Huddled around the small table, heads turning back and forth, the group of friends attempted to hear each other in the noisy bar. Conversations drifted in and out as words were masked by the crack of billiard balls behind them. The volume swells left them with no choice but to resort to an odd combination of charades and lip reading. One head poked out from the huddle and recognition flashed across his face.
Yelling out to the man walking in from the smoking area and waving a hand. The two met eyes and smiles lifted the corners of their mouths. Standing to meet him, the two exchanged friendly handshakes and a quick pat on the back. Their seating shifted as room was made for the newcomer to join them.
For the minute it took to introduce everyone to him, and the obligatory inquiries about work, the man seemed fine. However, upon questioning of his life it quickly turned sour. Describing himself, while looking into his beer, as a "class A Alcoholic", the tone of the party settled down from fun to uncomfortable. Without feeling the shift, he continued on with other aspects of his life that were vexing him.
Brow furrowing, the friend who had invited him met eyes with each person around the table. The ones closest to the newcomer were shifted in their seats, making pained faces each time he looked away. Pleading with their eyes to make the awkward conversation stop. Quaffing their drinks, a few rose to escape to the bar: exchanging money for peace from discomfort. Without noticing, the drunk leaned in closer to his friend, his words stopping every third as he struggled to find the train of thought.
Pained inside, but smiling on the outside, the friend tried his best to hear him over the squeeling of a group of girls nearby, the laughter of the frat brothers next to them, and the joyless barking of the old men playing pool. Swaying to and fro the man pieced together the bits of the things ailing him. The story growing little by little, slowly, as the halted stutterings and occasional sentences were misplaced. The need to vent and release himself grinding the mood of the group down.
For more than an hour this carried on, each member of the group taking turns to sit and hear the intoxicated man out. Down on his luck, it was sobering to most, and as the tattered fabric of fears, worries, and anxiety came flowing out, the light continued to fade from his eyes. Eventually each had paid their bills, and the original caller pushed through the crowd one last time. Despite the destruction of the groups laughter for a few periods, it felt wrong not to say goodbye to the somber friend standing alone.
The same handshake from the beginning, two slaps of the hands followed by fists coming together. The two exchanged goodbyes, despite the effect he had had on the group, they wished each other well. Their eyes meeting and nodding in understanding, a pat on the back and the two seperated, leaving the bar behind them.