Shots, souls, and… shoes? A story of a life lost and one in turmoil.
“My luck, I would be stuck here, of all days.”
The snow was unrelenting outside the hotel window. The striations of white were falling so fast and with such volume that you could not see the other half of the hotel parking lot. He had been stuck here for hours, waiting for the storm to let up. He was becoming discouraged.
The conference had ended yesterday, but he decided to stay in town an extra night so he didn’t have to travel too late. Obviously, this was the wrong decision.
The storm was supposed to miss us, he thought, pacing around the room. He had gotten into the habit of peering out the window every five minutes, as if anything would change in that time. He was wrong about that, too.
His cell phone rang. At first, he wondered who it could be. It didn’t take long to discern. With reluctance, he answered the call.
“Hello?” He was hoping the firestorm that was to come would be enough to melt the snow. She was definitely furious enough.
“Jesus, Scott, why aren’t you home?! Or why didn’t you call me?!” She was screaming these questions at him, no time for pleasantries or explanations.
“I am sorry, I just got caught up at the conference and…” He knew he had to choose his next words carefully. To not would mean an early summer for this snowy city.
“You what? You… forgot?” she exclaimed.
So much for choosing my words carefully. “Look, I am just tired, and I would prefer to not talk about this right now, okay?”
“So, you aren’t even trying to make it home? You know, you always pull this crap, Scott. It is always about you and that damned job of yours. I understand you are trying to provide for us and make a life for everyone, but you don’t even try to come home!” Her voice was become shakier with each syllable. The frustration was transforming into fear… into sadness.
“For god’s sake, I just don’t want to talk about this right now! I am tired and trying to ride out this storm, okay?! So, how about you just let me do that and come home as soon as possible! How the does that sound to you, dear?!” His face was twisted in fury. His ears had become red and spittle sprinkled his lower lip. It was he that brought the fire of fury, not his wife.
She remained silent on the other end. In truth, she had nothing left to say. She had been speaking to a man of stone for the last five years now. Today, she realized that his marble ears were impervious to her pleas.
There was a click, and then three excruciating beeps. The call had ended.
“Sally, wait… Sally?” There was nothing on the screen, save the background photo of a random cityscape. It was the kind of playground corporate boys dreamed of. Tall skyscrapers and high-end restaurants were just a few of its attractions.
He thought about calling his wife back, but decided on food instead. The yelling had made him famished, so he went on the prowl for some nourishment.
He passed by the receptionist as he made his way though the lobby. It was 11 pm and the man was already beginning to doze from the ennui of the late shift. You could hear the light clatter of a celebration in the lower level ballroom. It was the only other sound in the lobby as Scott entered with his long black coat waving behind him. It was Joseph A. Bank. Simple, but profoundly professional. It gave him an air of importance and style.
Scott caught site of the receptionist. As he walked towards him, the receptionist slowly went from a sleepy slump to astute attention, standing as erect as a well-trained soldier. “How may I help you this evening, sir?”
The outsole and heels of Scott’s Salvatore Ferragamos were wooden and made a distinctive echo against the marble flooring of the lobby as he made his last steps to the receptionist desk. The area was deserted save himself, the sleepy night-worker, and the celebrating group in the ballroom.
“I was wondering if there were any restaurants still open? You know, due to the storm and all? I don’t have anything to eat in my room.”
The young man pondered for a moment, trying to find a response in the hazy recesses of his exhausted mind. “Well, we do have room service!” he exclaimed excitedly. Then, his face became less hopeful. “Well, we had room service. All the cooks left before the storm came. The only food we have is for that reception in there.”
None of this talk was helping Scott. For one, he didn’t want room service. For all the money he was making, he never intended to spend a copious amount on a mediocre meal. Secondly, he wanted space from the tainted room. At this point, he had become familiar with every square inch and needed some new stimuli.
“That’s fine. Do you know of anything that is still open?” he repeated. Scott was not known for his patience and was beginning to have trouble hiding that fact.
