The man at the end of the bar.

You don’t want to mess with the man at the end of the bar. He is there for a reason, and if you choose to upset that condition, you probably don’t want to see the consequences. Anyone that is capable of sitting at the end of the bar and letting the world judge them as if they were a work of art hanging solitarily in a museum is worthy of two things: admiration and peace.

Don’t assume the man at the end of the bar is a drunk. You don’t see the soda with lime that he ordered and you certainly don’t see the 15 year sobriety coin he carries in his pocket. The bar is his reminder of the place he doesn’t need to be anymore, and he is there because he is testing himself, making sure the strength he has is still real, that he is better than the drink, that he is better than his past.

The man at the end of the bar is not lonely, a man like that is never lonely, he is just alone. He has lots of love, and has been a part of lots of love over his life, even if they are not still around to sit next to him that night. He has stories, about love, and he can give you lessons, of what to do, and more importantly, what not to do. He has been in the trenches of passion with another human being, fought for what we all want, and won some and lost one. His eyes may be sad or deep in thought, but I’m sure they light up the moment he talks about her, or the kids, or even the grandkids.

The man at the end of the bar is a softy, until he isn’t. Don’t poke the bear.

Perhaps he is drinking tonight, to remember, to celebrate. The man at the end of the bar is nothing if not loyal, and he remembers everything. Maybe it is the birthday of a friend that lives hundreds of miles away, or maybe the death of one that now lives a million memories away. He is the guy you call when you need help or just an ear. He is a good listener, the man, because he understands the importance of being heard, even though right now, sitting at the bar, all he wants is to be seen.

You may think the man is there to forget, to drink the sorrows of the day away, to forget the misfortunes of life. You would be wrong. He is not one to shy away from pain, he will sit with it, perhaps that is why he is at the end of the bar to begin with, to make room for the pain, the worry. Maybe he even saves a little room for your pain. He has gotten good at processing, at seeing the problem for what it is worth. He is wise because he has been dumb, and he is thankful because of his loses. The man at the end of the bar is comfortable being uncomfortable, for he has learned you haven’t lived if you haven’t been uncomfortable.

He doesn’t mind if you approach him, he doesn’t bite, but just understand that he has been bitten. Life and love and lessons, that’s what his heart is full of, and that is what you will get if you want to take the time to sit next to him. He will talk, but chances are he will listen more. He will buy you a drink, or even two, and let you forget about your day, let you learn to sit with your pain.

The man at the end of the bar doesn’t want any trouble, although he has seen plenty. Perhaps he has seen war, or battle, or conflict. Perhaps he has seen those overseas, or maybe just within himself. Either way, the soul of a fighter is to fight, and he has never been defeated, but so many times he has been deflated. He may sit there to regroup or reload, the battles of life are never done until they’re done, and he isn’t done yet.

He may look down and stare at the drink, whether it be coffee, or soda, or his best friend Jack or Jim. He doesn’t need to look at the drink menu or want something that looks yummy. He walks the same path with the same friend, because he is loyal to the things he loves, and yes, sometimes loyalty has even betrayed him.

The man at the end of the bar is funny. You don’t see it because you are looking at him with a judgmental gaze. He has a joke for everything, and sometimes the humor of a bad joke is in its telling, and he is a great teller, of really bad jokes. He likes to see you smile, to see you laugh. He likes to see the sunshine in people and he wants warmth in the room. He is not the heater, he is just the thermostat, but he wants you to feel the power, he wants you to be the flame.

The man at the end of the bar will start to settle his tab. He has been known to grab the tab of the cute couple across the bar, or the other guy, sitting at the end of the bar. He has learned to pay it forward, because none of us are getting out of here alive, and sometimes the smallest gesture makes the ride a bit more enjoyable. He knows that the story about “the one time we had dinner and someone picked up our tab” will be told at lots of parties, and lots of places, but it will always bring a smile to the teller’s face, it will always be followed up by the discussion that there still is good in the world, whether the teller tells it  or just feels it.

The man at the end of the bar is leaving. He will grab his stuff and nod to the bar keep, the one that has learned his name, and learned his drink. They will say their goodbyes and see you laters. The man will return home to a sleeping wife, or empty bed where one once laid. He will return to the hospital room to hold the hand of the sleeping wife, that he prays won’t leave an empty bed. Or maybe he just returns home to where no wife was in the first place because the lesson he learned about love was too late. Perhaps he has all the love in the world waiting for him at home, and he is just sitting, being grateful to be going back to a place that he knows so many desire. Maybe that is why he seems sad, not that he doesn’t have, but because he knows others want.

The man at the bar will return again, he always does when the time allows and when the memories need out. He will find his place and order his drink. He will smile when smiled upon and laugh at small gestures. You should chat with him, the man at the end of the bar, if you have a chance, he may even buy you a round or two. You will like him, for he may have all the answers to all the questions you have about life, or maybe, he will ask you all the questions you didn’t know needed to be asked in the first place.