4 Feb 2013
Once, not long ago, in a misty night, in a remote place, a lost traveler steps into a tavern. He took a seat at the bar and asked for a glass of wine. The bartender smiled scornfully. He had never seen him before and, curios, like all bartenders, he couldn`t wait to ask him. He laid the glass of wine in front of him and asked where was he coming from and how come he reached that place.
The traveler seemed disquieted. Tired, he lowered his eyes and sighed. Then he answered listlessly. He didn`t remember where he had left from, nor how he arrived in the town, not even for how long he had been roaming around. He only knew that the damned mist kept him from moving on. He was wandering aimlessly through the streets. He had only one landmark, a clock tower which in spite of the mist could be seen from any corner of the city and always looked the same. It didn`t do any good. 'It rather confuses me, you see?' He sipped the rest of the wine and pointed his tired eyes towards the bartender, as if he would want to ask for help. The man behind the counter had suddenly become serious. He came near the traveler and told him not to illude himself hoping he will ever leave that town. Not even the natives who have been living there and wanted to get away have not found the way out. The place was always veiled in mist. Nobody has ever seen it otherwise. `Do you get it?` asked the bartender concluding. Then he friendlily patted his shoulder and walked away.
The traveler became even more gloomful. He has been blindly roving around the tower, through the mist and had been hoping that at least there, in that tavern, he could find out what he had been seeking for a long time. That man, the bartender... Not only did he do no good, but he also frightened him. 'Don't hope in vain, you will never leave this town.`- that`s what he had told him. `What did never mean?` He felt shivers up and down his spine. He trembled, put the money on the counter and quickly went towards the exit. ` You`ll be back, was written in green letters above the door. `The hell I will`, he said grasping the handle, when somebody was strongly pulling the door from the other side.
The traveler took a step back; in front of him was an old man. They both stopped and stared circumspectly. The newcomer had glassy eyes, drunk from weariness, with enormous, swell, dark circles under, like an ill man; they betrayed him. He looked as if he hadn`t been sleeping for ages. The traveler got scared. He had to leave that place. He had to leave that town. He had enough of it. He lowered his head and gave a wide berth to the one who was standing in his way. `Where to, young man?' asked the old man sluggishly without balking him. The traveler glanced at him. He could have slammed the door and get lost once more in the mist. Something stopped him though. The unexpected mild voice of that man, his weary smile brought him hope back. He was hesitating. The old man figured it out and brought him at bay. `Good fellow, let`s have a drink. You are also a little bit tired I can see. There are plenty to talk about.` Who doesn't enjoy stories? Who could have turned him down? The traveler valued this kind of unforeseen encounters; he liked listening to life stories. Sometimes he also confided when he felt intimate. He turned round and followed the old man. I`m already back, he thought chuckling.
In the morning he woke up with a slight headache. He was in a welcoming room. He got nervous. How did he get there? He suddenly got off the bad, rubbed his eyes and reconstructed the events. He remembered talking with the old man until the bar closed. They talked about all kind of stuff as if they had known each other for years. They drank wine: a glass, two, three until they lost track. They became ablaze and shared their afflictions. He, the traveler, confessed first, he didn`t even remember when he last told his story. And it was not a usual one. He spoke about the beauty he once saw, a long time ago: a beauty with reason of its own, triggered at the same time by his contrasting thoughts. A beauty he had lost without knowing how. A beauty for which he left everything behind: hometown, family just to find her again somewhere out there. Astray in that peculiar town, veiled by mist, he had no hope of ever finding her again. He was really tired. He missed his family and home`s comfort. Although it was hard to admit it, he was thinking about getting back. He confided it all to the old man as if he was his confessor.
Afterwards he remembered switching roles. The man shared his early days` story. He had found a small town of uncommon beauty; he was adamant about losing it. He focused all his energy to become mayor, even did despicable things. In short time he did it. From then on he lost sleep. He continuously watched things over and did everything he could not to let that beauty slide away. The city had to be exactly as he wanted to.
Yet, one day, a thick mist covered the town. The old man waited. A day, two, three, then months passed...years... he had already lost the track. The fog persisted. The beauty of the place rested unseen and he couldn`t find any way to reveal it again. He only lived through his memories and used to spend his nights wondering where he went wrong.
The old man invited him to spend the night over at his house after the bar had closed. He gladly accepted, where else could he go? The mist and darkness scared him. They groped until they reached destination, upholding one another. They opened a bottle of wine, then another one and another one. Until they got wasted. They slept like a log: the traveler-as usually, the old mayor-for the first time in many years. This is what the traveler remembered.
