Pete’s gaze had intensified. He reached under the counter, eye contact unbroken, and raised up, smirking, holding an opaque green glass bottle whose label was so worn it was no longer readible. He set the bottle down on the counter as a hunter might display a prized kill. Francisco knew though, something inside him knew. This bottle, seemingly ageless, held a familiar, yet forgotten destiny. He had drunk from this bottle before. Many times, it had been presented to him to consume from.
His eyebrows raised and then tightened together as he examined Pete’s face more closely looking for something that he would recognize as he let out a sigh. It was always different. A moment had passed before either spoke. “Look, you know the drill, Frank.” Pete stated in a stern, almost fatherly voice. “your work here is done.” “C’mon, you didn’ think we weren’ keeping track of you did ya?” he added, tone changing to an apologetic, yet mocking tone.
“That’s just it!” Franscisco boiled over, “I never know shit!” he shot back, more heated this time. “I don’t even really know what I am doing, what this “work” is that you are having me do. All I know is that I get used to something, bein’ somewhere and then Bam! it’s time to go. No explanation for anything. Nothin’! I can’t get too close to anyone. Ever. Because I don’t know where or when it will be time again. I can’t trust anyone. Every time it is like starting over.” His laundry list of complaints doing little to change the affect of the man on the other side of the counter.
Francisco straightened himself, and eased back onto his barstool, head collapsing into his hands. He stroked the three day stubble and found the abrasive nature on his hands strangely soothing to the palms of his hands. He rubbed his humidity-greased forehead and removed his glasses for cleaning.
“Can’t I ever know?” he inquired.
“When you are done, you’ll know. Things will be clear then. You’ll understand the work you have done and its importance. For now, Francisco, you must have faith.”
Francisco bristled at hearing his name said this way from Pete (if that’s his name at all) because he knew this meant the ruse was up. The fantasy he had become accustomed to was over.
“What if I don’t want to go this time?” he offered, knowing there was little choice in the matter.
“Pete” stood smiling triumphantly, his silence a cool, emotionless ansewr to Francisco’s plea, and poured a little more liquid from the bottle into Francisco’s cup.
Francisco hesitated. “I never get used to this.” he muttered, half hoping to be spared. He raised the cup slowly, sighed, and finished it.
“I wish I were as great as you, Francisco. Your life is the work you are doing.”
“Little comfort, ” he said trailing off at the end, his vision darkening around the edges, “little comfort”.