He wanders through the crowd, lining the bar with a tall loping grace
As the piano man plays a gentle melody, the dying man’s smile dances for each note
With a glance you wouldn’t know his hourglass is almost run out
Though the bar whispers his tale to each newcomer and repeats it over every beer
Over each repetition, gazes cast heavily upon his brow and wait for a sign of sadness
But instead he grins a cocky, sideways grin and waves his hand
A round of drinks to all from the man you can’t turn down
For he has no one else to empty his wallet
And the price of green paper vanishes with one’s last grain of sand
Friends from long ago and friends made in the dim evening light
Sit around and laugh on their old leather stools, cracking and squeaking yet sturdy as ever
As the door opens, waves of fresh air cut through and shift the smoky atmosphere
With the movement, he lights another cigarette
May as well enjoy the beautiful ember betwixt fingertips;
The stench of bitter joy and guilty habits rolled within the tobacco’s leaves
Is that much sweeter when it’s deaths calling card
Burning into the night’s thick air with a smile
For a man of gentle smiles, vivacious laughter and humble actions – I do not know you well but I know you enough to say I will miss you when you leave, as will all those who’ve shared a night of stories and friendship with you.
The first time I met you, you and Ol’ Miller played bodyguards for me, the silly little girl at the bar who felt ten feet taller with each beer. I’d almost forgotten to be honest, because you were so quiet. But best friends of old, you stood there with Miller to provide quiet strength and protection should any other bar guests try to pursue conversation with me. It’s kind of funny to think about, that you didn’t know me but the day you met me were put in charge of my wellbeing. I appreciated it then and I still do today.
You say you’ve lived your life and though I’ve only known you for your last year (according to doctors and whatnot), I’d say you’ve still got life to live until your dying breath. You still have time, words to speak, experiences to revisit and friends to share a few more drinks with.
I hope the doctor is wrong and that you continue to visit and tell stories, sitting in the smokey bar. I hope, for Ol’ Miller’s sake that you go out kicking and that you remind him to keep going, as a best friend, as a strong man, and as a believer that every day still matters.
If I don’t see you before you go, a toast to good health for irony’s sake and one last smoke to embrace the chariot that carries you swiftly away.
Do you sing? Or play piano? I can’t say for sure but this song always makes me think of you. Piano Man by Billy Joel on YouTube