The receptionist looked to pick up on his sentiments and just said a place. “The Lazy Llama is the only place I can think of that would be open in such conditions. It hardly closes for anything. There was a nor’easter that was breezing through some years ago and everybody was getting ready to evacuate…”
Scott began to tune out almost immediately. Lazy Llama? What kind of name is that? From his experience, it was either a strip club with an endless buffet of wings or it was a dive bar. For some reason, dive bars and strip clubs were named this way. Adjective plus animal almost always equaled dive bar or strip club.
The receptionist was still recounting the story when Scott returned from his thought. Scott noticed his name was Derek. He was of a slender build, but broad shoulders. His hair was a light brown, trimmed along the sides, but left a little long and wild at the top. It all blended well and looked clean. His eyes were hazel. He was a good-looking young man, maybe about 21, probably working over his college’s winter break.
… and every time since then, when I go in there, he has a story for me. He is just so full of wisdom, you know?”
“Delightful,” Scott said curtly. His patience was made thinner with the receptionist’s digression. “So, where is this place again?”
Derek didn’t seem to be bothered by Scott’s attitude. Either he was too ignorant to pick up on body language or simply able to hide his reaction to it. “Yeah! It is right next to here actually. You wouldn’t have to walk too far at all. I would still change your shoes…” Scott was already walking out the door, paying no more mind to Derek. In dedication to the duties of his job, Derek still wished the rude Scott a good night.
The walk was short, but his shoes still got wet. How could something that looks so solid get so wet? It was obvious he had no idea how snow worked. He also wasn’t interested in learning, walking out the hotel door before any wisdom could be imparted to him.
These shoes are the only shoes I have. They are upwards of 500 dollars! It was upsetting to say the least, but at least now he had reached the Lazy Llama. Unsurprisingly, it was exactly what he thought… a dive bar.
It was a small establishment of simple architecture. It had a long, peaked roof, going from the front to the back. The siding was straight wood and the front gable had a sign on it. It was an anthropomorphic llama, wearing sunglasses and standing on its hind legs. Its right hoof was somehow holding a beer, giving a sparkly grin all the while. Underneath the llama, “The Lazy Llama” was aglow in pink neon. There was definitely no denying its status as a dive bar.
The inside was just as stereotypical. The bar was along the long wall on the left hand side. There were tables scattered along the central floor and the left hand wall. Some of the floor space had been left for dancing. In this space was an old jukebox and a raised stage. It was centered along the back wall and between the men and women’s respective restroom doors. The lighting was dim all around and only three people were in there: the bartender, himself, and one other man. The bar had a wide array of spirits behind it and the bar itself was made of a ragged oak slab. Such a piece gave the place a sense of character and establishment.
Scott was growing hungrier so he stopped judging the place for its rustic appearance and walked towards the bar. He could feel the musk and grime of the building as he walked. The smell was a mixture of aging wood and men with hints of bourbon. The grime was years of spilled drinks (and spilled blood, he would imagine) caked on the floor like varnish. One spot of said-varnish stuck to his left shoe for a small second, requiring him to exert a bit more force in his stride. It was evident this was not his kind of place. He was used to ultra-modern cocktail bars, where the drinks are only half as weird as its patrons. This was a run-down watering hole, fit for an older, less sophisticated kind of person to wallow in their grief.
They had better have some food in this damned place, he thought. He couldn’t help but express how he thought of the place. His face was one of disgust, and his shoulders were broad and expectant. He made his way to the bartender and asked if he had anything to eat.
“Why, yes, we have the classics here, bub! Hot dogs, burgers, fries… anything American, really.” This one was just as cheery as Derek. Scott reacted with the same demeanor of impatience and haughtiness.
“Oh, I should have figured that is all you have,” Scott exclaimed with disdain. He threw his hands up, as if to indicate he should have guessed the menu. “You don’t have any thing else? Like caesar salads? Or any tavern fare, like beer cheese with potato skins?” He asked these questions sardonically, already knowing the answers.
The bartender’s visage went from cheerful and rosy to perplexed and ashamed. He let out a simple no and then asked if he would be interested in a burger. They were the best in town apparently. Scott made no effort to refuse, but decided to keep his snobbish attitude towards the man, replying yes with scorn in his voice. Scott watched as the man walked towards the end of the bar. He noticed the man was short and a little plump. His cheeks were tinged with red, either from embarrassment or genetics.
