A good story.
He reflected on the question. A question about good art. About what made something good. All he could think now was that it had something to do with feeling, that the emotion pulled out made an impact. Thinking about something, learning something was nice, but how did it make you feel. How did it linger. Good or bad how did the feeling dance within you, the beautiful agony of being alive.
‘you know, seems like a great story has to weigh on you. Not in a bad way, or necessarily good. It just has to stick to you, with you in some way. If a story does that it has to have meant something’
‘so you think how it makes you feel is more important than what it makes you think?’ she asked
He thought carefully, trying to sound as impressive as possible, he liked her. That was rare lately. They were sitting in a mostly empty bar, dropped in a part of town they might not have found themselves even three years before. This place had been lucky enough, it was here since before either of them had been, and just rolled on as the neighbourhood changed and grew. It was mostly a younger crowd now- save the regulars- same crowd that appreciated red brick and the angry old men who manned the counter.
‘two more of the same’ he called down the bar. ‘I do.’
Before she could say anything he continued ‘what a story makes you think can change, not just from person to person, even time to time. As you change the meaning can change. But what it makes you feel, that will stay, you’ll remember how you felt’
‘this is good beer’ she mused, obviously mulling over what he had said.
‘I’m not sure you’re right about a good story though. What you’re saying makes sense, that the feeling will imprint, it will remain nostalgic forever. And. And interpretation can evolve, for sure, over time. But the meaning of great art, of a great story, the part of anything that makes you think, that challenges you to think, that has to be the meat. Has to be the substance’
He looked at her as she took a drink, he had something to say, but she was still thinking, so he took a drink. A long one. And waited, staring at her the same way she always did him. No one had ever looked at him like that before, he knew it wasn’t unique to them, it was unique to her. Often he would find himself on some tirade or another, musing about something that mattered to him, lost a bit between incoherence and something maybe flirting with profound, he would catch her staring, lost in and digesting his words, he would see her really listening. It was disarming in a way, unless you had met someone who could put away everything else and hang on your words, you wouldn’t know how it felt. He remembered being taken aback the first time he noticed, remembered wondering what exactly he had said, wondering if it was something that merited such focus. He had never felt so vulnerable, especially about something so innocent.
‘art, and a great story is art, is rolling out a message. The feeling is what might make something digestible, for sure what can make it popular. But the message is still what makes it important. What you feel connects you to the story, putting yourself amongst the characters and in this new world. The feeling will make someone love the story for the entertainment it brings.’ she paused and sipped her beer looking up as if to find something ‘but the meaning, the message, even if most readers miss it, that has to be the point of a great story’
They sat thinking, he almost never took time to think, in fact, most of his conversations were so one sided he felt and acted a bit like an entertainer. Very often he wasn’t interrupted long enough to even digest the other persons view, he rolled along just trying to articulate his own. That was arrogant, and ignorant both, but due in part to the fact that many of the people he talked to really didn’t understand what he was getting at. He sat now, unable to think of something to say. She was ahead of him, he wanted to keep listening to her, facilitate her thoughts, for the first time in a while he valued them much more than his own.
‘can you teach me to throw darts?’ she asked after a while
‘I can try’
They got up, the bartender had overheard and grabbed a couple sets, he didn’t ask for ID or anything else, they were around enough, not the type who would run off. Whatever that type was.
‘so you’ve never tossed a dart. ever?’
‘I mean, maybe a few times, it always felt so awkward that I figured it looked even more awkward, not to mention it didn’t really feel like I was aiming at anything’
He put all of the darts but two on the nearest table and stood at the line, rolling the dart between his thumb, index and middle finger he aimed at the triple twenty. Biting his tongue and leaning forward he threw. Triple five. At least a decent example, he looked back at her.
‘I’ve seen people throw, that doesn’t help’ she said sassily
He laughed ‘it was just an example’ grabbing her far shoulder he pulled her towards the line and handed over a dart, she looked down at her feet and then tried meekly to emulated what he had just shown. The dart squeezed tightly between her fingers, arm slung up awkwardly and far from ninety degrees she readied herself.
‘stop’ he grabbed her hips now ‘ you have to be still, especially your elbow’ he grabbed her arm and brought it down slightly ‘only move your forearm’ he grabbed it and pushed and pulled subtlety, he could smell her neck, a soft lavender that seemed as if it might have been her own scent. She had long black hair that was tucked behind a small, almost childlike ear ‘do you feel that?’
‘it feels horribly awkward’
‘it will, but will make it easier, soon you’ll be aiming at a small spot and not just the board, you want the movement to be as simple as possible’
Still holding her waist with his right hand, they both threw left, she moved her arm softly back an forth before finally tossing. It barely grazed the board, just above the twenty, just below the wall. She pulled away from his touch and went to grab the darts.
‘where were you aiming?’
‘the middle’ she spat back, visibly frustrated with missing, immediately she stood back at the line and pushed him away ‘I’ve got this’
He laughed and walked back towards the bar, she would throw for a while and he figured it was probably best to leave her to it. A man was sitting some seats down, absentmindedly watching a hockey game ‘another beer’ he called and looked up at the screen, smiling to himself.
‘girlfriend?’ the man asked, still looking up.
‘friend’ he said, watching also, Boston was winning 5-2 in the third period, Vancouver hadn’t been very good lately.
‘doesn’t look like it’ the man turned toward him and smiled ‘names Chris and reached out his hand.
‘Alex’ they shook hands, both firm, the type of handshake that twinges with mutual respect ‘think I’ve seen you around’
‘probably, its a good spot for one or two too many. you live around here?’
‘26th and columbia’ Alex replied.
‘I’m just off Fraser, have been for about, well, forever’ Chris looked about fifty, maybe more, you could tell he took care of himself, care of himself in a way that could mask a dozen or so years around his age.
‘tough watching the Canucks these days’
‘yup’ Chris took a sip of the whisky ‘so why’s she just a friend’ he smiled holding the glass up to his lips.
‘single malt I suppose’ changing the subject, knowing it would come back around.
‘yup, Laphroig. the peat tastes a bit like trekking in the highlands, maybe you know what I mean’
he did, having spent a few months in Scotland, a few more months back. ‘she’s dating a friend, has been for longer than I’ve known either’ taking a sip he laughed ‘why?’
‘just the way she looks at you, I remember when my wife looked at me like that. Its a look that cares, a look only a woman can pull off. And only when she feels something’ he finished his glass
She walked up behind him, a few seconds after Chris had finished talking. Good timing, better at least. ‘do you want to lose?’ she was very confident for someone who was about to.
He got up, finished his beer and waved for two more. She had already wandered back to practice. He leaned over as Chris got up and reached his hand out again ‘maybe ill see you around’ they shook and Chris tossed a jacket over his shoulders.
‘do you like your friend?’
‘yeah man, I mean of course, its not like that. if thats what you mean. its just.’
He cut Alex short ‘of course it is, just be careful, or don’t. But she doesn’t look at everyone like that, probably not even him. Maybe especially not’ smiling he stumbled to the door, a little drunk, it was just Wednesday, he probably had to work tomorrow, he probably had a family to get back to. Might’ve been why he was stumbling.
Waiting for the drinks Alex thought about what he had said. Probably seeing a few things he hadn’t before. Suddenly he felt a little dirty for it just being the two of them. The bartender handed him the drinks and his animosity flittered away, taking them he walked towards the corner of the bar and her. She looked over her shoulder, brushing that long black hair to the side and smiled. Smiled her shy smile. A smile that made her seem a whole lot more innocent than she was. A smile though, that really and honestly didn’t know how perfect it was. All he could do was smile back.