow.” He looked at his watch and got surprised. ,,I mean today.”
,, Okay and don’t forget to put out that cigarette.” I pointed on the small smoking cylinder.
,, Sure, sure. And what about you?”
,, I don’t smoke, you know that.”
,, Of course I do.” As he swayed with his head, blond curls floated around it. ,, I mean, what are you going to do now?”
,, I’m going upstairs.” I replied while looking on the steel elevating pavement.
,, Getting a drink are you? Well then, brother, I’ll leave you alone with your liquid mate. I hope this new hobby of yours will loose your interest as fast as the others did. Adios!” He turned his back on me and waved me as he was walking away.
,, Hey Tommy!” There was something I needed to say to him.
,, What’s up?” He didn’t even turn to me.
,, The cigarette, you’re still holding it” I couldn’t let him go with it after he swore to quit. He tried to help me, I’ll try to help him. We are brothers at all.
,, Fu.., you’re right! How to hell did it land in my hand?” He threw the cigarette away and again started to walk away from me. I heard him singing some song and it soon disappeared with him. After he had vanished behind a corner I tightened my vest and walked up the stairs. There were exactly 46 of these thick steel plates that paved the road to the second story door. Pretty long walk, but it kept me warm at least. The door had a small plate on its face. It said: Lone Love.
,, How it is, that the bar has the same name as I do?” I smiled for an instance and than grabbed the handle. It was even colder than the air outside. That’s been the disadvantage of these steel constructions, because everything except the interior is made of aluminium or steel. I opened the door and a wave of warm stale air with cigarette odour flushed directly into my face. ,, Home, sweet home.” I said and entered.
The bar had plenty of space. It must have covered the whole second floor. Gloomy red light came out of bulbs fixed to the ceiling. It filled the entire room and made it look vague. But still it had its own deep spirit. I liked it, even though red was not my favourite colour anymore. Tranquil saxophone music sounded the place with some easing night rhythms. Almost the same kind of music, that was used in softporn movies. ,,Oh boy!” I told myself.
I headed towards the bar. It was placed against the entrance and had a long wooden desk. It shone when I came closer. I could see the whole bar reflected in it as good as myself and still the barman was cleaning it up with a greyish rug. He was a typical movie barman, fat, small but could break your neck in an instance, if you would piss him off for long enough. But I wasn’t going to try that. He wore a grey shirt with short sleeves. It almost looked like his rug. Maybe the rug had been a shirt as well in the past, but it has been turned into this after it served its purpose. Most of his face was covered with stubble. His skin was darker and carried a distinguished red hue. When he saw me coming, he put the rug away and leaned him self against the bar. His eyes were strange. Not many people had this blue colour, mostly mass murders or other outlaws and freaks. I’ve always been afraid of this kind of eyes. They were so cold and disdainful. The bartender was quite an exception. I wasn’t afraid of him and he didn’t even look strange. Quite the opposite, he looked familiar and slightly amiable, at least I thought so.
,, On a late hunt, huh?” He asked. His voice sounded like the dry engine of a chainsaw. ,, So what do you wanna’ shoot?”
,, Good evening. Let me see what you’ve got.” I looked around to see the selection of bottles. It was wide and miscellaneous. ,, One drink better than other.” I remarked.
,, Right, the best of the best of the world.” He moved to the shelves and started to scan the names of single bottles. ,, Looking for anything particular?”
,, I don’t think so. I’m in the mood to try something new and completely different.” I watched the beverages but I couldn’t make a choice. And I’d been tired of making them so I decided to make it quick. ,, You know what? Surprise me.”
,,Y’r the boss.” He turned around and walked to the other end of bar. There he bent down and withdrew a huge round bottle. When he came back, he put the flask on the table and quickly grabbed a glass. I tried to read the etiquette, but it was written with a language unknown to me. I didn’t even recognize the symbols. The liquid, which the bottle contained, was deep transparent and dense. It almost looked like shinning jelly.
,, I hope it’s not radioactive.” I said jokingly.
,, It looks so, ain’t it? Don’t worry it’s only because of the light.” His crooked smile revealed a few ugly yellow teeth.
,, Ah, it seems I have to trust you.”
,, Do you have a choice?”
Sure I had a plenty of choices, but I wanted to try something different, something new, just to escape from the stereotype I got myself into. ,, Thanks.” I replied and grabbed the glass. The smell was strong and must have burnt all of my nose hair. I moved the glass to my lips and prepared myself to drink it and probably to die. ,, There it goes.”
,, C’mon on, speed up.”
The liquid touched the tip of my tongue and the taste almost killed me. The presence of alcohol was so great that I suddenly lost the taste as it flooded my mouth. I must have felt it even in my hair and I swear some of it must have fallen out in that moment. When I swallowed it, it was exactly as if you would try to eat a burning rusty sword broken into shreds. I remember wishing myself to be dead.