He could surely use more salads, Scott thought. After the night he has had so far, he knew he was going to need a drink once the bartender returned with his burger. From getting snowed in to being yelled at by his wife, he now had to eat a burger in some slimy hole-in-the-wall? A BURGER? Oh, that was just the worst for him. Everything about his life was the antithesis of burgers and dive bars. He was the man that joined his colleagues at sushi bars, trading talk about Armani suits and Swiss watches, not the man taking sips of Miller Lite with his buddies, trading talk about family and football.
Scott heard the name called from the end of the bar. It came from the lips of the older gentleman, the only other person there.
“Scott,” he said in reply. He rolled his eyes a little and turned his head back towards the kitchen door the bartender walked through. Even though he had the utmost disdain for greasy burgers, his hunger made the wait for this one unbearable.
“The man that is making your burger… his name is Geoff,” the man said. This time, he was sardonic. He gazed at Scott as he said it, his head turned sideways just enough for their eyes to meet. The man’s body was still seated towards the bar, with his head turned 90 degrees and diagonal to the floor. He had a firm grip on his drink.
Scott was now noticing this man, features and all. His hair was light, a mixture of gray and blonde. It was long and unkempt, a couple bunches sticking out from his head. His face was tanned and rough, wrinkled like an un-ironed suit shirt with hands just as aged. He looked to be about 80, at best. His eyes were a light blue, more chilling than ice when locked in a gaze. His dress was a simple flannel shirt, hues of green and red crisscrossing in plaid, and some well-worn trousers, dark brown. The boots were big and more fit for traversing snow than Scott’s now-ruined Italian loafers.
The two stayed locked in a gaze, until Scott looked away, growing uncomfortable. He peered at the kitchen door, hoping Geoff’s rosy cheeks would come through and melt the ice forming. He could feel the man still glaring at him from the end of the bar. After about a minute, the man turned back around, taking a sip of bourbon.
When the burger arrived, Scott let out an internal scream. It looked horrendous, with a flattened bun and a gray patty. There was nothing else on it except for a slice of American cheese. The fries were just big wedges covered in grease and salt. Geoff brought a bottle of ketchup with it too.
“Thanks, Geoff,” said Scott, managing a small smile and quick look to the bartender. That seemed to please Geoff a little, bringing a hint of a smile back.
Scott dug in without criticizing the burger further. He was afraid if he waited another second, his stomach may begin to eat itself. He was surprised to find out how delicious it was, almost decadent, though he wasn’t sure how much that had to do with his hunger.
“Let me get you a drink,” said the man at the other end of the bar.
Scott was still a little apprehensive, unsure of how to appraise the man’s intentions. “That is fine. I can buy my own.”
“I did not say anything about your ability to get your own drink. I said that I would like to get you a drink. You see the difference?”
Scott was less apprehensive and more annoyed now. If this geezer wants to waste the little money he has, why not let him? Scott felt no remorse over this thought and then agreed to the drink, making his way to the stool closer to the man, bringing his burger and coat in tow.
“Two shots of bourbon, Geoff,” the man uttered. Scott could feel a tinge of regret creep across his face. He enjoyed a good Manhattan, but not slamming back straight bourbon. He never had the taste for alcohol like that.
Geoff took the bourbon from behind him, reaching towards the penultimate shelf with his tip-toes. Years of practice made him a master of his squat physique. Nothing was out of his reach now.
Scott put his plate down and his coat across one of the vacant stools. He sat himself down and realized how much more prominent this man’s features were. Up close, the wrinkles of his face were much deeper. His tan was a little darker and his hands more calloused. You could tell he had been a laborer for sometime, if not still. Only his scent would indicate otherwise. Disregarding his outward look, he actually had a very pleasant scent, smelling like teak and green clovers. It was fresh and indicated to Scott that his rough look did not necessarily implicate bad hygiene.
Geoff came with the shots in hand and placed them in front of Scott and the man.
