The face of the bartender haunts me. I think of his story, his compassion, his grace as I escaped the somber apartment to go to the downtown hotel. I would savor the moment that he would leave, and I would be able to walk the two blocks to see what became a familiar face. He listened to me, offered me a place to stay when he saw the splint around my wrist and pushed more food on me as he noticed the dropped pounds.
I wish I had been able to say goodbye. I wish he could see me now, in my new home, in my new place, happy, smiling and unafraid. I wish he could see my strength. Sometimes I wonder if he ever thinks of me, and wonders where I disappeared to without a trace. It haunts me that he might think the splint led to something even more terrible.
But then, in the quietest moments, he knows exactly where I am. He already saw that strength in me. He saw the glints of a new home for me, my smile and me happy again. That’s why he was there, an angel, waiting at the hotel bar to welcome a young, struggling woman that escaped her prison every now and then to see him. That’s why during each conversation, he entangled messages of hope, and strength-- little nudgings that would soon teach me that freedom, along with prison, was my choice.