,, Speechless, huh?” I could see the grim smile on his face. But I couldn’t say a word. It still burnt too much so I just nodded.
,, I used to clean my car’s cylinders with this stuff.”
I wanted to kill him or better, to take the bottle and let him drink it to the bottom.
,, All right, enough fun. Here you go.” He put a medium glass on the table. It was filled with shiny blue liquid.
I wanted to refuse, but I couldn’t imagine anything worse than the first one, so I drunk it.
The blue liquid touched the tip of my tongue. It was overwhelming. It was acrid, dry and salty but delicious. This was the new thing I was looking for. ,, Wow, that’s amazing.” My voice was back online. ,, I can talk again. This thing is certainly amazing.”
,, Think so? Than I tell ya’ sumthin’ pal.” He bent over the bar and whispered. ,, It’s a simple mix of vodka and some liquor. You can prepare it yourself at home.” He smiled politely and returned to the cleaning of bar. He didn’t need to say that I should move on, so I took the glass and walked to a small oval table far from the bar. There were only a few of these tables. I counted six. Each of them had a pair of chairs. Most sitting capacities were offered by the boxes. They stretched along all the walls. They were also red, just like the light. I finally noticed that everything in this bar was red, except the different drinks.
I sat down and aimed my look into the glass and drowned my thoughts to its bottom. The bar was deserted. No other customers were on scope so I let my emotions for a walk. My face dipped into my palm and lost its colour. My eyes turned into a mirror.
I must have been pretty bad because I didn’t even realise a sudden loud noise of counters hitting the floor. The chair on the other side of my table moved and a woman sat down on it.
,, Hi hansom. Can I sit down for a while?”
Her voice sounded experienced and adult.
I raised my head and looked bored at her. Her face was pleasant and attractive, even though she must have been in her mid-30. Her long scarlet curls fell like a waterfall down across her cheeks to the round freckled breasts covered under a skin-tight blouse with a deep décolletage.
,, Well, you already do, so why the question?” I didn’t respond with the friendliest tone, but she didn’t seem to be offended.
,, Why so petulant?” Her tone didn’t change. She remained friendly and gallant.
,, You wouldn’t be, if a stranger sat down to your table and then asked stupid questions?”
She laughed lightly and her eyes sparkled for an instance. ,, Good point. But personally I don’t have anything against meeting strangers and new people, especially when they are interesting and attractive.”
I smiled insolently this time. ,, So, are you trying to tell me that you are interesting and attractive?”
She put her elbows on the table and rested her head on joined fingers. Her seduction skills were good. ,, It depends on your taste, but yes I do.”
,, You forgot to mention self-confidence.” I did not even try to make it easy for her.
,, Sure, that’s important. I like self-confident men.” Her voice changed into a deep murmuring. She twisted a small torrent of hair around a finger and looked away. Her head turned slowly and lusciously. A small space between her curls revealed a piece of her silk neck.
I tossed the glass to my lips and drunk another sip. My eyes were still telling that I’m uninterested, but somehow it didn’t repel her as she sank her look into mine. I froze for an instance.
,, What is a young hansom man, like you, looking for in a jerkwater bar, like this?” She was definitely trying to penetrate my defences. ,, You’re having a drink all alone. That’s something that even alcoholics don’t prefer.”
,, I could have asked you the same question.”
,, But you haven’t. And you can’t.”
I raised my brows. ,, Are you sure? Because it looks like you’ve got no company too.”
,, Oh, that’s not true.” She put her hands on the table and moved them unnoticed against mine until her crimson nails were only an inch away. ,, I’ve got company.”
It disrupted me in some way and I scanned the bar for other people. ,, But I don’t see anybody else.”
She laughed modestly and rubbed her red rose lips mildly with her fingers. ,, Dummy, this drink can’t be that strong.” She took a closer look at my glass. The she again easily dropped her look into my eyes. It felt pleasant, but still made me nervous. ,, My company is sitting directly against me.”
My hand stopped as I was having a small sip. It immediately attracted my attention, even though I’ve been awaiting it. I turned my head and looked over my shoulder to see what is behind my back. ,, Nobody is there. Are you sure that you’re not the one with a strong drink?”
Her eyes flashed with a mystical fire, filled with sensuality and passionate fury. Her patience with me trembled. ,, I’m sure, don’t worry. Apropos drinks. Mine is almost gone. Don’t you mind spending one for the lady?”
I hesitated for a second and watch her sitting there and waiting. Then my hand rose and waved to the bartender. We’ve waited until he brought the drinks and than returned to our stares. Of course she didn’t stop with her attempts.
