32 inch grab bars
The Bar for Those Lost and Wandering
2023.03.26 15:11 Wings_of_Darkness The Bar for Those Lost and Wandering
A lost runaway girl finds herself at a bar in the middle of nowhere with its enigmatic bartender.
Jasmine’s legs were aching badly and her throat was dry. She didn’t know where she was. She’d been walking for hours, and all around her in the night were shadowed trees and grass. The backpack on her shoulders felt like an iron weight. She was dirty, hungry, and wanted to cry.
When she rubbed the first drops of tears from her eyes, she looked up to see lights. Blinking to adjust, her eyes fell upon the single-storey brick building, the exterior covered in strands of yellow lights, and a lit signboard that read THE BAR FOR THOSE LOST AND WANDERING.
There it sat in the middle of an empty grassy field.
A bell jingle played when Jasmine pushed it open, feeling the cool breeze of air conditioning and a faint piano tune she didn’t recognise was playing. The lights inside were dim, but she could see an array of empty tables with colourful flowers in porcelain vases decorating them.
“Welcome.” A warm, low voice called out. Jasmine turned to see the source of the voice, a bartender dressed in black formal clothing and a bowtie. Behind him, a well-lit shelf proudly displayed more kinds of alcohol than she knew existed. Jasmine walked cautiously over to the bar.
“Take a seat, miss.” The bartender said, gesturing with a gloved hand. Jasmine hesitated for a moment, but her tired legs overtook any suspicion she had, and she climbed upon the barstool.
“You’re open late.” She said.
“We’re open all the time.”
“Why’re you in such a remote location?”
“Why are you?”
“I…was just wandering places.” Jasmine sighed.
“Are you lost?”
“I just said…”
“Not all who wander are lost.” The bartender gave her a smile.
“Yes. I’m lost.”
“You’re headed the wrong way then.”
The image of her fuming mother flashed into her mind.
“I’m not going that way. What’s further out the other direction?”
“For how long?”
“I…do you have a WiFi here?” Jasmine bit her lip.
“I need to text someone.”
“My girlfriend.” Jasmine said, searching the bartender’s face for any sign of disgust or frown, but it was the same warm expression.
“We don’t have WiFi here, sorry about that.”
“Figures. It’s a remote place.”
Jasmine’s eyes surveyed the many bottles behind him. Row after row of brand names she’d never heard of, with logos that seemed nonsensical. Stars and galaxies and clocks and fractals. She swallowed, and her saliva burnt down her parched throat.
“Can I have a drink?”
“Take your pick.” He gestured both hands at the selection behind him.
“I don’t drink alcohol.”
The bartender nodded, placing a cup filled with ice cubes upon the counter. He grabbed a bottle from under the table and poured the clear liquid into it with a smooth stream before sliding it over to her.
“What is it?” Jasmine asked.
“Thank you. How much is it?”
“Free?” She pursed her lips together. Now that was suspicious.
“Free of charge, miss. It’s nice enough to talk to someone.”
“This place seems empty.”
“Do you have many customers?”
“So many. But they come and go. They wander in, and they wander out.”
“Who owns this bar?”
“I do. Built it with my own two hands.”
“You must’ve been working here for a long time.”
“Longer than you think.”
Jasmine gripped the cup, feeling the cold tingle her fingers, the glass slick from condensation. She lifted it to her mouth and downed it in one gulp. The water rushed down her throat and felt like the very nectar of the gods.
“Aaah. That’s good.”
“So why are you out here lost and wandering?” The bartender filled her cup once more.
“I ran away from home. Grabbed what I could and left.” She gestured to her backpack.
“Had a fight?”
“With my mom, yes.”
“It’s not safe to be lost alone.”
“You’re gonna tell me to go back to her?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Good. Cause if you did…” Jasmine squeezed the glass in her hand, knuckles turning white. She gazed for a bit too long, immediately feeling a sinking sense of awfulness at how big her hands were.
“What was the argument about?”
“Promise not to judge?” She felt a lump in her throat.
“If I judged people, I would have chosen a different profession.” Jasmine let out a small chuckle and downed her second glass of water.
“My mom is an asshole. A bigot.”
“She disapproved of your relationship?”
“And she refuses to accept I’m a woman. She insists I’m her son.” Jasmine sighed. “There was no living around her. Not when I can’t be who I am. Y’know?”
“I know, miss.” He poured a third glass. “Many people who come in here are struggling with being accepted.”
Jasmine looked around again at the empty tables and chairs.
“Who comes in here?”
“All sorts of people from every corner of space and time, miss. They’re lost and wandering and looking for the right place in their life, just like you are.”
“I don’t know where to go.” She let out a ragged sigh, wiping away some tears from her eyes.
“Most customers don’t know their destination.”
“Can’t I stay here? Like…work for you?”
“This isn’t a place for staying. Nobody starts here or ends up here. They come in, have a few drinks, and pass through to the rest of their lives. It’s a transitional establishment.”
“I’m not sure I have a rest of my life. Do your customers?”
“I don’t know. No one comes back here.”
“They didn’t try?”
“Oh, I’m sure they’ve tried.” The bartender smiled. “But no one’s succeeded.”
“How do I put this…you’re a unique man.”
“You’re a unique woman.”
That got a heartier laugh out of her and she downed the glass.
“Before I go, can I use the restroom? I need to clean myself up a little.”
“Restroom’s in the back.”
“Thanks. For talking and all that. Maybe I’ll be fine after all.”
“You’ll be wonderful.”
Jasmine walked limping to the back of the room and into a small hallway. Turning the short corner, she saw a hallway labelled RESTROOMS and wooden door after wooden door as far as she could see.
“Which one do I choose?” She shouted towards the counter.
“The one you want.” Came the reply. She craned her neck out to try to see the bartender, but the entire front seemed to have been swallowed up by darkness, and there was not a speck of light or sound of piano keys.
Jasmine walked to the first door, from which a small mirror hung. The wrong face and the wrong body was reflected on it, as it always was, smudged with dirt and bruises. She turned away, walking down past door after door until she stopped at one. There wasn’t any markings or anything to differentiate it from any other, but she found herself reaching out slowly, feeling the grain of the wood on it with her calloused fingers.
She knocked on it.
“Is this occupied?”
Silence. She pressed her ear to it. There was what sounded like birds singing and leaves blowing in the breeze. The breaking of waves upon the shore. Annie’s laughing voice. A soft little voice whispering.
“Come in, mommy.”
Jasmine turned the knob and pushed the door open.
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