“Cheers,” said the man, picking up the glass to meet Scott’s. The man threw the shot back without hesitation. He grit his teeth in reaction to the burning sensation, but didn’t do so much as wince or groan. Scott drank half and coughed up a lung. The man gave a toothy smile in reaction. Scott noticed his teeth were pristine like the ivory keys of a new piano.
“You know, corporate, I was just like you,” the man said, still stifling a laugh from Scott’s shot-taking performance.
Now it was Scott’s turn to laugh. He let out a couple chuckles and refused to believe him.
“It’s true! I was climbing the company latter and all. Made it all the way to the top too.”
“You have got to be joking, right?” As far as Scott was concerned, the question was rhetorical. The man didn’t feel the same way.
“Nope, not even a little. Just like you, my life included all the ingredients for a ‘perfect life.’ The suburban house, the children, the dog, the cars, the promotions, the money… yeah, I had it all. I even had a New York penthouse and a D.C. townhouse. I was one of the most elite members of the most elite clubs along the Eastern seaboard.”
Scott was in disbelief. Does he not see how he is dressed? Does he not see his hands? His face? His hair? How does he expect me to believe his bluff? Scott was tempted to reply with some sarcastic remark of disbelief. He almost decided he wasn’t going to until he found the words spilling forth anyway. “Did you dress like that every day? Must have been a generous corporation to let some long-haired farm-hand run their company.”
The man didn’t even turn his head. His eyes remained fixated at the bottom of his tumbler. Even though he just had a shot of bourbon, he was still gingerly sipping his previous drink.
“You know, most people just say thank you when someone buys them a drink,” said the man, curtly and sharply.
“I didn’t even want you to buy me this damned drink! But, for some reason, you were a little insistent on the whole affair!” Scott was getting angry again. First my wife, and now this loon? Scott turned his attention away from the man and back towards the bar and burger. The man was parallel to him, still staring deep into the tumbler.
Scott stopped mid-mastication. His hunger waned as his interest piqued. Scott slowly rose from his dining slouch to sitting up straight. He turned his entire body to face the man next to him. The man was still turned towards the bar and the tumbler.
The man turned his head. This time his eyes were not so far away or obstructed by tufts of hair. As clear as spring water, Scott could see the jade-green hue of the man’s eyes. They were absolutely captivating and punctured the souls of anyone daring enough to look straight into them. It was rare for eyes to be such a pure and light green, Jackson Greene was the only one Scott knew to have them.
“Oh my god…”
“I kind of figured you worked with them, considering their latest conference was here.”
“Oh wow… I… I…”
“Save your breath son, I am not the Pope.” The man was growing more uncomfortable as Scott came to recognize him.
“You are friggin’ Jackson Greene! Oh, sir, you were one of the best presidents we ever had. Hell, you made the company what it is today! The company is so successful because of your leadership back in the day. Jesus, what are the odds?”
“I guess pretty good,” said Mr. Greene. Scott’s exuberance was matched by Mr. Greene’s solemness.
“Wow, Mr. Greene, you are a true legend,” said Scott. He had come to forget about the burger all together and was solely focused on his latest discovery. “Would you mind if I pick your brain for tips? I would really like to climb the latter and be president one day too!” Scott was like a schoolkid now, ecstatic at the prospect of being just like his hero.
“Tips?” said Mr. Greene. He continued his pensive gaze into the bourbon. He moved the tumbler slightly every so often, intently watching the liquor move about the glass. He would then wait for it all to become still, resuming his stare into the glass.
Scott looked at him a moment, perplexed by his hero’s staring contest with the tumbler, and then paraphrased the question. “Yeah, like, suggestions for succeeding with the company, becoming president… stuff like that.”
Mr. Greene took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. His breath briefly fogged up the glass. “Tip 1: Don’t be the president of the company.”
For three seconds, Scott was speechless. “I am sorry, what?” he asked, half irritated, half confused.
Mr. Greene continued. “You lose everything when you are president. Anything you may have valued beforehand just ends up disappearing… leaving your grasp. Then, all you have is a corporation and a butt-load of remorse.”
Remorse? What is he talking about? Everyone at the office would be over-the-moon about getting an opportunity like that. They would be even more excited to have the opportunity to chat with a company legend. In the corporate world, that is a leg-up and Scott was lucky to be having this one fall in his lap. Who knew an old town could hold such an enormous gem.
