Guy Walks Out of a Bar
by Edd Vick
After work Guy and I stop into the Long Island Barrel Bar as usual. I have my beer and Guy his whiskey, but after downing it he says, "Well, goodbye to you, Peter. You've been better than most."
I jump to several conclusions, and say, "You've been fired? You're leaving town? You're dying?" Then one last conclusion. "You're not getting set to kill yourself?"
"None of the above." He signals Morty for another whiskey. "I'm just off to search for Bella."
"Bella?" There had been an Annabelle back in high school. What was her last name? "Do you mean Annabelle Phipps?"
He lights up. "I'm close," he says to himself. "Yes," he continues aloud. "Bella and I, we got married right out of school."
"You did not." I know better; he's as single as I am.
"Oh, I did," he says. "I married Bella and moved to Philly. Then we came back to the city to see her parents, and I stopped in here, to the Barrel, because I'd always been too young to drink before." He sips at his second whiskey.
Guy has been coming to this bar with me for years, almost every night.
"I had one drink, then walked out of the bar," he says. "And the world was different. There had never been a Bella; her family had never even emigrated. And I had moved to Staten Island after school to work as a nurse." He shakes his head, stares at the TV screen for a few seconds. "I stayed in that world for a month before I worked it out. I came back to this bar, the only thing that looked exactly the same, had one single drink, and walked out."
"And how. The local football team was called the New England Plymouths. Nobody used neon. And still no Bella. I couldn't trace her family at all, or mine." He plunked his empty glass down. "So I came back here, and I've kept coming back. In some worlds I didn't exist, in some the money was so different I had to find a job for a week before I could come in and pay for a drink. Some worlds they didn't even speak English. Those were tough."
He's spinning a tall one, or more drunk than I realized. "Maybe we should call it a night," I say. "I'll cover that last drink."
"Right. Well, this is goodbye." And he shakes my hand.
When I walk out ten minutes later he's there. "Hello?" he says, wary expression on his face. "Peter, is it?"
"You know it is. We were just in there together."
"Oh god," he says. "Did I have one drink? Or two?"