Fog Of Despair

The summertime storm that had been promised for the last seven days finally made its appearance with a vengeance as Max reached the canopy covering the doorway to the Claddagh Irish Pub. The steam from the street mixed with the pelting rain and the smoke from Max’s Marlboro as he watched Main Street empty at the first crack of thunder. The shoppers and restaurant goers quickly scrambled to the closest doorways and moments later the desolate gray emptiness became a perfect match for Max’s mood. After four hours instructing a Shakespeare course to restless college students, a three-hour departmental meeting and the constant reminder of what today meant, he was unable to shake the depressive cloak that had engulfed his body since awakening that morning. It was a year ago this evening that he had stood in this exact spot filled with anger and hopelessness after reading Sophie’s letter. He was not to know then how quickly that anger and hopelessness would be replaced by loss and despair. Max wondered as he took the last drag from the cigarette as to why he continued coming to this pub on a regular basis after that night. He thought the constant reminder of how he spent that night stewing in his anger, nursing a Bushmills and refusing Sophie’s calls as she was contemplating the last moments of her life, would be the last place he would choose to spend his evenings.  Max flicked the cigarette toward the curbside puddle and knew that this place had become his self-imposed prison of pain and he did not know how long his sentence would last. Entering the dark pub that Thursday evening, Max discovered the place quite full, but thankfully his seat at the bar remained empty awaiting another evening of penance. Slowly sliding into the chair, Max caught Annie’s eye behind the bar and shook his head for the usual. After a few moments of taking care of her other customers, Annie brought Max his glass of Bushmills and after taking one look at his face and the dark circles from what looked like another sleepless night, she silently slid the glass across the bar to Max and briefly squeezed his hand in understanding before moving along. As Max lifted the glass for the first of what would be many drinks that evening, his attention was drawn to the mirror behind the bar as the lights reflected off the glass into the mirror illuminating what had become a strangers eyes over the last year. Deep blue eyes that had been filled with laughter and, at times, a silent intensity had become shadowed with unhappiness, fatigue and cynicism. Starring into the mirror, Max saw the reflections of the cast of characters that had become his silent companions for the last year. In the corner booth was the business executive who was a regular on Thursday nights, which was a girls night out for his wife and provided a perfect opportunity for him to have dinner and drinks with his latest mistress. The large table in the center of the room was usually occupied by a group of young lawyers or college kids who became louder and more obnoxious as the evening progressed. Off to the right at their regular table was Art and Betty, who were enjoying their usual glass of wine prior to heading to the park for the weekly summer concert series. A few new couples were scattered among the other tables and glancing at his mates sitting at the bar, he noticed a few regulars who were there because Annie provided better companionship than their empty sofas at home. The noise and the mirror were a constant reminder to Max of life moving on around him while his days had settled into a blind routine of work and evenings spent with blue eyes staring into nothingness over the rim of his glass. Tonight the noise, laughter and couples were too much to bear and after a couple of drinks, Max waved to Annie and headed home early. Walking out onto Main Street, Max was enveloped in a heavy mist similar to the evening a year ago when Sophie, in her fog of despair, sought out our sailboat in those last hours of her life.  The place where we had shared our greatest happiness became her final escape from the dark depression that had stalked her silently since childhood. Pausing in front of the storefront of Sophie’s favorite tea shop, Max caught a glimpse of his self-condemning blue eyes as the lighter struck his Marlboro and when his phone rang and he slowly lifted it from his pocket, he could see Alexandria’s name flashing through the fog.