I walked to Armand’s. It’s about a 15-minute walk from my apartment building in Oakland (North Oakland). It’s a bright, sunny day, the high around 50. Most of the seats at the bar were taken by regulars, but the three stools right next to the window looking out on Liberty Avenue were empty. I sat next to the window. One of the regulars got up and played the jukebox: Jefferson Airplane, Bowie, Neil Young, Free, Led Zeppelin, Ratt…I would say this regular is in his 40s or early 50s. I drank my beer and watched the avenue. The women were wearing their yoga pants. A woman walked in who was the inspiration for the following story that I’m re-blogging. She sat beside me. We had another interesting conversation. She’s a good talker and when I want to be I can be a good listener. She had a different story to tell me.
I had a good time.
The story below is exactly the way it happened. I didn’t make anything up. I left out a few things to make the story tighter.
This is Guy Hogan reporting for the Pittsburgh Flash Fiction Gazette.
Hail to Pitt!
I sat down at the bar and the woman who sat on the stool to my left began to tell me about the death of an old boyfriend. She was a senior citizen like me and her old boyfriend had shot himself in the head. I knew her to see her. She was a regular. She used a cane. She said I knew him, her old boyfriend. She told me his name. I didn’t recognize the name. She said I’d probably seen him in the bar; and now he was dead.
The bartender came over and took my order. He brought back a large draft and he told me that sure I knew her old boyfriend. Reddish hair. A short reddish beard. Always wore a Steelers cap and football jersey.
I said I still didn’t remember him. And I didn’t.
The bartender wandered away. The woman kept talking about her dead boyfriend. I guess she had to get it out. I looked around at the other customers and then looked at her. Drank my beer and nodded as she talked. I forget what was on the televisions, one at each end of the bar.
The poor bastard shot himself in the head.
It happened only a couple of days ago. He had tried to call her on her cellphone, but since they had more or less broken up months before she wanted to make a clean break and didn’t answer the calls. Then he shoots himself in the head. She just couldn’t understand how people could kill themselves. Okay, maybe pills. But to shoot yourself in the head? To jump off a bridge or out of a window? Now he was dead.
The bartender wandered over and said he should have known something was wrong. The night before he shot himself he was in here and he asked me if I wanted some of his stuff he was getting rid of. I didn’t want it. Something told me, he’s going to do something. The bartender walked away.
The woman said, I’ve outlived all my old boyfriends. They’re all dead. One had a heart attack. Another died of cancer. And this one shot himself in the head. I just don’t understand how you do that.
A friend of mine shot herself in the head, she went on. The two kids were upstairs and her husband was in the livingroom. She walked into the livingroom and put the barrel under her chin and pulled the trigger. How do you do that to little kids? What kind of mother does that?
She finished her draft, got off the stool, slipped on her coat and gathered up her purse and cane. She said, “It’s good to see you.”
I caught the bartender’s attention and paid for another large drat beer.