,, You’re a soldier.”
,, Are you a telepath or what?”
,, No. There are more interesting ways of reading minds.”
,, Really?” I haven’t been interested.
,, Yes. For example, eyes.”
,, Exactly. Like the shiny blue pounds of yours. Eyes are not a mirror to the soul, but a gate, or a scroll with everything written on it. Your whole life is hidden in eyes. You just need to look.
,, I see. And mine are saying that I’m a soldier?”
,, They say much more. I wouldn’t even believe.”
,, Who said that I do believe.” ,, So, you know how to read from eyes?”
,, You can do it too. Just need to have a deep look.”
,, You’re right. I see your passionate ebony eyes turning around with you and leaving me alone.”
Usually this would have startled any woman, but she remained with a decent smile and that intoxicating look.
,, Does it still hurt much?”
I didn’t understand at first. ,, Excuse me?”
,, Your girl. She left you.”
I started to suffocate while I was trying to drink. She was just watching me with her interesting look. ,, What???”
,, You heard me. This is the very reason why are you here tonight and all alone.”
I didn’t venture to say anything. I couldn’t. I was speechless. How could she know that? Do I look that bad already? I refused to let her know. ,, And that’s what you’ve read in my eyes?”
,, One of many things. What happened?” She seemed to know more, than she admitted.
,, Read it.” I provoked her. I had enough of her eye talk.
She bore her eyes deeply into the wooden table. ,, It’s not that easy. I can read how you feel and how you are, your exact character, but I can’t tell what happened to you, at least not in details.”
,, I see and how am I?”
She looked as if she had been awaiting this. ,, People always ask me this. But when I tell them, they refuse to accept it. They don’t believe what I see. That’s because they often see themselves in other ways. And they often live in dreams about themselves.”
,, You’re right, so I’ll take the question back.” I turned my attention to the bar.
,, I can tell you.”
,, But I don’t want to hear it.” I refused to change my mind.
,, You’re twenty…six…” She didn’t guess. She knew it.
But I didn’t want to listen. I knew how I am. ,, I don’t want to hear it, ok?”
Her lips again formed that lovely smile. ,, I understand. So what happened?”
,, To who?”
She turned serious in a moment but even then her kind eyes watched me with infatuation. ,, There’s no need to play games anymore, marine. I see you’ve got a problem and I see that it tears you apart. But what hurts you most isn’t that your girlfriend left you. You’ve got nobody to talk about it. Your friends are tough soldiers with not much sense for comprehension and empathy.”
My eyes almost rolled out. I couldn’t believe what she just said. How was it possible?
,, Surprised?” Her lips moved and pouted lightly. ,, It’s all in your eyes. And the more time I spend watching you, the more I know. You’re like a book. But that’s not what I want. I want to talk to you. I want to talk to YOU, a man, not this depressed and broken boy. I want you to tell me everything. And the only way to bring you back is to let it out. So?” She was like one of these girls from vintage mafia movies. The only thing she missed was a long cigarette.
I wasn’t able to say a single word. I just stared at the bottom of my glass in silence. She suddenly moved and begun to rise from the chair.
I don’t know what came into me, but my hand reached for her. ,, Wait!”
She looked at me with a slight surprise, but still I felt that she knew this would happen. As if everything happening tonight was a part of a plan.
I drove my hand back, but still held her with my eyes. ,, Stay. Please.”
She watched me for a while and than sat back down. She crossed her legs over and revealed her fine nylon stockings, just like the ones you would find only in the section with erotic lingerie. I wondered if she wore suspenders too.
,, Her name is Caroline and she is 25…” My voice was shaking and stalling.
,, Go on.” She encouraged me. Her voice was careful and warm.
I told her the story about me and the love of my life. I told her how we met at the academy, how we fell in love, how we moved together, how we planned our marriage and children and how I found out that she left with her superior, while I’ve been on a mission just a month ago. And I felt how the pressure decreased and the weight carried on my hart fell down in small pieces. I talked to her like to my best friend, even though I hadn’t known her name. But I felt relaxed and had a strong need to tell it all. In a while, the walls between us broke and I found my self laughing with her and myself dangerously close to her, in spite I didn’t move an inch,
,, He was black?” She asked while exploding in laugh. It was like a fountain of the freshest water, cool and neat, refreshing.
The alcohol worked already in our bodies. I was making fun of my pain. ,,Like coal, I swear.”
So was she. ,, Now she has a really bad taste.”
,, Ehm…” Now that was rather an insult, but still I smiled.
,, Sorry, but…you too. How could you let your self be deceived by her?” The laugh started to disappear and cold emotional reality found its way back to our minds.
