“When did you know you were lost?” he asked.
“Well…I, um…I don’t know,” she stammered, caught off guard by his question. “I guess it was right before I hit the tree.”
She stared at the wine glass in front of her, swirling it out of habit. Juicy red slid up the sides.
The bartender let out knowing grunt, “Guess it was a little late then, huh?”
Gentry arched an eyebrow without meeting his gaze. “Yeah,” she shrugged. “I guess it was.”
She spun around the bar stool to evade more questioning, trying to piece together how she ended up at Nomads: Bar for the Lost.
She’d set out that morning beach-bound to visit her sister, who was spending a month at the coast, a sort of post-divorce sabbatical. She’d found a marsh-front bungalow in a quiet seaside town and quickly realized she wasn’t cut out for solitude. Grabbing a few postcards from the Center Street post office, she sent one to Gentry, urging her younger sister to come stay for the weekend.
She’d promised sand and seashells and peach sangria. And that was all Gentry’s overworked and underpaid ears needed to hear. She packed a bag, poured a week’s worth of food into the cat’s bowl, and was on her way.
Wanting to slip into beach mode, Gentry opted to power down the GPS and map out back roads to get to the shore instead. Four hours into the drive, while running low on fuel, she grabbed the map from the passenger’s seat to try to figure out the best town to stop and fill up.
And that’s when she realized she was lost.
That’s also when she stopped watching the road for a second too long and accelerated her ’93 Pontiac Sunfire straight into an oak tree.
Stunned from the impact, it took Gentry a moment to refocus. As smoke billowed from the hood, she tried opening the door, only to find it was jammed shut. She dragged herself across the console to the other side. The passenger side door opened enough for her to squeeze her body out, grabbing her phone from the floor board on the way.
Backing away from the wreckage in a daze, she checked the phone. No service, naturally. And with few alternatives in sight on that lonely road, Gentry began to walk back toward the direction from which she came.
She had only gone few, sluggish minutes when she saw the sign.
Nomads: Bar for the Lost – Turn right 0.1 miles
When she arrived, flinging the door open wide, the bartender barely looked up. But he poured her a glass of wine before she ever sat down.
Now she pondered the strangeness of the establishment: how it existed in the middle of nowhere, the bartender’s apathetic questioning, the fact that the wine she’d been sipping on since she arrived never seemed to diminish.
She swiveled back around to face him. “I could really use a phone, if you have one that gets service out here.”
He paused, considering her request. “Phones won’t do you any good here. You can’t call out.”
“What do you mean, you can’t call out?” she retorted.
He leaned on the bar with both hands, lowered his face until it was just inches away from hers.
“Look. You don’t come here to make phone calls. You don’t even come here to drink wine. You come here because there are only two places left to go. You’re waiting for your ride to which ever one you’re destined for.”
Gentry narrowed her eyes, trying to process what he was suggesting.
“I hate to break it to you, but you must have taken a pretty bad blow in that crash. But hey, at least that part’s over with, right?”
She shook her head with clear defiance. “No..No…No…No…No,” she whispered.
“There’s nothing else you can do, sweetheart. Now you just have to wait.”
Gentry’s voice grew desperate, pleading. “No. No. NO. NO! NO!”
The bartender threw his hands in the air. “You don’t have to believe me…It won’t change the truth though. And it definitely won’t change what happens next.”
Still shaking her head in disbelief, she looked him in the eye, “If it’s true…if what you’re saying is true…how did you end up here?”
The corners of his lips turned up at the thought.
“I got here the same way you did, doll…the same way we all do…I didn’t know I was lost until it was just a little too late.”