Neither of them came to the bar looking for companionship, which is what makes any conversation taking place at closing time that much more interesting. It was on the smaller side as bars go. The vinyl in the booths was beginning to show some wear and despite the No Smoking signs scattered around smoke hung in the air. The requisite pool table sat in the corner and the floor stuck to the soles of the clientele’s shoes with the same urgency as your typical movie theater floor. It could be a bar in Glasgow, Yekaterinburg or Dallas. The only difference would be the songs in the jukebox. There was no music playing at the moment.
Seated two stools apart they had exchanged smiles a number of times during the evening but that’s as far as their interactions had progressed. Finally, after pulling out another smile and turning it on her like a spotlight, the man asked “What are your feelings about strangers?”
He thought he saw a quick blush on her cheek as she looked away. When she felt certain that the blush had departed she turned back and said “Not currently in the market for one. The same can’t be said about my heart though.”
This is the type of reply that men perched on stools at closing time are not prepared for. His smile faltered ever so slightly. Realizing that had the upper hand she continued.
“Some of my best friends are strangers.”
The man, one Clive Warren, took a long drink from his beer. He understood that it was his turn to speak but nothing came to mind. He took another drink. When she turned away and it was apparent that action was required to continue the interaction he extended his hand and said “Hello. I’m Clive.”
“Hello Clive” she replied. “Clive, I want you to imagine every horrible thing that one human being has done to another throughout time. The real terrible stuff. The monstrous.”
Clive did not know how to respond. She enjoyed that.
“You see Clive, I’m only interested in people that understand that however awful the scene that plays out in their head, that they themselves are completely capable of doing that very thing given the right circumstances.”
“What makes you think that? There have been some pretty terrible things done…” and his voice trailed off as he fought to come up with some particularly horrific examples.
Before he could begin listing atrocities she cut him off with “Oh I know. Humans can be callous as fuck.”
It was her turn to take a swig of beer.
“Thing is Clive, you and I are both human. We are. I believe the only way we can become good people is to embrace the fact that we can be monsters if we want to. Fess up. If we don’t, we’re stuck. We’re basing our whole sense of good and evil on a lie. Like we’re detached from it. Above it somehow… when in reality we’re not. How can we ever truly know ourselves?”
“Is this where you admit to some crime? A crime you came to a bar to forget but can’t?” asked the man.
“I think you have me all wrong Clive” came her reply. She seemed mildly frustrated with him.
Fearing he might have insulted a potential serial killer, he said “There’s this great quote about the hubris of man that I think would add credence to your point, but I just can’t come up with it.”
“I appreciate the thought Clive” and she finished her drink.
People began to stand up and head for the door and the bartender began to wipe down the bar as a not-to-subtle indication that the evening was drawing to a close.
“So…” He realized he never got her name. He looked at her inquisitively.
Taking the hint she said “Rebecca.”
“So Rebecca, what is your heart looking for?”
“I just told you. I tried anyway. Nice to meet you Clive. Have a good night.”
A few minutes later in the parking lot, sitting in his car, Clive took out his phone and started to look up quotes on hubris. “Aha!” he said to nobody “Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, something is out of tune. I knew it was something like that. My boy Carl Jung.” He pronounced Jung with a J.
He put his phone away and started his car. “A bit wordy. No wonder I couldn’t remember it.”
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