“Well, see,” Scott began. “I really would like to be the president at some point. That has been one of my goals since starting here. I really think I could really expound on the legacy through my skills as a…”
“Do you know how hard it is to keep grass green?” Mr. Greene interrupted. He could tell this took Scott by surprise, not understanding how such a question even remotely related to the conversation. “It’s hell,” he continued. “I had to take care of it every day, making sure I put one type down in summer, another type in winter. It had to get rid of weeds constantly and it couldn’t ever be cut too short. It took me forever to get the lattice pattern down when I started mowing it. It looked horrendous for quite some time before I was able to hire a landscaper. She did a fine job.” Mr. Greene paused briefly to swish the liquid in his tumbler, disturbing the peaceful stagnation of the liquor.
“But, you know what, corporate?” he continued. Scott gave no auditory response, but shook his head, his mind visibly trying to connect the relevance of this story. “Someone always had grass that was a little greener than mine.”
Mr. Greene paused to take another sip out of the tumbler. Scott tried to understand why on Earth grass mattered right now. Due to the snow storm, there was a great lack of it and the only thing Scott needed to hear was how to make his way to the top.
“Well, sir,” Scott started. Mr. Greene immediately stopped him.
“When I would make my daily commute to the office, I would see this house along the road. It was grandiose, much better than mine in every way. The decor was elegant and its indoor and outdoor spaces were immense. It was better in every way, including their lawn. Somehow, they were able to keep it 100 percent green all year long. In the middle of winter snows, the lawn would hardly be effected, staying vibrant throughout the hardship.
“My lawn, on the other hand, would buckle under the pressure. It would begin to turn brown in spots, making it look shoddy. At one point, I fired the landscaper because she couldn’t keep it green during the winter snows, unlike that one house down the road.”
Scott began to put the networking session to rest in his mind. He figured if he engaged Mr. Greene with his story, they could talk tips afterward. “Did you find a better landscaper?”
Mr. Greene turned his head towards Scott. He gave him a dubious gaze, wondering if he were even listening. “Of course not!” he exclaimed. “No one is able to keep grass perfect in snow. What makes you think any landscaper could do that?”
“I don’t know!” Scott exclaimed in return. “I just figured with the digits you were making, you wouldn’t have a problem finding some green-thumbed magician to care for your lawn.”
“Well, as much as I wished for one, I could never find such a landscaper. She was a real good one, and I let her go.” Mr. Greene returned to his bottomless stare into his glass.
“I was obsessed with something unattainable, Scott.” He said it softly, letting the words float out on a cloud of remorse. When they reached Scott’s ears, he could feel the sensation of speechlessness begin its pilgrimage throughout his body.
“I lost everything because of actions like that. Because I was trying to have the most impressive house on the block, I ended up losing it.” Mr. Greene didn’t break his gaze with the alcohol. “I began missing my daughter’s milestones, forgetting anniversaries and birthdays, leaving things early or showing up too late… I did all of this. From birth to age 14, I had only seen my daughter for a cumulative of 7 years, maybe. Most of that time was when she was unable to talk. The other times was only briefly at events I could catch here and there. I never stayed for long and hardly had an opportunity to talk to her.
“It was the same with my wife. After marriage, my career began to take off and more time was needed at the office. I hadn’t actually seen her for six months straight, at one point. We just kept missing each other… well, avoiding each other.
“After 15 years of being together, she realized we weren’t in college anymore and so much had changed between us.” Mr. Greene paused for a moment, catching a glimpse of a fading memory wafting in his whiskey. Grinning, he started a different story.
“We met in finance class. I saw her sitting at the front of the class every day for half the semester. One day, I tried a lame move on her.” He began to chuckle a little bit, seeing the memory like a comedy reel. “I approached her and asked if she could tutor me in the subject. Sitting in the front and all, I figured she was dedicated and willing to help a fellow student. Instead, she laughed in my face, reminding me that I should probably be tutoring her, considering how much I commented in the class. What could I say? I just understood money.
