It was like the Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman scene from Casablanca.
We were standing on the tarmac saying our last goodbyes and musing over lost possibilities.
She was to fly away. Disappear over the far horizon to chase the sun and her dreams. I was to remain here and… and spend countless evenings listening to the sad stories of sadder people as they cried salty tears into their half-drunk pots of slowly warming beer.
Most of this bar’s clientele were not here to drink, well, it was not their sole purpose. Most wanted somewhere out of the rain to sit, somewhere where other people passed by, so they would not feel as lost or lonely while they pathetically reiterated their woes to me, the barman, the current focus of their attention.
I had a bar to tend. I could not help but think of those words, ‘Play it again, Sam’. A miss-quote from that old film. A film which was as monochrome as my world would be once she had left.
There was a part of me that wanted to grab her, tell her not to go. To ask her to stay.
But I knew that would be wrong of me. This was her plan, her desire. This was part of her destiny, an arrangement which was designed long before I met her.
I held her close. Our kisses long and passionate. Last kisses. Goodbye kisses.
What would I do without her? That was another question I was avoiding.
I would miss her. I would miss her smile, the sparkle in her eyes, the sweet taste of her lips and the scent of her perfume.
She had wandered into my life one night and never left. In that short time, we had become entwined, bonded by a smouldering desire for each other. I do not know if this was love or something beyond love. But I knew it was something which devoured me, consumed every fibre of my being.
Now the prospect of being alone once again was daunting, overwhelming. I was not sure I knew who I was any longer. At least not without her by my side.
The engine started in the distance. A whirring hum vibrating the air about us.
There was little of it left.
A final kiss.
The reluctant letting go, as our hands slipped apart as she started to walk away, our fingers touching until the very tips lost contact.
I stood still, watching her long legs carry those swaying hips towards the steps.
I blinked away a small tear. Lifting a cigarette to my mouth, cupping the flame against the wind. I let my breath out, a long sigh of despondency as I watched the blue smoke dissipate into the air.
I could just make out her face through the windowpane. She looked small and fragile, like a lost child.
I raised an arm, a small, dejected wave.
She waved back. It was an eerie, ghostly wave. The reflections from the glass distorting reality.
“Here’s looking at you kid,” I said out aloud, knowing it was only I who had images of the final scene flitting through my head.
Silently I watched, as the coach drove out of the bus station, turning right and merging with the city’s traffic, headed towards the airport.
I had two weeks of loneliness to endure before she returned from her holiday in Marbella.
I turned my jacket collar up and began the long walk back to Rick’s Cafe Americain.
© Paul White 2015 – FFCO25062015/527
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