We stopped at the pub after doing a wee bit of shopping. When we entered we saw someone we hadn't seen for quite a while. We've not actually been friends, but we've been in the same circles, knew the same people, and, on the occasion we ran into each other, it's always been friendly. So we took the table next to him, said 'hello' and bought him a beer as he was nearly done the one he was drinking.
Bars, or the environment of bars, make it fairly easy to fall into conversation with someone. We all caught up on what we were doing, where we'd been and how we were feeling about the weather. He briefly, when chatting, mentioned the name of someone from our long ago past. We had very much lost touch with him, but often wondered whatever happened to him.
We all reminisced about how, in the past, the fellow from the long ago past, was wild and witty and quite wicked. In fact, he had a brutal sense of sarcasm and could leave a scar on someone's self esteem at 50 paces. Joe and I had been in his wider circle for a long time but we began to pull away because, while we could see much good in him, he became increasingly more angry. It was hard to see where the anger came from, it was hard to understand his need to tear others down ... life had given him so much. Over time, we simply saw him less and less.
And then, not at all.
We'd hear about him, of course, from mutual friends. Where he was working. How he was doing. Who he'd skewered with words and wit. So many people wanted to like the part of him, that we could all see, was lovely and gentle and kind. But, whoa, that inner anger, inner unhappiness - it was hard to get by.
Then we heard about him no more.
No one we knew saw him.
But we still thought about him..
So when we ran into someone in the bar that brought up his name, we were beyond surprised. Our bar friend started to whip through pictures on his phone saying, 'You've got to see a picture, you've just got to see a picture.' Then he found it and said, "Trust me, you're not going to recognize him."
He handed the phone to me first.
The picture was of a woman, quite a beautiful woman. I would not have recognized the person I knew. Not because of the dress, or the breasts, or the hair, or the make up ... I wouldn't have recognized him because I realized, when looking at the picture, that this may be the first time I saw a genuine smile on her face. She seemed happy. Not just 'taking a picture' happy, down deep, bone deep, happy.
Inside I was bursting with joy for her.
He had told no one about his inner conflict or unhappiness.
But now, she is the woman she was meant to be.
And I could tell.
Because of one helluva smile.