Robert Howell: Tonight

Tonight

She sat at the end of the bar quietly sipping the same drink she had loved as a
teenager.
Fruity and childish, it seemed out of place in her hands which were stained yellow and
brown by the endless rolled cigarettes that poisoned her lungs and poured
gravel into her voice.
No one could hear over the poorly remade karaoke soundtrack that carved the soul
out of beloved songs in an effort to turn a profit from an adult’s game of
make-believe.
She knew all of the regulars by name, but no one could remember hers, and it
didn’t seem to matter.
Not much did.

Until tonight…

She slid off of the stool with difficulty, as if she had become one with the
ancient vinyl topped throne, and walked up to the stage.  She staggered toward
the stage with all of the grace of drunken mule hesitant to meet its maker.
Handing the DJ a slip of paper, she took to the stage, and reached for the
microphone that towered above her.

The cacophony of drunken babbling and empty promises fell silent as her lanky,
worn frame suddenly stood erect, and years of punishment fell away.

She sang.  The years of pain and abuse poured out of her and into the enraptured
crowd.  Strong men wept bitter tears as the disappointment crested over them,
pounding years of hard living into a mere three minutes of profound auditory
bliss.

Wild applause erupted as the final lyric faded from the ragged PA, and she
quietly stepped off of the stage, and returned to her drink…

Suddenly, everyone there knew her better than themselves.
Even if no one knew her name.

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