“It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” is a saying for a reason.
There are countless people who find themselves nursing drinks before a socially acceptable time.
Even more are drowning their sorrows, grief, and anger long before the sun goes down.
It is within these people that good stories reside.
Many find it strange, what I do. Most don’t expect to find a young woman in a pub or a bar, sipping on a glass of rum, transitioning between drinking and staring out the window absentmindedly to typing away furiously at her laptop.
More often than not I sit alone, writing, drinking. In part because of the grief I run from, in part because I have the liberty to do so, in part because of the romanticized image of the tortured author.
I listen to those around me, those other tortured souls.
I see the young woman, her pure face covered in tears and disgust as she laments to the bartender on how her husband had been cheating on her for the full duration of their marriage.
I hear the two brothers solemnly discussing their third brother’s death, due to an overdose of heroin, and how their mother in full-time care does not remember that her son had passed weeks ago.
I speak to the excited musician, one who has played all over locally and who is starting a tour across the country after all of his struggles.
I observe as the alcoholic man drowns his regrets, shot after shot, mumbling bitterly as to how he never should have had kids, never moved to this god-forsaken city, never married that cheating whore that was sleeping with his boss in the worst job that he had ever had.
I write stories for each of them, taking the strife that I hear and evolving it, developing it, putting my own spin on it.
Some people have begun to realize what I am doing.
I have a favourite spot, you see. A small, run-down bar with too small of a variety of alcohol, a place that houses local artists from folk to metal. I’ve all but scratched my name into a singular stool at a table near the window that faces out at the bustling city streets, watching adults and kids alike run through the park just within view.
And so, I sit, and I write, and I drink, and I write some more.
The first time I had someone approach me with a request, I was shaken.
A young bearded man came and sat near me, observing me for a while. I thought nothing of it, assuming he was as lost in thought as I was.
When he spoke, his voice was softer than I expected and filled with sadness.
He asked if I would write him a story.
I sat for a moment, stunned. Why would anyone want that? Why would they want some random stranger to write them a story out of the blue?
Still, I opened up a blank Word document and turned to him, meeting his sad blue eyes.
I asked him what he would like me to write.
He told me he had just been evicted, with nowhere to go but home to a place that had never supported him, that had told him that his dreams of being a painter were too far-fetched, too outdated for the times that we lived in.
He told me to take that information, and to write him a story. He would continue to sit there and drink until it was done, he informed me, even if it took me days.
Without another word, I accepted the task.
I began to weave a tale of this starving artist, one that had been through both hardship and beauty with which he used to create his work. But he had never once heard praise. I wrote of his journey home, and the abuse and the pain that he would have to suffer there. Those who never believed him were vile creatures, forcing his self-esteem into oblivion. That is until light found him in the form of an old high school friend, a beautiful woman who was holding an art gallery event in order to raise money for the school they both attended. She asked if she could feature his work. It was that gallery that led this man to revive the art world, shaping the future of this medium in his ideal image.
As I watched the now drunken man read my piece, his eyes welled with tears, a sad smile forming.
He asked me to email this to him, and that he would treasure it.
When he left, I ordered another drink. I needed it after that exchange.
I never heard from him again.
Yet since that moment, I’ve had others come to me, asking me to write their stories, be it their past, their present, or their future.
I’ve written the stories of the lonely, of the abandoned. I’ve written of those who have been lost in life, and those who may never be found.
Sometimes I don’t even get their name, simply the parts of their story that they want me to tell, to transform.
I’ve become the local Storyteller, working herself away, pouring her soul into the souls of others.
And now here I sit, in my spot, in my bar, for once telling not the story of another, but the story of myself.