Me and two girls from the dorm room spilled out into Antigua’s night. Bonds mesh fast when you travel. One girl had thrown up on the others jacket on a half way jog to the restaurant toilet. I’d held her hair and washed the jacket out, so although our friendship was just hours old, it felt visceral, substantial.
The bar was called ‘No se’ or ‘I don’t know’. It seemed apt for a day when I was trying to pick the next stop off a map. Sack cloth muted the lights to a dingy dive den glow and patrons had written their everything nothings in a thick band of drunken nights. The bar was a feast for inquisitive eyes.
A red faced wooden devil pouted from a corner, a guitar hung on a string with a note that said ‘finger me’ and even the toilet bowl’s cluttered closet looked almost romantic, lit by a single flickering flame.
The graffiti muddled itself with a bundle buzz of names, dates, statements, dogmas – ‘today is not for thinking’, ‘the penguin tells the truth’. I left a small black eye liner heart, smudged to stand for the clever words, not yet unsaid, that I couldn’t think to say. We all want to leave some mark, some note to say we passed. We all want a wall to hold our nothings, a place where our words will cluster into significance before they mist into history.
In the corner a young man played the piano as if the world was ending, glorious and awful at his finger tips. I felt deep things unfelt stir, sink and fall with the rise and plunge of the notes. It was the kind of music that crawls inside and pulls feelings out. My raw red heart felt hurt-happy and my smile blazed bare and bold, wriggling through the dark, over the tables and up to that bashed up old piano where he sat.
My one rickety old wooden bench felt like the pulse point of my happiness, the place where I could be known.
My girlfriends left, I nursed a drink, rattled the ice cubes and sank into the song, wholly submitted.
When the music stopped the pianist came over, put down a paper and a pen, asked for my name, my e-mail and told me we will be great friends forever, when we have time to meet properly. Somehow I believed him, felt the sincerity of the moment, even if all that come after unpick it and willow the words away. An infinity in ink swirled on his neck.
The next day I cried without knowing why, felt relieved.