That rotten stench found its way into his sensitive nostrils. A mixture of hot sweat, dirty socks, and booze, booze, booze. He sat there at the bar, The Cave that is, holding a glass of cheap whisky with both hands, while trying to distinguish between the different smells. Freddy Holland raised his glass to his lips, and felt that warm liquid seep into his being; spilling some on his shirt. He did not mind though, all was good with Freddy Holland. Actually, all was not that good. All was terrible, but a little whisky here and there never hurt anyone; or maybe it has. All in all, it did not matter to young Freddy Holland, he had other things to worry about.
Someone somewhere stuck a coin into the old jukebox with a loud clink, and a nice melody blurted out, distorted, of course, by the broken-down speakers. Freddy bobbed his head to the rhythm of that tune. He remembered his father playing that track over and over again on his record player. Freddy Holland pictured his old man sitting in their living room, wearing a red sweater a bit small for his bulky body given to him as a gift one Christmas, khaki pants a bit too short, and slip on shoes, black in color. He held a cigarette in one hand, the smoke wafting upwards, and an open beer can in the other. The room smelt of cigarettes and beer, of course, but there was also a hint of garlic in the air; his mother always cooked with garlic. Her food wasn’t that great, but Freddy liked it quite much, he always had room for seconds. There was this one time his mother made a meat pie. Freddy loved it so much, he ate the whole thing. His old man whipped his ass for that, but it was alright
The song ended, and The Cave went back to its usual silence, save for a cough here, a clank there, or the sound of one of the bar’s humble guests talking nonsense to themselves. Freddy tapped his fingertips on the wooden bar, and just like that, another drink found its way in his hands. He ran the tip of his index finger around the rim of that glass, feeling the bumps where the glass was cracked slightly cut into his skin. He did not know what he was waiting for, he didn’t even know why he was drinking when he should not be, but here he was, waiting, and drinking at The Cave on 42nd and Saint Martin’s.
“What do you see?” A stranger whispered in his ear.
Freddy Holland did not find that weird. A strange man moving too close to him, his lips almost touching his ear, and whispering like that. No, no, nothing was weird about that at all.
“Is that some kind of joke?” Freddy asked without turning his head.
“No, young man,” The man said with the whimper of old age in his voice “I assure you, it is not. Now, what do you see?”
Freddy Holland thought for a few moments. He kept feeling the rim of his glass with his fingertips, the glass cutting and cutting into his skin.
“I see everything.” Freddy said “I see them all. Drinking themselves to death, to death, to death, like everything and everyone in this city. They drink and talk to themselves about what it is, and what it is not. You see? They don’t. They don’t look. They simply watch as life passes by, like staring out the window of a fast moving train; all the colors blended in a sick, sick wave of nothing at all. They drink and forget, then remember, or think they remember, and so on. But do they look? No.”
Freddy downed his whiskey in one gulp. All his thoughts rushed back and forth inside his brain, and he saw.
“I see them all,” Freddy continued “Long faced and sad, lonely and sad, mad and sad, sad, sad in this sad city of ours. They do not see beyond that thick veil of madness, of sadness, but they only see when they dream. Those nightmares they have, all of them, all of us, that is what I see before my eyes, that is what is projected inside my mind. That is what I see, Mister…?”
“McMaster,” The man said in his ancient voice “Marv McMaster.”
“Well, Mr. McMaster, that is what I see.”
“What’s your name?”
“Good, good.” Mr. McMaster said.
“Well, sir, I have to go now.” Said Freddy as he stepped off his stool.
“Alright then, Mr. Holland,” Marv said “Keep seeing.”
Freddy smiled at the old man. He took some cash out of his back pocket, and placed the notes on the bar top. Freddy Holland grabbed his white cane, and stepped out of the bar; a blind man into the night.
Now you see it.