Sunday, August 18, 2019

Eight Glasses of Beer

My friend and I went on a road trip and explored the towns of Bendigo, Echuca, and Ararat in the state of Victoria. These towns are at least several hundred kilometers away from Melbourne. They're so far that only a few foreign tourists know about these places–including me. Before this trip, he told me that life in the Australian countryside is so different from the big cities like Sydney and Melbourne. Aside from having a more relaxed environment and a laidback lifestyle, the locals are friendlier and love engaging in small talks.

We made a quick stop at Bendigo for a quick lunch before driving further north to the town of Echuca. Located near the border of Victoria and New South Wales, Echuca is an idyllic town. Rustic cabins and old but restored buildings no taller than three floors line up the town's commercial district. The place reminded me of a scene straight from an American Midwest film from the 80s, albeit the cowboys, tumbleweed caught in the desert wind, and guns. The shops close as early as six in the evening, and the only shops open for the rest of the night are pubs and Maccas.

It was a cold and winter Friday night. Everyone was out with their friends and families. The best way to celebrate my 29th birthday was to get a taste of Victorian beer. First glass. Second glass. Third glass. A plateful of chicken parmigiana to fill my tummy. More and more people came and filled in the bar. Fourth glass. Then, we transferred to another bar. Fifth glass. Sixth glass. The bar was about to close, but I spotted a piano. I played several songs, and the bar attendants gave me their loudest applause. I felt like I was Lucifer Morningstar minus the singing part. We went back to the other pub, and I ordered my seventh and eighth glasses of beer. The mood started to change as the pub's resident DJ began to play house music. It was a trip down memory lane. House music became famous when I was in high school until the middle of my university days. I didn't even feel guilty spending almost a hundred dollars just for eight glasses of beer. I'd always think that I deserved to be drunk after all the stress I'd experienced back home.

We left the pub 10 minutes before two in the morning. I was craving something salty. And since there After all the drunk dancing and jeers, we finally left the pub at 10 minutes before two in the morning. I was craving something salty. My friend had already left and gone back to the hotel. Since there were no bulalo or pochero nearby, the closest thing that I could get was Maccas. As I exited the pub, the street was totally deserted. All I could hear was a cacophony of deafening chirping crickets and the distant jeers of drunk customers from the pub. Oh great, a cheeseburger value meal for recovery food. My world was spinning as we walked to Maccas. The cold winter night of Echuca didn't bother me at all. It wasn't that far, and the only people inside were the same people from the pub. I ordered my meal and found myself a seat. As I was having the first few bites of my cheeseburger, someone patted me at the back.

"Hey, mate! Do you mind if I sit here?" he said in a very husky voice.

"Yeah, sure, mate! I won't mind sharing a seat with you", I replied with my faux Aussie accent.

We both took our first bites of cheeseburger and fries as if we had not eaten for days.

"How are you?" he asked.
"I feel great! Well, I'm obviously drunk, but I am still okay! How about you?"
"I am fine. I haven't had any drinks for the past few weeks. Well, here I am! Talking to a complete stranger at Maccas."
"Good on ya, mate! So, what do you do for a living?"

He let off a deep sigh. "Well, I am a builder. This Maccas, I am one of the builders. That was way back in 2015." There was a sense of pride while he told me about it.

I smiled and continued eating my fries.

His mood suddenly shifted. "You know, I'm not really happy at all."

At that particular moment, I was caught off guard by what he said.

"Life is hard. I need to work hard just to make ends meet. If I don't do my job, how can I sustain myself? There's nothing I can do about it. Good thing, for a brief moment, the beer makes me happy even if the feeling is just fleeting."

Reality hit me hard. I would always complain about the things that did not go my way, even the simplest ones. But here I am, a stranger whom I just met twenty minutes ago is telling me about all of his struggles in life, and he has been experiencing that for the longest time.

"Life is really unfair, mate. Not everyone has the privilege to enjoy it. But did you know what? Life is such a beautiful thing to experience, and these struggles allowed us to know ourselves better. After all, life is meant to be lived and to be enjoyed regardless of the circumstances, right?" I said.

I just gave him a nod.

"Do you have a family?"
"No. I am still single."

He was in complete disbelief.

"Why? You don't believe it, do you?"
"You are beautiful. I don't get it."
"It's a matter of choice. I am not in a hurry. But I definitely don't want to grow old alone."

We both laughed. It was past three in the morning. My head starts to hurt, probably because of consuming too much alcohol in just one night. After finishing our meals, we talked more about what is it like living in Echuca and all the exciting things about living in the countryside.

We went outside and waited for his cab. As for me, the hotel was only two blocks away. I won't mind walking around the deserted streets of Echuca. It was peaceful. When his cab arrived, we decided to call it a night and hugged. It was my first time hugging a stranger.

"Thank you so much. I have learned a lot from you, mate."
"No, thank you! You made me realize a few things about life."
"Alright then, have a good night! By the way, my name is Bryce. Bryce Whitfield."
"My name is Enzo. Nice meeting you, Bryce!"

As I walked to the hotel, the alcohol turned down the volume of my thoughts. It brought good memories, and I allowed myself to dwell in them rather than think. At that moment, it felt like I existed in two perfect moments. Somehow, it steadied me. It gave me the resolutions to go on, to forget the inhibitions and insecurities of life.

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