- inspired by the song "The Blues Man" by Alan Jackson
They walked together barefoot on the beach. Without worry Michael knew this was right. Hand in hand they walked, the freedom he felt unchained the emotions in his heart that had long been buried. Jennifer looked over her left shoulder smiling upon him with sentiments that were true. The waves crashed in from the ocean and the tide advanced to wet their feet between their toes. The footprints on the wet shore served as a symbol to the feelings of togetherness that warmed Michael’s heart with passion infused with tender care.
Three short years ago he sat alone in his apartment. The romanticisms that had been driven from his spirit had only left a longing for solitude and self-sustained despair. He had started drinking four years before and it now epitomized a meaningless existence. His life of the past had been drowned by the solitary nightly ritual which had evolved to desolation and anguish. His past life served only as a reminder to the wretchedness that now encumbered his life-blood.
He awoke one morning horrendously spewing from the bottle of whiskey he had partaken in the night before. Blood as well as bile filled the toilet as he unwaveringly awaited his next drink. Last night he had watched an old movie that he haphazardly found on cable while he imbibed each painstaking swig of whiskey straight from the bottle. As his inebriation grew, he smoked cigarette after cigarette. His thoughts quickly succumbed to oblivion.
Three years ago Michael, typical to his second-nature, awoke to his sickness compounded from an extra hefty dose of alcohol the night before. After his early morning consummation; he showered, shaved, brushed his teeth, and put on clean clothes.
Typical to a Saturday morning, he drove his car to a nearby coffee shop for a cup of the remedy that would mildly alleviate the magnitude of his hangover. She stood in line in front of him. Such an attractive young woman had no business smiling at him, yet she did.
It was she who initiated the conversation. “I believe I have seen you in here before,” she innocuously stated.
With the brightness of an early Spring morning only accentuating the pain from last night’s drinking, he responded with the requisite conversation. “I come in here most mornings.”
He could remember her from last week. He could not remember which day, but he remembered her air of sincerity which enhanced her moderate beauty.
She spoke as if she had no expectations and he tried to overcome the awkwardness of an inconsequential meeting.
After a few short words of introductions, she ordered her coffee and looked his way. She said to him, modestly, “I will probably see you in here again. I notice that we both come here most mornings.” Before he could answer she said, “My name is Jennifer, what’s yours?”
He responded without nuances, “My name is Michael.” As she walked out the door, she turned back and offered him a warm smile.
He went back to his apartment after finishing his coffee and a few cigarettes. On an early morning such as this it was conventional to begin an early day of drinking. He poured himself vodka with tomato juice and a heavy prescription of Tabasco Sauce. He once again yielded to his drunkenness and an early night of sleep. However, as he drank and watched the television, he thought of her genuine smile and it somehow brought tenderness to his heart.
The next week they came across each other on several occasions. At first it was a few words of “hello,” but the attachment that he felt for her grew with each meeting. Finally, a couple of weeks after their first introductions, he managed to ask her out on a date.
He invited, “Would you like to see a movie with me next Friday?” It was a clichéd and unconfidently proposed request, but she demurely accepted. They exchanged phone numbers with the expectation of him picking her up at her apartment sometime after 7:00 on Friday later that week.
He awoke that Friday morning with no significant aspirations, but he still managed for the first time in years to skip the morning ritual of alcoholism in favor of a few cups of coffee and a barrage of cigarettes.
He picked her up at 7:00 later that night with complete sobriety and a night of guarded expectations. It was a prospect for a budding relationship which had been lacking in his life for longer than he cared to remember.
He knocked on her apartment door. She was wearing a heavy dress of cotton and she was primed for a night of growth in a relationship that she had also been lacking.
She smiled at him. The feeling that struck his heart was beginning to feel real. He walked her to his car, innocently opening her door before he let himself him. She reached across to unlock his door. She was impressed with the gentlemanly gesture which was not typical in a city such as this. He was also vaguely impressed with her gesture which was somehow sincere.
Awkward silence accompanied their first date. They listened to music that was playing on the radio and began to settle in with each other. Small talk evolved from stillness. She spoke to him of her days at college. She told him, “I studied sociology in college with a minor in communications.”
He continued the conversation. “I went to college at Cal State Los Angeles, too. I studied political science, but haven’t done much with it since.”
“Where do you work?” she asked him as the ice was slowly breaking from the point of uncomfortable silence.
“I am a communications consultant for Citibank Financial Service,” he stated to thinly disguise the fact that he answered phone calls all day.
They continued talking with one another for a short time. They did not talk about anything of any importance, but the chill of a new meeting began to fade. They arrived at the theater, sat close, and enjoyed the film together.
“I would like to see you again,” he told her as he dropped her off at her apartment at the end of that night.
In an unpretentious manner and the affectionate gesture of a smile, she responded, “That would be very nice.”
Their meetings transformed into once a week, then transformed to twice a week, and finally transformed to nightly interaction including the prolific phone calls that they shared with each other. As their relationship grew, his drinking began to subside.
Their love strengthened and gave him the courage to overcome the nightly habit of excessive inebriation that had controlled his life.
It was not from any active inciting from Jennifer that he was able to quit his drinking. When they met he had always managed to keep himself sober. He did not mention his days of drinking to her, but he finally had found something strong enough to make him quit his pursuit of misery defined by such behavior. His days and nights of drinking faded into the past. The warmth of love that Michael felt for Jennifer transformed his once decaying life into one of joy.
They walked along the beach. It was almost dusk now and the Sun was beginning to sink into the ocean. Their footprints crossed across the wet sand on the beach. They held each other’s hands and enjoyed a tranquil, peaceful moment of harmony.
His past days of alcoholism were gone. He held her close and asked, “Jennifer, will you marry me?”
She smiled at him as tears welled up in her eyes. She kissed him gently and said, “Michael, I will marry you.”
The Sun crept into the ocean as the waves broke against the rocks. As Michael drove Jennifer back to her apartment a smile filled both their hearts. A long-lasting love had brought the strength to his life that Michael needed. The desperate struggle of darkness was all but forgotten. He would now live his life with the clarity of thought only possible for a man who has realized a fulfilled life.