While My Guitar Gently Weeps
I chucked my work phone into the gutter, watching it shatter into a small shit storm of fractured plastic and metal. A feeling of satisfaction pumped through my veins. Ha! They’ll probably take that out of my paycheck—bastards!
I looked up to find out where the hell I was and spotted a hanging sign that read ‘The Rising Sun.’ It was just the sign I needed. Time to get shitfaced ‘til dawn. My buzz was already coming on. I realized I’d walked past this pub a few times while heading to my hotel, so I could stumble back there without much effort.
I passed the textured glass lit up from within the pub. The words above the corner door said ‘Public Bar,’ making me wonder if some bars weren’t public, and how I might get an invite to those places.
Inside, chandeliers cast ominous shadows on the wood paneling. The joint was too classy for any neon signs—not the kind of hole-in-the wall I was hoping for. My dress shoes clacked on the floorboards as I approached the bar. The glasses stocked on its overhead canopy leered at me.
A couple sucked each other’s faces at a corner table, the woman’s bare leg thrust up in her boyfriend’s lap, her hiked-up jean skirt giving me a view of her black panties. One of the man’s eyes opened and met mine in a warning to look away or there’d be trouble. I had no interest in ogling anymore of that side show. I could fire up the internet later if I wanted to see something worth getting hard over.
I parked my ass on a stool at the bar, trying not to spin on the seat as it rumbled and wavered. I felt like a kid on some kind of ride. Someone must’ve really loosened the thing. Maybe one of the regulars was Thor or some shit. Not too many regulars out after midnight, apparently. All the other stools were empty.
In a heavy British accent, the bartender spouted, “What ya hav’n, chap?”
“Whisky on the rocks.” I crossed my arms and planted them on the bar.
He didn’t ask what kind, but grabbed a bottle and glugged some of the amber-colored liquid over cubes of ice in a short glass. Loneliness hovered around me like buzzards waiting for the rest of my life to collapse. They wouldn’t be waiting long. My personal phone was still playing dead in my pocket. No one would be messaging me. My instinct was to dial up Jamie. Old habit, but I had to break it. She was probably deleting every trace of me from her digital and actual life. Hopefully, she wouldn’t smash all my old vinyl records while she was at it, but I knew I had to be prepared to kiss them all goodbye.
I needed to get my head together, figure out my next move. Getting the band back together crossed my mind. And not to play covers, but to create our own material. That had always been a kind of musical masturbation, but not just us jerking ourselves off. Someone else would hear that shit and say, “That turns me on, too.” That’s music. That’s what I missed. The days of playing with the band were long over. My life was spent.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone sit down next to me. Of all the goddam places to sit, you couldn’t give me some space? Turning would be an invite for conversation, so I stared into the mirror lined with shelves of liquor. Next to the back of the bartender’s bald head, I caught a glimpse of the stranger. His pretentious hair cut fell over his weathered face. His red collared button down must’ve just come right out of the damn package. There was something about this dude that was oddly familiar, like maybe I’d seen him in a billboard somewhere.
“How’s it going, mate?” The man made eye contact with the bartender and pointed to the empty space in front of him where there should’ve been a drink.
Is that a pick up line? Maybe I do know him. Regardless, I didn’t go in there to be bothered, but didn’t want to be an asshole. “Do I know you?” I didn’t turn my head. Yeah, I’m being an asshole.
“We’re all connected somehow or another.” Even his deep voice sounded familiar.
“I suppose.” This guy is so gay. Either that, or he’s about to appear on Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday.” One good thing about the divorce—wouldn’t have to hear any of that garbage on TV anymore. My gaze was still fixed on the reflection ahead of me.
I’d be damned if I was going to get sucked into a philosophical conversation tonight. I couldn’t recall anyone that I ever knew who actually gave two shits about any of that crap. Well, maybe Jamie. With her, in the beginning, it was fun—to see her face light up, probably thinking about how we were deeply connecting. I pushed her out of my mind again.
A few minutes of silence allowed me to watch the water from the ice mix with my drink. The glass felt cool to my lips and I slugged most of it back. The stranger studied me in the mirror’s reflection. Maybe he’d pay up his tab soon and get going. He didn’t.
The couple at the corner table had come up for air, both of the woman’s legs draped over her pimp’s lap—or maybe she was screwing him for free. Now that I could see her face as she rested her head on his shoulder, I thought I’d need to be paid to even consider tapping that.
As I looked down, the dings and gauges in the wood of the bar made me wonder if Shakespeare had once set a pint of ale down on it. I picked up my second glass and rattled the ice, then sucked a cube into my mouth and crunched it. When I set the glass back on the bar, it slid along by itself for a few inches and stopped. The trail of sweat from the glass shined before starting to evaporate.
“The place’s supposed to be haunted,” the stranger said.
Did he see it too? I don’t believe in that bullshit. But then again, my glass had just acted like it was slowly sliding into home base. “Yeah?” I didn’t want to hear about it, but thought it might take my mind off of things while I waited for the bartender to return. They always seemed to disappear when you wanted your check.
“Yep. Used to be an inn. The family that ran it killed some of the visitors and sold the bodies to medical science—a real bloody body snatcher scenario.”
He traced the rim of his glass with his finger. “Strange occurrences are always happening in here, especially after closing. Can’t keep the bartenders too long. They eventually get spooked and literally throw in their towel.”
“I see. You the manager?” Where’s that damn bartender? Or maybe I should just throw down some cash and be done with it. I fumbled through my pocket for my wallet and slapped it on the counter.
“I’m the owner. Family business. Grew up with all the specters. They’re family, too.” His finger still circled the rim because I could hear the slight hum.
I drummed my fingers on the bar. “I’m sure you have some good stories.” None of which I want to hear. Guy’s friends are ghosts? I somehow attract all the crazies.
“I don’t mean to put you on edge, mate. But I have to say that you came in here with a pack of demons on your heels. Life’s been beating you down?”
I threw back the rest of my booze. “You don’t even want to know,” I muttered.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
You can find “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in “Hindered Souls: Dark Tales for Dark Nights,” a collection of twenty-five stories from twenty-one of the brightest emerging authors from all around the world. The stories within are surreal, mind bending and soul wrenching.