He was wearing checkered shorts when I saw him. They were a bit small and the color red was dominant. He looked uncomfortable in them and despite my state of mind my first thought was: what on earth is the man wearing? He had a long, dark thatch for hair and penetrating, grey eyes.
I just wanted to find a place where I could get a stiff drink and some calm. I ordered a Negroni and the man in the checkered shorts raised an eyebrow.
I sat by the window and watched the people walk by on the pier and I watched the way the streetlights reflected in the water.
I was in a state of shock. Firing a gun can do that to the best of us, and I guess I looked worn down and pathetic, because when I had finished my drink, he came to me wearing his flashy shorts, holding a very bright looking cocktail. He handed me the drink, cocked his head a little to the right, his long hair falling a little over to the side, and he told me it was on the house.
I looked at him and I guess the shocked expression amused him, because a soft smile broke out on his face.
It was like someone lit a light in a ghost house and suddenly I saw him differently. He was not the strange, hostile old geezer I had initially taken him for, but a rather good looking guy. Perspective is a beautiful thing.
I thanked him for the drink and asked if he wanted to join me. He nodded his head, went back behind the counter, shouted something to someone in the back and then came and sat down beside me with a beer in his hand.
I sipped the cocktail. It tasted of happiness and colorful adventures. He pulled at the leg of his shorts so they wouldn’t ride his crouch and adjusted himself in the chair.
It was a bit comical. I asked him what the cocktail was called and he smiled, showing glimmering white teeth, and he said it was his speciality, that he made it only once in a blue moon, and that he called it The Trouble Breaker.
“It’s not going to get you so drunk that you lose control,” he told me. “It will however take away your troubles, and you look like you need it”.
I didn’t tell him my troubles. I didn’t tell him that I had just shot a gun for the first time in my life, and that the bullet that flew out of the gun had hit someone. I didn’t tell him that moments before that happened, the man had been raping me. I didn’t tell him, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to do so without crying.
And I didn’t want to cry. Because I didn’t know if the man I shot was dead or alive. I didn’t tell him because I could still feel the man’s filthy hands on my breasts, on my thighs and I could still feel his body on top of mine, in mine.
I didn’t tell him because I could still hear the thud as the man hit the floor.
I didn’t tell him because I feared that the incident had made me a killer, and that wasn't something I was prepared to be.
“Do you come here often?” he asked.
I just shook my head.
“No,” he said, “you don’t look it”.
I took another sip of the drink and felt it warm my innards. It was a nice feeling.
“Have you worked here long?” I asked him in turn. I wanted to talk about something normal, something you would do any day, at the pub, after work.
He nodded. “I own the joint. It’s my own private hell,” he said.
“It seems like a nice place,” I said.
“It serves its purpose,” he grinned.
I remember wondering why there weren’t more people in there. It was a nice place by the pier, the service was good and the prices weren’t too steep. It made little sense, but I figured it was just one of those days.
“Are you going to visit again?”
I noticed he had a serene expression on his face when he asked this. I didn’t want to tell him that I probably wouldn’t, that it would only remind me of the horrible things that had happened that night, things I really didn’t want to be reminded of.
I just shrugged and told him I was just passing by. It was as neutral an answer as I could give, but it seemed to sooth him. He patted my shoulder and started talking.
He told me that he had been a sailor, and that he therefore liked to have a view over the sea. He told me that he had a kid in Singapore, with a woman who never wanted to speak to him again, and a sister in Italy who thought he was dead.
“She may be right too,” he said, grinning.
I listened to him talk, not offering much information about myself, and he noticed because when he had spoken for a while, he went quiet and then he asked me what had happened to me, in a hushed voice.
I turned towards him and got a little lost in his dark eyes. I don’t know what came over me, but suddenly I leaned over and I kissed him.
It was a soft, slow kiss, nothing extravagant or passionate, but it was quiet and it was nice. Perhaps the nicest kiss I’ve ever had. He tasted of seafood.
And he did kiss me back.
When I withdrew he asked why I had done that. I shrugged and told him I did it because I wanted to and because he let me. He seemed to buy that. He nodded his head slowly and tasted his beer.
And it was the truth. I just didn’t add that knowing that the other man had been the last one to kiss me would eventually kill me, and so inadvertently the man in the checkered shorts saved my life.
“Are you going to tell me what happened?” he asked.
I didn’t look at him this time. I just shook my head.
I could see his image reflecting in the window and the sign above the bar. There was something wicked in his eyes I hadn’t noticed before.
“Are you sure you’re not coming back?”
“Does it matter?”
“Well,” he said and leaned back a little on his stool, folding his arms. Then he pulled at his shorts, the best he could, and cleared his throat. “It’s not that business is dying down or anything,” he said, “most people come in a bit later in the evening,” he grinned.
“I can see why one would come here often,” I told him.
He grunted, but he said nothing.
When I had finished my drink I stood up. I asked if I shouldn’t pay for the cocktail but he shook his head.
“First timers get one for free, and all your troubles go away,” he smiled. “The second time won’t be that easy,” he added.
I left there feeling better than when I came in. I gave him a glance as I stood by the door. He was cleaning the counter with a red rag. I told him I might be back someday.
He just nodded and continued doing his job.
He was different when I left. He had put his hair in a pony tail in the back which made him look a bit like a muffled biker. I almost expected the shorts to have magically transformed into jeans, although I’m sure they hadn’t.
He looked my way and smiled and for a moment I thought he was going to say something, but he didn’t. He just waved a hand and went on with his business, and I went on with mine.
For what it’s worth my troubles didn’t all go away. Life doesn’t work like that, but the repercussions from what happened that day were a lot less shattering that I had expected.
It’s almost as if I got a get out of jail free card.
Eygló was born and bred in Kópavogur, Iceland. She studied literary theory at the University of Iceland before moving to the south of Sweden where she is playing house, taking pictures, writing, reading, running and living, when there is time. She never grew up enough to start drinking coffee, but she does know how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull and how to do a fishtail braid. Instagram and Site.
SEAFOOD AND COCKTAILS is copyright © Eygló 2015