In the many years that Hank has been tending bar at the Diabolical, he has seen his fair share of drunks.
You have your usual “I’m so happy it’s Friday I need to get drunk” Drunk.
There’s the typical “I’m angry at world” Drunk.
The “I need to get drunk so I can find the courage to ask that girl out” Drunk.
Of course, there’s always the “I’m just trying to drown my sorrows” Drunk.
Without them, many bars and pubs would’ve closed down years ago.
Hank also knows how fast or slow someone wants to get drunk and he’d serve them them appropriate drink to get them appropriately buzzed or unconscious. He also knows the best ways to get them to sober up.
If you catch Hank in a talking mood, he’ll probably tell you that tikbalang easily get buzzed with just two bottles of Red Horse and sober up with an ice blended concoction of freshly cut grass and ampalaya; that the most ancient of kapre and enkanto love the taste of Cervesa Negra and require a barrel of barako to become sober again.
On this particular night, at one corner of the bar, Hank sees a regular.
There is nothing magical or mystical about Herbert Flores, except for the fact he once had the most drop-dead gorgeous girlfriend that ever walked into the Diabolical that got men and enkanto alike asking, “What did SHE see in HIM?!”
Hank has seen Herbert drink a case of beer and not get drunk. For some strange reason, two glasses of white wine gives him a buzz.
White wine. Ginny’s favorite drink. That’s why Herbert ordered it.
After he finished the whole bottle, the floor heaved and buckled and tossed him towards one corner of the bar, towards that table for two by the window, that table where he always had dinner with Ginny on Friday nights after they watched a movie. He’s trying to drink the last drop of wine straight from the bottle, while looking at his cellphone; looking at the videos and pictures labeled G&ME.
Hank shakes his head and knows exactly what Herbert needs to drink.
Hank reaches up to the coffee maker at the center of the bar. Before the Diabolical became the “must be seen in club” of the moment, it was a popular café run by Alexandra Trese’ grandfather. They still keep the first coffee maker that Mr. Trese used when he opened shop. Most of the patrons think it’s a neat memorabilia, that it’s just there for display, but Hank switches it on and it begins to brew a pot.
“Here you go. It’s on the house,” Hank says as he places the steaming coffee in front of the Herbert, who’s desperately trying to make stop the room from spinning.
Herbert tries to tell him that he doesn’t drink coffee, but when he opens his mouth it comes out as, “IdooonnotAHHHcoffcoffEEE”.
He also tries to say that the only thing that will make him sober is a litro of ice, cold Coke.
Plain brewed coffee with three teaspoons of sugar was how Ginny usually sobered up. And so, as if following some unspoken ritual, Herbert scoops three teaspoons of sugar from the bowl and plunks them in the coffee one by one.
He stirs it three times, counter clockwise.
Then taps the teaspoon on the lip of the mug.
The sound of the metal hitting ceramic echoes in Herbert’s ears.
“Since when did you drink coffee that way? Since when did YOU drink coffee AT ALL?” asks the voice across the spinning room.
He looks up and sees her.
“I believe that’s MY coffee,” says Ginny.
Herbert pushes the mug toward her and she cups it in her hands. She closes her eyes and breathes in the aroma. She then takes a sip and puts the mug back down.
Ginny waves at Hank. “Hank! Get this drunken man a Coke and give him a tall glass filled with ice.”
“You’re here!” Herbert suddenly sobers up.
“Of course, I’m here. It’s our anniversary.” Ginny smiles
He just gives her a blank stare.
“You forgot!” Ginny rolled her eyes.
“I know that look!”
“I DID NOT forget!” Herbert says. “You’re here!”
“You already said that.” Ginny takes a sip from her coffee.
Hank brings Herbert the Coke and a glass filled with ice cubes.
“She’s here!” Herbert grabs Hank by the sleeves and points at Ginny.
Hank just smiles.
“So, are you seeing anyone?” Ginny asks.