,, I was in love. And she loved me too, at least I believed that.” I felt as tears were running up from my heart to my eyes. But I didn’t let them out.
Her smile embraced me. ,, She doesn’t know what love is and she won’t ever know it. She will just move from one point to another, back and forth, being unable to decide what she really wants.”
,, But that won’t bring her back.”
She raised her voice a little. ,, You don’t really want her back. Don’t tell me that you believe that she could love you.”
,, I don’t know. I’ve been happy with her. You see, before I met her, I had hundreds of girls and I’ve never wanted to raise a family with any of them. But she managed to tame me and devote my heart only to her. There must have been something.”
,, Don’t believe that. You too don’t know what love is. You might have adored her, but the true love comes always from both sides. She didn’t give you love. She was just gaining whatever she could out of your relation until there was nothing left. You never felt how a true love feels. Your heart was never touched by a flame of true passion and your body never felt the warmth of real woman, a loving one.”
,, I guess so. And I suppose I’ll never know.”
,, Why so sceptical?”
,, I don’t want to love anymore.”
She laughed openly.
,, What’s so funny?”
,, Come on. Listen to yourself. You are so young and you already reject the most beautiful thing in our lives? You don’t even know what love is.”
,, How can you tell?” She didn't need to answer, I did it myslef. ,, Oh yes, my eyes. Then I’ll tell you something lady, I loved her like nothing else in this world, I was ready to give up my life for her. She was my life.”
,, Once again listen to what you’re saying. If you were ready to give up your life and she was your life, than you were ready to give her up. And do you believe she would have wanted you to get yourself killed for her if she had loved you? Do you believe she would leave? If she had loved you, she would wait for you like a flower for the sun, she would love to see you live even though she was supposed to die and still she would want you to die too, just to be with you. She would give you a love which would not allow you to go away. If she had loved you, you wouldn’t speak of her in past tense.”
,, And you know what love is?” I rejected. I didn’t have any power left to search for new arguments that would defend me and prove that I am not a fool who fell in love with a wrong girl.
,, I do…” Her lips were moving with precision and harmony. They were hypnotising me. Just as anything else on her.
,, And what is it then? Tell me.” I wanted to touch her. I suddenly wanted to hold her.
She must have realised it, because she extended her hand and put it on mine. ,, I can’t. Love can’t be told, love can be only felt.” Her fingers softly circled in my palm. ,, Do you want to feel it?”
The fire in her eyes burnt all my clothes. I was sitting naked in front of her. ,, Yes.”
,, Than take my hand.” She stood up revealing her beautiful curved body dressed in elegant but provocative clothes. ,, Love doesn’t need time. It is in our hearts. We are love; we just need to feel each other.” She pulled and I followed. We were heading for the exit.
I stopped a few steps away from the door as a lunatic idea came up in my mind. ,, Wait…Tell me, did any of my friends hired you? Did they pay you for this, just to make me feel better?” This was too perfect. This was too easy. She knew so much about me, she knew how to talk to me, and she didn’t leave even though I was insolent. This couldn’t be true.
She froze and so did her voice. ,, Does it matter if you feel better?” She reached for the door handle.
,, Did they?” I wanted to know. I needed to know. I wanted this to be true.
She turned to me and her crimson lips blew the word to me like a cold breeze in Sahara. ,, No.”
,, I trust you.”
,, Thank you. Now follow me. I’ll show you what words can never describe.”
And she did. We left the bar and walked a few block away. I found myself in a small and neat flat incorporated into one of these steel blocks and I found myself in her soft and warm embracement. I inhaled her jasmine perfume like the fresh spring air after a rain. It intoxicated me fast and soon our lips entered a play of kisses and dance of passion. So did our bodies. Her warmth was like nothing I’ve ever felt before. When she bosomed me and her round freckled skin of her breasts touched me, I felt like if this was my home. I knew that this is exactly how a child feels when being in mother’s womb. I felt loved. But this was not the love of a mother and child, not even a love of a man and woman. It was simply a love of two people who give love and receive it. They accept it and return it; they feel it and enjoy it. They simply…love.
She was right. No words could ever describe what happened that night. The harmony, the movement, the touch, the look, everything was unique. It was like a dream I’ve never had before and I don’t know any words that could tell anybody else how it was. It just had to be dreamt And we’ve dreamt our dream that night. I didn’t care that I didn’t knew her name and that she was possibly hired to help me forget about my pain. The only thing that mattered this night was that I’ve been happy again and I felt how true love feels.
I left early in the morning. Outside, it was still dark and a cold breeze blew from the ocean. I left the street and moved fast to the port, where a transport was waiting for our unit. When the loading was complete, it elevated into the sky and left the atmosphere. I watched as the large steel blocks turned fast into tiny boxes and disappeared in distance, especially one.