The bar was dark and dreary. The chairs and tables were almost full, and there was no music, as far as Joseph could tell. He couldn’t even hear the conversation on the table next to him, only managing snippets of words that didn’t make sense. His companion, a man named Robert, sat across to him. He was a thinly man, with a tortured expression. It always infuriated Joseph when he saw his friend, who by any measure should be as happy as could be. Joseph heaved the last of his drink, grabbed the waiter, and ordered another round. As the beer made short work of the string around his tongue, he said. “I don’t get you. You have everything you could ever want; fame, money, people like you. Why would you still be gloomy?”
Robert raised his head, for the first time in a while. He looked confused, as if his mind had been somewhere else and was rudely drawn back to the present by Josephs words. “Would you believe me if I said fame is a curse?”
“No,” Joseph replied.
“I thought so…” Robert said and took a sip of his drink.
There was silence between them and Joseph stroke his beard, like he often did when deep in thought, trying to understand what his friend was thinking. When he failed, he shook his head. “You are the most humble man I ever known. Fame hasn’t changed you one bit.”
Robert smiled ruefully. “I suppose you are right.”
Joseph eyed his friend, growing angrier and angrier as the beer flowed. Then, at the 7th drink, he calmed and instead pitied his friend who had found no joy in his accomplishments; accomplishments that he himself desperately sought.
“If fame is such a curse, why don’t you just end it all? Make a joke about the queen, that should do the trick.”
Robert smiled at that, a genuine smile that turned sour as quickly as it had emerged. “Vanity.”
“Vanity is what keeps me from doing it. I had thought of it, of course, though, not necessarily in the way you suggested. I’ll keep that in mind, though,” he said with a smile.”
If any other man had made such a remark, Joseph would have assumed he was fastidious, but he knew his friend’s mind was pure, naive, even. He was a child when it came to his friends, dangerously honest, which also made him pleasant to be around. It was why Joseph valued his friendship.
“So even you have sin. I thought it was just your characters.”
Robert quirked his mouth and he looked with dreary eyes at his friend. “Oh my dear Joseph, where do you think my characters come from?” he said and pointed to his head.
There was an eerie feeling the way he said it and Joseph did not bring up the subject again. After a few more beers, the night came to an end, and they went their separate ways. It was dark and gloomy, the street lights shone dimly from age. To his right, there was a bookstore and a window that showcased the latest works. His friend’s book were among them.
Joseph stared at the cover and it made him shiver. The artist had really encapsulated the essence of Roberts story, he thought. Joseph turned and peered beside him, as if expecting somebody to emerge from the dark.
Anyone has a little darkness inside of them, hopefully, it stays in there…
© Christopher Stamfors
Art by ChrisCold