“Ginny! I can’t believe you…”
“It’s a perfectly normal question to ask someone who’s single again.”
“Yeah, it’s the sort of thing that Bart would ask me. But not … you… I mean… YOU’RE DEAD, GINNY!”
“Stop that. You’ll freak out the other customers.”
“Freak out? I’m the one… who’s… FREAKED OUT!”
“Okay… so you want me to leave?” Ginny pretends to stand up.
“NO! no! no! no! Stay! Please stay.” He takes a deep breath and says, “I’m sorry I wasn’t there. I’m sorry I couldn’t get to you on time.”
“There’s a reason why such things are called `freak accidents`.”
“I’m sorry I placed my phone on silent mode. You know how I am when I’m at work and … ”
“Even if you did get my call, how fast could you have gotten to me? How fast could you get me to the nearest hospital?”
“I could’ve…” Herbert tries to search for an answer. For the past year, he’s been thinking about what he could’ve done. He’s ran scenarios in his head on what might’ve been the best way to save her.
“If you did answer my call, I would’ve told you that I love you,” says Ginny. “And if, by chance, I got that cliché Hollywood moment to recite a whole speech with my dying breath, I would’ve thanked you for showing me with so much love. That even though everyone at the office labeled me a bitch, you found me amusing and worth falling in love with. And I would’ve told that it annoyed me every time you gave me an action figure or a graphic novel for my birthday, that I wish you didn’t always have to give advice in that Yoda voice, how I wished you’d wear at least one of the polo shirts I bought for you and just once, stop wearing those Star Wars t-shirts. How all of those, and so many other more annoying habits, were the very same reasons I loved so much.”
“And I…” Herbert didn’t really know what to say.
“At which point,” Ginny interrupts him, “I would’ve probably breathed my last breath and not given you a chance to answer back; so don’t even try.”
Ginny places her hand Herbert and they both smile.
She taps the lip of the mug and points out, “My coffee’s almost done. I have to go soon.”
“No! Don’t! Hank, bring that pot of coffee over here!”
“It doesn’t work that way.” Ginny looks down at the bottom of the mug.
“Will you be here again next year?”
“Maybe.” Ginny shrugs.
“Really?” Herbert almost jumps out of his seat.
“Herbert! Ramon! Flores! If you plan to just mope around all year, waiting for this specific date, which you would most probably not remember anyway, then you can forget about me showing up again! If you ever want me to meet you again, I expect to see results! I expect to see an improvement with your social life! Even if it means for you to start hanging out with Bart again, I would consider that an improvement! Beside, I can’t stand seeing up mope around all day.”
“You can see me? From up there?”
“Oh, yes! And I know all about your porn collection which you file under the folder labeled `Hobbies`”
Herbert buries his face in his hands.
“I’m just kidding. Bart told me about that your secret folder a couple of weeks before the accident. Besides, do you really expect me to spend the rest of my afterlife watching and worrying about you? Well, I don’t do it all day.”
“Ginny, I wanted to tell you…”
“I know. I was at the wake. I heard your eulogy. I saw the website you put up. Watched the video. Loved the song. It was wonderful! Really, it was. But you didn’t really need to say all of that. I knew how you felt. You told me everyday."
He feels the warmth of Ginny’s hand as she touches his cheek. She leans in and kisses him on the lips.
Herbert closes his eyes and doesn’t hold back his tears. He finds himself half-standing from his chair, leaning across the table, across from an empty chair, leaning above a coffee mug, which was now cold and empty, except for a few drops of his tears.
He sits back down and touches the moisture of his ice, cold glass of Coke. He lifts up his glass, smiles, and toasts the empty coffee mug. He drinks the whole thing straight and then slams the glass down on the table.
Herbert turns and yells, “Hank! One more….” Before he could even finish his order, Hank’s already standing beside him with pitcher of Coke, because Hank knows this is exactly the drink that he needs.