Oxygen Tank

“Hey Dude. are you just going to drown your sorrows in alcohol? Grow up! We’ve been over this a thousand times!” She patiently tells him.

Just a week ago her best friend’s girlfriend broke up with him and until now he is mopping over it. She just rolled her eyes because she’s also been there for him for a week and maybe for weeks to come.

“Well, how can I get over it? I love her! I really, really do! I thought she was the one and it turns out that she left me because we were being predictable?! The thrill and excitement was gone? What does she want me to be? Cirque de soliel?!” He snapped as the mixture of saliva and alcohol is sprayed on her face while he talked.

“Well, maybe you’re just not meant for each other. Maybe she is not the one that you should spend the rest of your life with. It may hurt now but eventually, once you start to accept that it’s really over then you’ll understand.” Her voice went back to being gentle, she knows what he feels and she’s the one who should understand.

“No, I would never understand! We were together for 5 years! 5 f****ng  years. My world revolved around her, we made a life together. We made plans together. All my plans include her. Now, how can I move on from that?”

“Well, at least you didn’t forget to breathe on your own.” She said, annoyed.

“She’s the reason I’m breathing!” Shoving the empty bottle while screaming.

“OH? Is that so? Ok! I’m outta here.” She finally gave up and started to leave.

“Hey! Where are you going? Leaving me like this? What kind of friend are you?”

The kind of friend that needs a life of her own.

“I just need a refill!” She shouted without looking back.

“Well, we still got a lot of booze here. What refill do you need? Crazy!” He just ignored her and went back to drinking.

Once outside the apartment, she just made a deep breath and started to walk, undetermined where to go. All she knows is that she needed a breather, being there for a friend in need can be exhausting especially with that kind of friend. Why is she still there? Because he needs her and whenever her friends need her, all she knows is that she should be there no matter what. She may be a lousy adviser but she’s a good listener and at times all a friend needs is a shock absorber.

Better find something to get my mind off this craziness even just for a while!

As she walked leisurely, she found herself in front of a bar. Without hesitation she went inside thinking that drinking alone is what she needed.

The bar, as expected was not crowded still being a work week. There are a few patrons though, 3 executive-types who might just be killing time before they head home, one constantly looking at his watch guarding the time. At the far right corner, a table was occupied by a bunch of rowdy college kids who seems to have nothing to do on a school night. She headed to the bartender and ordered a margarita. She’s just used to drinking beer but tonight is an exception like going to a bar which is unusual for her especially going alone.

“So what’s a fine young lady doing in a place like this alone? Had a fight with your lover boy?” An old man a few seats from her asked.

The man looked around 60-70 years old fairly decent, not the pervert-looking so she managed to give a meek smile and gave a short reply, “Well, I wish that was the case.” and she turned to her drink, regretting going alone.

“Hey, don’t worry. He’s harmless, he’s a regular. You can talk to him, you’ll learn a lot and besides this bar is safe we won’t let anything happen to you. It’s owned by a couple of police officers.” The bartender assured her.

She felt a little relieved with what the bartender said. She began to relax and turned to the man talking to her earlier.

“I just felt I needed a breather.” she started

“A breather from what?” asked the man.

“Not what who.”

“So it is a boy!” He said proud that he guessed it right.

“Well, yes it’s a boy but it’s not what you think. He’s my best friend.” She explained

“So if this kid’s just your best friend, why do you look as if you carry the world on your shoulders? Is it really just friendship or deeper than that?” the old man gave a curious look, so as the bartender.

“Ewww… It’s really platonic, nothing deeper than that, it would feel incest.” She shrugged at the thought.

“Then what is bothering you?”

“Well, his girlfriend just broke up with him and he’s been devastated for a week now. I’ve been by his side the entire time and it’s just too much to take. All his bickering, regrets, it’s suffocating and I felt that I needed to get out.” She resignedly explained, looking down at her drink the entire time. She felt guilty saying it, but she felt she needed to voice it out.

The old man just smiled and returned to his drink. She waited for him to say something but he remained silent. She got confused and thought that the man wasn’t interested anymore so she got back to her drink too, planning to just finish it and go back to her friend.

“You know what? I will trade anything just to have that kind of moment with a friend again.” The old man said after a few minutes of silence.

She turned to him, confusion written all over her face.

Who would want that???

The man smiled and looked at her intently.

“Do you know why your friend chose you to be his confidante? To be his shock absorber? To be whatever you kids call it today? Because he knows that only you can understand what he is going through and only you can accept everything he throws at you. He trusts you that much to unveil his mask without any fear of judgement or persecution. You clearly said that you’ve been with him since day 1, so it means that there’s no other friend he trusts that much other than you. You should be proud of it.” He explained.

The bartender just nodded in agreement.

“I know, I know. That’s why I feel so guilty. It just feels like my friends only need me when they are in pain. It’s really tiring sometimes. It would have been easy if after they confide to me and they feel better, everything will go away. It doesn’t, I also feel their pain, I feel their suffering as if it was done to me too.”

“That’s what makes you the good friend you are to them. You don’t sympathize, you empathize. You don’t give unsolicited advise, you are just there because your presence is enough to ease their pain. No need for words, maybe just a tap at the back from you gives them their much needed comfort.”

Realizing what the man said, she felt shame, guilt and pride all at the same time. She knows what she needs to do now. She’s been refilled and refueled!

“Thank you for making me realize that, I really needed it. Now I should go back to him.” She finished the margarita in a single gulp, paid the bartender with a handsome tip and prepared to go out. But before she went her way she looked back to where the man was sitting.

“You know what Sir? Even strangers can be good confidants too. Thank you so much! You’ve opened my mind to my purpose.” She said with a smile and finally left.

Upon arriving at the apartment, her best friend looked at her with scrutiny. He’s so curious why she was suddenly happy after being out for just over an hour. He walked around her and even sniffed her as if it will tell him what happened to her.

“Where have you been? You smell like alcohol and cigarette. Have you been smoking again? I thought you already quit? Did you take drugs? Hey, I know that I’m messed up now but if you have a problem of your own you can tell me. I’m just here for you. We’re best friends remember? You don’t have to resort to anything stupid if you have a problem.” Guilt written all over his face after the lengthy speech.

“What the hell are you talking about? I got no problem, I just went to a bar, had a drink and an enlightening conversation with a stranger. I am refilled and refueled!” She said beaming with happiness

“What?! You went to a bar alone and talked to a stranger? God! What were you thinking? What if he’s a psycho or a rapist? You’re not used to those places, you have to be extra careful. I will tell Mia and Amanda about this, they’ll blame me for sure” Now, there was a mixture of fear and guilt on his face.

It did not change her mood but made it much better. She realized her worth.





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