“So, I ended up tutoring her in it, then it progressed to catching up over dinner, then catching movies over the weekend, then making dinner at one another’s place until we just finally started dating each other. It kinda sneaked up on both of us. One night, we were just laughing over some wine and, the next thing you know, I am waking up with her by my side, trying to find out where she had flung my trousers.”
Scott shifted a little at the implication of this statement. Scott was not one to be open about sex lives, especially his own. Yet, the reaction went unnoticed by Mr. Greene as he continued right along.
“A year went on before we were married. It was a romantic, spontaneous kind of thing. We just planned a small trip, somewhere in the mountains, and got married, our best friends as witnesses. We came home to tell the parents a week later, much to their dismay. They supported our union well enough. They had just wished it they had gotten to see it. But, we preferred it that way. Small and quaint.” Mr. Greene paused. The good feelings of nostalgia were beginning to fade as he became more aware of the present again. Mouth down-turned at the corners, he took another sip of his drink.
“What happened to your wife?” Scott asked. He was surprisingly more invested in the ending of this diatribe than he was originally. His burger, half-eaten, had gone cold now and Geoff had gone missing in the back.
“The company,” he sighed. “The corporation gives you nothing but remorse in the end.” Mr. Greene took a deep breath and continued. “After 15 years of marriage, she was tired of seeing a man different than the one she married. When she left, she was looking at a man trying to prove himself in all the wrong areas… trying to have all the wrong things. I didn’t see any of it until a couple of years after the divorce.”
Scott gave a downcast glance. He noticed his shoes were drying off now, but there was absolutely no saving them. Italian leather is too soft to withstand such moisture and retain its shape.
“In the divorce, I lost half my money, I lost all of the house, and I lost my wife and daughter. Everything I had, besides half of my money and my car, were left in the divorce. I fell into depression and became less motivated. I showed up to less than half the board meetings, hardly came into the office, and began to wither away in drink. Within two years, I was asked to resign as president as well as from the board. At that point, I truly had little to live for. The last thing I had pushed me out the door, without any regrets.”
That speechless sensation had a full grip over Scott’s body now. His eyes were a little wider, surprised at how the story unfolded. The company told its employees that Jackson Greene was pursuing new interests in early retirement. They never once mentioned coercing him to resign. Of course, why would they?
“Why didn’t you fight them?” Scott finally asked. “Here was your dream career and you just let them take it away?”
Mr. Greene didn’t say anything for a moment. He continued to stare blankly at the tumbler of whiskey still in his hand. It was down to its last swigs, the bottom now clearer. If there was anything Mr. Greene was trying to see in there, it was just going to be the depiction of a melancholic, rough-hewn old man. Nothing more, nothing less. As if realizing this for himself, Mr. Greene engulfed the remaining liquor and thrust the tumbler down. The force of the impact caused the oaken bar to shake a little. He turned around so that he and Scott were face-to-face.
“You know, co-workers aren’t family. The corporation gave me a lot of what I needed, but they couldn’t provide the one thing I needed most, and that was my family. Out of everything I lost, that was the most disparaging of them all.” A single tear was beginning to accumulate in his left eye. “And, at the rate you’re going,” he continued, “I imagine you will end up the same way.”
Mr. Greene looked at the clock on the wall and began to collect his things. Scott was baffled by his comment, but was becoming more interested in where Mr. Greene was going.
“I have somewhere to be right now,” said Mr. Greene. He was putting on his snow cap as Scott inquired about any tips he could give at climbing the company ladder. “Despite the story I just told you,” he began, “and the warning I just gave you, how could you still want to be the president of the company?”
“Because,” Scott stuttered, “I want to be the best in the company! That is all I want. Nothing else.”
“Well, if you truly won’t miss having a wife and family, then you are already on the right track. That is really the only secret to making it to the top… sacrificing everything else.”
Scott looked at him, picking up a hint of what Mr. Greene was getting at. “If you don’t discover it today, you will once you make it to the presidency. There is no feeling of success up there on the top. Just loneliness,” said Mr. Greene. He examined Scott one last time. He was still overtly dumbfounded, but less so now. “Have a good one, Scott,” said Mr. Greene as he exited the bar. His hair flowed back elegantly as he pushed open the door and strolled into the frigid winter air.
