I’d like to offer a brief introduction to this next anniversary story. When I asked authors for a story I just wanted an anniversary story. Any characters, new or old, and any style. Both bittersweet or happy would be fine with me. This story is not happy. ~ Faye
Author: Drury Jamison
“Happy anniversary,” Bruce said as I let the door close behind me. The look on my face must have given away more than I intended.
Bruce, my usual bartender in my usual place, noticed right away.
“Or not,” he said dropping the smile from his face. Without being asked he had an iced mug of beer set up and waiting for me by the time I was seated at the bar. I didn’t say anything but a good bartender can tell when you need to talk and when you need a little help to get started.
“Did I get the date wrong?” he asked.
I shook my head and took a first sip of the beer. After setting the mug down I tried to tell him. “There have been…” I didn’t know how to finish that sentence. “Problems,” I finally said.
Bruce nodded, seeming to pull understanding from the vague word. “I wondered,” he said. “When I don’t see a regular for a long while it’s usually problems with the wife. Still, twenty years today. That’s a milestone.”
I shrugged then took a drink with both hands cupped around the glass. The wet, chill felt good on my hands.
“Twenty hard years?” Bruce asked. This time his voice was careful with the question.
“Yeah—hard,” I answered surprised by the bitterness. “Not as hard as today.” That time I took a good hard pull at the beer finishing most of it off.
I could feel his eyes on me as he puttered away behind the counter. I appreciated that he didn’t push or ask anything else. Bruce knew I would talk when I felt like it. It took the rest of that beer for me to feel like it but I did. Honestly it would be good to talk, to share this awful day with someone.
“I buried my wife this morning.” I had meant to say it quietly, casually, instead I blurted it out. Some weights are good to get off your chest I guess. “I had forgotten our anniversary until you mentioned it. Twenty years ago today…”
He looked over and I could see the sympathy in his eyes. Bruce was a man who understood loss and I knew I could count on his compassion.
“I’m sorry,” he said and you could tell he really meant it.
Sitting there, I felt the tired ache in my bones and the empty place in my life that she had taken up. It was huge, she had been such a big part of me for so long. Fiddling with my empty mug I hefted it, feeling the weight in my hands. It reminded me…
“You want another?” Bruce asked.
I tapped the heavy glass down on the cardboard coaster that advertised a different brand of beer just so I could feel the impact run up my arm. Then I tried to smile but it was weak and Bruce could see the burden I carried. I nodded and he took the glass from my hands. Once the cold mug was gone I realized again how sore my hands were, how tired I was all over. Everything seemed heavy but lighter at the same time. It was the feeling of having worked so hard and finally resting. It takes the body a while to recognize that the burden is lifted.
Bruce pulled the tap handle and started filling me up again. “When did she pass?”
Glancing at the old watch under my worn and fraying cuffs I was able to manage a small smile.
“Should be any time now,” I said.
Bruce nodded his understanding and sat the fresh beer down in front of me.