He got up from bed end went into another room. There he saw the old man lying on the sofa. He was still sleeping like a rock. No wonder, after so many years of wakefulness. He didn`t disturb his host. He thought again about finding a way out of the town. Maybe, who knows... he left house, still dizzy. He took some steps and suddenly stopped as if he felt something unusual. He immediately realized it. The fog was gone. Bewildered, he stood for some time in the middle of the road. He was in the most beautiful city he had ever seen. For an instant he thought about taking to his heels to find the way out and stop the mist from getting him once more. But a tramp is a tramp no matter what. He banished his thoughts and slowly went on smelling, touching and glancing eagerly at everything surrounding him. He was fascinated. He saw the refulgent tower. The clock had stopped, probably in the middle of the night. But what did he care? He smiled and got lost in the sinuous streets` labyrinth. Something was missing. The town seemed deserted. Not until he felt like drinking a glass of wine and thought about asking for a bar, did he realize it. He wandered around for a while but nobody came in his way. Though, he remembered talking to them...the mayor, the waiter, they were all real. He stopped in front of a house and shyly knocked at the door. A woman opened. The traveler was puzzled. He felt heat overwhelming him. He was fascinated by her beauty and all he wished for in that instant was finding out her secrets. He even forgot why he had knocked at the door.
The woman looked him straight in the eyes already knowing his weakness. Without saying a word, she grabbed his hand and he started to feel abashed and to talk nonsense. Mist, tavern, you`ll be back, wine, I invite you... The woman chuckled and pulled him away. They walked through a garden full of flowers and then entered a house. What was happening to him was amazing, unreal. The woman, the town, the place where he was, beauty pervaded his pores, invaded him, smashing him. Before he could realize it, he was drinking a glass of wine while the woman was telling her story in few words. In that state of bliss, only his eyes remained lucid because if he was good at something, that something was catching the details that made him happy.
Later he woke up in the street. The mist had set again above the town. He was still enchanted by the woman who had revealed her secrets, but the misty veil also covered the memory of their time spent together. He took a glance at the tower, the clock was working again. He headed towards the mayor`s house hoping for a refuge throughout the night. He was immediately welcomed. The stories and wine poured together until dawn when both, dizzy, fell asleep. It was almost midday when the traveler woke up. Like in the previous day, the host was sleeping like a rock, the mist had risen and the clock had stopped. The memory of the moments spent with the woman were clear as right after he had left her home. His memory kept his mind busy. Instead of searching the way out of the town, he was walking towards the woman`s house, he got in without knocking. He was astonished to find another woman, as attractive as the first one, standing in the garden. The flowers had also changed. He was sure he mistook the entry and murmured something as an excuse. The woman giggled softly, got near him and grabbed his hand.
He was now inside the house. The interior was completely different. The story repeated itself. He drank a glass of wine, lived another tale, as fascinating as the first woman`s and as he left, everything was covered in mist. There was nothing else to do but returning to the mayor`s house.
The way back was already a ritual for the traveler. He lived for nothing else but this. He ate less and less; he drank wine instead of water, slept poorly. More and more women revealed their secrets once he visited the house and every time he was insistently trying to grasp their look. He had learnt that women`s eyes are the opposite of triviality. Sometimes he drawn in serene, happy eyes, sometimes he saw sadness, there were times when he saw nothing else but resignation, but every time the eyes were that door to profoundness, to the concealed part, to the significant detail. Every day that passed, he left the house more and more taken aback as if he had been taking an increasing doze of drug. He lived for a month in that fairy-tale universe.
One morning, after a long while, he stood in front of the mirror. He reached for his face, he could hardly recognize himself. He was week, his eyes had the glow of a mad man`s, but his flair told him he had found the beauty once lost; he could never lose it again. He thought about turning back to his everyday life. He knew though that he could not leave town while the mayor was awake and the short period in which the place was not covered by fog didn`t allow him to find a way out. He tried to escape several times, but the mist blocked his way, covering his memories and his path. He wanted to leave peacefully hoping he could turn back at any time.
An evil thought got hold of him. He had to escape! The city had to escape, he thought. He rushed with a guilty conscience. He admitted taking advantage of the old man`s confessions, forgetting about his generosity and the strange friendship that bound them.... He ran breathlessly towards the tavern where they met.
In the evening he returned at the old man`s home with fine powder in his hand. They drank another glass, maybe the last one ...