The storm had stopped hours ago, the remaining drifts of snow being the only impediment to travel. This didn’t bother Mr. Greene at all, considering how many winters he had spent here. Plus, where he was going was right next door.
He made it across the parking lot to the automatic doors of the hotel. They slide open in a magical fashion as he approached. The warmth of the inside rushed out to battle the cold air away as Mr. Greene made his way into the lobby. He looked to his left and saw the young man he was looking for.
“Good evening, Derek,” he said. The young receptionist was blankly staring at his phone, attempting to find any entertainment engaging enough to fight his fatigue. It seemed he was failing miserably.
“Derek,” he repeated. The young man jumped at the voice, dropping his phone quickly to the desk. He stood up quickly with the adrenaline his body was now pumping. It took a minute for Derek to focus on who was in front of him.
“Oh, Mr. Greene. How are you?” he asked sheepishly.
“I am doing well, just coming to check in on you.”
“Oh, I am doing okay, Mr. Greene. Just a little tired.” Derek chuckled a little bit, relieved Mr. Greene wasn’t his boss.
“That’s good,” said Mr. Greene.
The lobby became it’s usual quiet. It was hard to bring up why he actually came. In some ways, it was embarrassing. In other ways, melancholic.
“So, how was it?” he finally asked.
It took Derek a minute to figure out what Mr. Greene meant. “Oh!” he finally said. “You mean that! Yeah, it seemed like everybody had a great time! The ceremony was beautiful and the reception’s food was great. Good thing they got everything in before that snowstorm hit! They made it here for the reception right in the nick of time.”
“I am glad everything worked out. Are they all staying here?”
“Yeah, they ended up having to, due to the storm and what not. The bride and groom were a little bummed they had to postpone their honeymoon by a bit, but I imagine they are doing just fine either way. They have a room all to themselves.”
“That is good,” said Mr. Greene. Pools of water began to form at the bottom of his eyelids as the whites of his eyes turned a light shade of pink. “Did… did she…” The words were becoming difficult to form with his quivering lips. “Did she… uh… look happy? You know… to… to be with him?”
Derek and Mr. Greene had talked about this multiple times at the Lazy Llama. They enjoyed each others company and Derek really respected Mr. Greene’s insight on life. But, for all the times Mr. Greene’s daughter came up in conversation, not once had he been on the verge of weeping. I guess tonight was different.
Derek looked at Mr. Greene intently, making sure their eyes were locked before he answered his question. “Yes, Mr. Greene. She was beaming up there. You could tell she loves him very much… just as much as he loves her.”
Mr. Greene nodded his head in acceptance. He couldn’t help but imagine how she must have looked. Walking down the aisle, he imagined she was as radiant as her mother was on her wedding day. Her smile glowing through the veil, jubilant at the prospect of spending a lifetime with her best friend. He imagined her groom pulling the veil back, revealing her sweet face on the dais, beaming with excitement as the pastor started the ceremony. He could see them staring at each other, imagining an entire lifetime as each word of the vows passed the pastor’s lips. He heard the “I do’s” as if they were part of his own memory. In that moment, Mr. Greene saw his daughter in all her glory on one of the most important days of her life. He saw her celebrating with friends and family at the reception, thrusting the cake in her new husband’s face, subsequently giving each other a frosty kiss. He saw them dancing on the dance floor, their mutual gaze locking them away in a world made just for them. Mr. Greene imagined it all as if he were there, as if he were invited.
“Thank you,” said Mr. Greene as he hurriedly rushed out the door. His bawling was on the verge of becoming audible as the doors began to close behind him.
“Mr. Greene!” shouted Derek. He scrambled around the receptionist desk, attempting to catch up with him. As he made his way to the door, Mr. Greene was already halfway through the snow drifts of the parking lot.
“Mr. Greene!” Derek shouted. Mr. Greene made no attempt to turn around. After multiple calls, Derek just watched from the doorway as Mr. Greene disappeared from view. Within seconds, the darkness of the night consumed him and Derek returned to his post. Hopefully, they would see each other again soon.
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