OW series, is collection of short stories, that may or may not be based on any actual experiences of some actual people, and even if there are any correlations, most likely it will be diluted with creative liberties too much to have any tangible resemblance to anything and anyone. You should always assume that events and characters in these stories are fictional and any resemblance to any real people is entirely coincidental. There are no deeper meaning, nor hidden agendas, apart from a bored dog dreaming of writing something nice someday in distant future in a galaxy far far away.
Once again I'm lazing around in this place. Perfect hiding place, from everything and everyone. With a drink in one hand and a sweet girl in another, watching people passing by. Clients? Or weary souls looking for warm place to stay? Perhaps a little of both. Some stick around a little, but most get escorted "up-stairs". I've never explored that part of this establishment yet, but my imagination does offer some reasonable explanations, based on general atmosphere around. Although wandering mind feeds in to my curiosity and I look at my companion, resting her head on my shoulder, I can't tell if she's asleep or awake.
"Hey, do you think we should go up-stairs too?" I whispered in her ear.
She lifted her head up and raised her eyebrows even higher.
"Why? Don't need.." She said and placed her palm on my belly and in an instant I felt my mind clearing up, and I lost any interest in going up-stairs. "Can we talk instead?"
"..That's some impressive skills you got." I had no idea she could do that. "How come you are so chatty today?"
"I always wanted to ask you something." She replied with serious look on her face. "Why are you coming here?"
"That's very strange and unexpected question. I'm not even sure how to answer it. I see many people coming here, are they any different for me?" My confusion was obvious.
"But you are different. Others come here for something specific, that they need, and they leave soon after, while you just come for nothing in particular and sit around for hours before leaving." She spoke quietly, as if this conversation might get her in trouble.
"I've never realized I'm such a weirdo. There isn't any big mystery to it, I just feel very comfortable here, and you all are so lovely and kind - the main attraction that keeps pulling me back. Probably I'm not finding as much kindness anywhere else." While not a lie, I was not sure if that's all there is to it.
"Hmm I see. I don't think we've seen anyone like that in here, ever before." She whispered and laid her head back on my shoulder.
That conversation got me thinking, or rather remembering. I did have some other reasons. What I told her, the answer I gave, is why I stayed and why keep coming back, but not so much why I came here the first time. I had questions, but never got around to ask any of those, to anyone who could answer. On that thought, I saw the master of this establishment coming in. Seemed like now just as good of opportunity as any other. I told my companion that I'll be back in soon and got up say greet their employer. But as I walked up to his table, I noticed he was sitting with one of the girls already, and having a conversation. I wasn't close enough to hear anything, but it seemed serious. I suddenly felt awkward to barge in to other people's business, but going back to my table seemed just as awkward. As I was about to start reading labels of drinks at the bar, to pass the time, he noticed me. He gestured that lady to leave him and turned to me.
"Come, sit with me." He waved for me to come closer.
"I don't want to disturb anything important, I can surely wait for some better time." I wasn't sure if I'm now crossing any boundaries I shouldn't.
"Oh that was not urgent. I've been meaning to talk to you anyway. Now is as good time as any other. I noticed you seem to enjoy our company here quite a bit?" He seemed fairly relaxed.
"That is true, it is a lovely, very pleasant place. With amazing company. If I'll ever have something half as nice, I'll be a happy man." I didn't even try to hide my fascination.
"That is not out of your reach, although you seem to struggle with financial side of all things." He started to laugh. "If you can get good grip of that someday, you can build anything you want."
"I'm glad you found something amusing about me." I mumbled. Money is a difficult force to tame, and it's not like I'm not trying, it's just keep slipping through my fingers. And I'm not sure if regular mockery over it from everybody - is helpful.
"I'm sure you'll get there. But now on to other things." Both his face and his voice just got a notch more serious. "I know you have some questions."
"Yes, one or two." I answered. "But I'm not sure if I'm not overstepping any boundaries?"
"Well that depends. What are you planning to do with those answers you seek?" He replied very calmly.
"Well.. Not a lot, not much at all." I began rubbing my chin, trying to find the safest path for this conversation, while looking at few ladies chatting at the bar. "On one hand I have this burning need to know, but on the other hand I'm not sure I will like the answer, or that I'll be able to understand it.."
"You are wondering about them? What are their stories, how did they all get here?" He start to read my mind, or at least it felt like it. "I know you. You're always digging for the deepest bones, but you don't always consider many of those bones comes from some skeletons, which were buried so deep for a reason."
"If that was meant to be warning, it might have done the opposite.." I'm now even more curious than I was before. "You said stories? That means they all have a different one? They don't share one and the same?"
"Of course. You didn't really think I grow them like apples, all were just picked from the exact same tree, or that I bake them in oven like cookies from exact same lump of dough, did you?" His question made me reconsider my ideas and theories, because he just dismissed most of them. "You got to know few of them quite well by now. And the one who is waiting for you now, she is there not because some random chance - I personally hand picked her for you, because you two match perfectly, haven't you noticed that?"
"Well we do get along very well, but I may have assumed there are other reasons for that." I replied, now feeling slightly ashamed for taking some things and some people for granted. "But I agree, no two of them are alike, I can tell that much. So now, can I ask who were they before, what were they before?"
"Why don't we step back for a moment?." He took a deep breath before continuing. "Let's look at you, for reference. What were you before all this new you, who were you?"
"I was nobody, well even less than that, hardly anything at all.." I replied.
"What about the time even before that, how keen are you to uncover dark secrets of your own? All the things that led you to that dark place you are stuck at for so long?" He continue to dig for my skeletons.
"Not keen at all. Glimpses I've got were more than enough for me to appreciate that fairly blank sheet of paper I have now." I replied without thinking twice.
"There, you got the most important part. It's not all that different. I merely offer a blank sheet of paper for those who need one, a place for those who has nowhere else to go, a purpose for those that have none. And all of them are as as keen to see their past being dug out, as you are about yours. Perhaps certain unspoken similarities are the reason you feel like home here? So do you still want to ask same questions?" He asked, knowing full well what I'm going to answer.
"Well now, that you wrapped it all around my neck like that, how can I?.." I sat there rhetorically pondering. "I almost feel like I should thank you for not answering? Am I in your debt, or do I get away free of charge?"
"Free?" He start laughing, pulling a notebook from his pocket. "Please, we are serious business venture, we don't do free. Here, under your name, owes me a favour! It was pleasure doing business with with you."
"Fair enough. Thank you, it was very insightful." And so I left him, feeling strangely satisfied with the answers I didn't really get.