The Ring

The friend said, “I hear she’s engaged.”

Then the man said to him, “Who said that?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  I overheard it last night at the dinner.”

“Really, you overheard it.”

“That’s what someone said.”

That’s interesting, he thought, that’s very interesting to me.  I surely did not see the ring.

“Hmm,” he then mumbled audibly to his friend, “That’s a shame.”

“She’s nice looking, don’t you think?”

“Sure,” he said, “She’s lovely,” and then he thought, lovely.  What a wonderful word to describe her.  If I could take one quality and hope to find it in a girl someday, it would be lovely.

“Yeah man, too bad,” the friend said, “Wasn’t it funny when the bellman thought you were together?”

“Awfully funny,” he said to his friend.  I don’t know why I bother having friends, he thought after, all they do is annoy me anymore.  Then, interrupting the silence that followed, he asked sincerely and casually, “Think she thought it was funny?”

The friend pointed out, “Well, she laughed.”

Sure, she laughed, he thought, she laughed all right, your classic defensive mechanism.  But at least she showed me her teeth.  Even if she was laughing just to be polite I at least got to see her teeth.

“Yeah, so what does that mean?” he asked his friend.

His friend, staying positive as he always did, responded, “I don’t know, man, she probably thought it was funny.”

“Okay,” he said, “Is that good or bad?”

His friend chuckled and said, “I don’t know man, it is what it is.”

It is what it is, he thought.  Now, isn’t that a nice little phrase.

The friend sensed that there were further questions and said as a piece of advice, “She’s engaged, man.”

“Okay.”

The friend and the man had been here before and the friend recognized this and said, “Just get through the next few days without a scene, all right?”

“Hey man,” he said, “I’m good with it.”

“You sound like it.”

“Look man, go call your lady,” he told him.

“I will soon.”

“Let’s have a drink first.”

“None for me,” the friend said.

The man poured the whiskey into the short glass, the sort you find at hotels that border on water glasses, but yet hold the neat whiskey very well.  He looked at the bottle.

“Well, that certainly won’t be enough.”

“One day at a time man,” the friend said.

“I saw a place down the road that should have something.”

“All right,” the friend said patiently, looking at the handle that was missing a few drinks, “I’ll walk with you tomorrow if you want.”

“What about tonight after you call your lady?”

“Sure.”

“All right, we’ll walk down after you call your lady.”

“Right.”

“She’s a nice girl, isn’t she?”

The friend, thinking the answer was very obvious, said, “I’ve never been happier.”

Ah, happy, the man thought, sipping the drink, feeling good for his friend and yet deeply troubled by the whole concept.  What’s the thing that will do it for me?  Well, he then remembered, I really doubt that woman is engaged.

“You deserve it,” he told his friend.

“Thanks.”

“What’s it take these days?”

“It’s a lot of compromise.”

The man rolled his eyes and said, “Oh, tell me more of your secrets.”

“You’re quite a pleasure tonight,” his friend calmly shot back.

The wind was now blowing in and he could feel the air flowing in between his toes and keeping the bugs off of his legs.  He sipped the whiskey and felt the warm taste in his mouth, the taste he had grown quite fond of.  Below, he could see the blue water of the different pools illuminated, and the paths that connected them lit with small garden lights.  They sat in a silence until he finished his drink, tilting the glass vertically and smelling the strong aroma of the now empty glass.

Staring into the glass, he asked his friend very flatly, “What’s so good about life?”

On the balcony of the hotel room, his friend said to him, “Jesus man, what’s wrong with you?”

Well, he thought, walking inside to make a new drink and seeing the unfortunate scene, the bartender downstairs gave me some ice, two glasses of it, but now the second glass has melted.

That’s all right, he thought, at least I got to use one of them.  I made a nice drink with that ice and the coconut water with the tequila earlier. I’ll just stay with the whiskey.  That’s something that’s good neat.

“Some would have different opinions,” he responded, sipping the drink back in his seat.

“And is whiskey the answer to it all?”

So long as I have something, he thought.  Well, all right, sure, you could take it that way, he then thought, but I could say a lot of things to you, too, or at least certainly make you think twice about it, or something like that.

“Well, it wouldn’t be my first choice.”

“You sound like you did the other day on the beach.”

“I have my moments.”

“They’ve been pretty frequent lately.”

“Yeah, I’m looking into it,” he said, sipping the drink.  “Sure I can’t pour you one?”

“No, none for me,” he said.

Then the man said to his friend, “Well, thanks for coming along man.”

He responded, in a very appreciative and genuine way, “Now I get to see the life you live.”

“It’s still work.”

The friend waited for a laugh that never came and then he said, “You’re kidding, right?”

“Oh,” he said, “For sure,” without a hint of emotion and then he sipped the drink, and he felt the breeze blow in off the ocean again and for a moment this comforted him, cooling his face that had grown blush from the whiskey.

“All right man,” the friend said, “Maybe you’ve had enough.”

“Maybe,” he said to his friend.

“All right, think you’ll go to bed?”

“I don’t see any reason for it.  We have the whole bottle here and the breeze feels all right.”

“Okay man,” the friend said, “I guess I’ll turn in now though and call her.”

“All right,” he said.  “Will we go for a bottle after?”

“Tomorrow,” the friend said.

Looking at the bottle, the man said, “All right.”

“You fine out here by yourself for now?”

“I feel all right,” he said to his friend.

“All right then, goodnight.”

“See you tomorrow,” he said.

His friend stood up and closed the door behind him.  He had his feet on the railing and the glass resting on his hip.

She was definitely not wearing a ring tonight, the man then thought.

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