I was a little unsteady on my feet as I strolled into the night chill. It had been a pleasant enough evening, yet I felt melancholy yawn within me. I knew perfectly well what the root of this sadness was.
I was lonely. So lonely.
So I went to the Rattlers Arms night after night. I drank, met up with old friends, conversed with new ones; then the bell rang and I knew it was time to shuffle back to the cold, dark bedsit that had been my home the last six months, since Emma left me.
I could not face that damp little room yet- I was not nearly drunk enough, so I decided to wander the mile or so to the city centre. Perhaps I would hit another bar, go for a dance, try to find some sliver of hope that I would not spend another night alone.
Company. Music. Friendship. Love. Connection. These were what I craved.
As I ambled across the Kole Bridge, listening to the rhythmic sibilance of the Lin so far below me, I noticed a number of silhouetted figures some way ahead. As I neared them, I ascertained that they were a small group, three in total. Two skinny young men, and a woman. Their laughter carried on the still night air.
“…sometime in the nineties, I think it was…” The woman’s voice reached me as I neared the group. I could see that the men were not paying her any heed. They were engrossed in one another. She tried to continue, “He wrote a song about getting head in the Minerva,” but her friends continued to ignore her. I saw her give a disappointed smile at their ignorance.
As I went to pass the group, I smiled at the woman. She was beautiful, copper red hair swept back into a ponytail, her pale, rounded face framed by a light fringe. Her blue eyes seemed to sparkle like the waters of the Lin.
I went to keep on walking, but something stopped me. Opportunity sang to me like the dawn chorus awakening me from the slumber of my shyness. I stopped.
“Sorry,” I said to the woman, “Were you talking about Tom Waits?”
Her eyes lit up, “Do you know that song too?”
I nodded, “I know the girl he wrote that song about. Love a bit of Tom Waits.”
Now, as I tell you this story, I ask you to bear in mind that these events happened years ago, and that our conversation only lasted a moment, there on a bridge over the River Lin.
In fact, that was the extent of the conversation. As I wished her a good night and walked away into the darkness, the woman went to speak, but my farewell interrupted her.
Sometimes I wonder what she was about to say. Perhaps she would’ve joined me that night. We could’ve hit some bar and talked all night about Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Scott Walker. We could’ve had a boogie, got a burger after, arranged to see one another again. We could’ve fallen in love, or found that we were incompatible.
Anything might’ve come of that conversation, and yet it didn’t. I turned too soon, walked away. I went to a bar and had a pint, but it did not taste as fresh or alluring or as intoxicating as those few sentences I swapped with a stranger on a bridge.
For weeks afterwards, whenever I ventured into town or walked across the Kole Bridge, I looked for her; but I never saw her again. I never even learnt her name.
And yet her face is etched into my memory as vividly as it was there before me that night. I know nothing of this woman save her face and that she likes the music of Tom Waits.
I wonder sometimes if she was the one: the one I was destined to be with. My one true love, living side by side in the same city, and yet only ever having that one brief meeting that night. If so, I know I will be alone forever. And all I got from that meeting was a yearning heart, and this meagre story.