The man stared into his drink on the counter, his uniform ratty and unrecognizable. He was not a very remarkable-looking man at first glance – very ordinary, the very everyday-hominess that made him seem friendly and approachable. In another life, he might have been a good lawyer or politician. Or, with such a trustworthy face, he could have been a doctor or teacher. Even as a decent, honest working man, he might have made a name for himself.
But now he had no name.
The bartender asked him who he was waiting for.
The new guy in town, he replied.
I’ll pour him a drink, the bartender announced. He did so and sat the pint next to the man’s before he retreated into the corner again.
I wondered about this man. Where had he come from? Did he have family? Did he have pets? Were there great-grandchildren somewhere?
Did he enjoy music? What was his favourite song to sing to pass the time in the trenches? Was he a learned man who got lost in his books? A sportsman? A sportsman who got lost in books, in dreams of glory far away from the mud?
Was he the friendly type, or would he be embarrassed about all the attention he now had? Sitting there at the counter, he seemed so approachable, so kind and loving…but was that real? After all, I was the one dreaming.
A small bell rang as the door of the pub creaked open and another man walked in. He was in full regimental uniform – I recognized him immediately. He shut the heavy wooden door behind him and looked around, smiling widely at his fellow comrades scattered about the room.
The man at the counter turned to face the door, and although his back was mostly to me, I could tell that his face, too, had broken into a wide grin. I imagined his eyes sparkled as they met those of the newcomer.
He raised his glass, leading the others in a toast.
Welcome home, buddy! He cried out in an accent that I couldn’t place.
Come sit over here by me.
Let me tell you my name.