The man who drinks alone has learnt to sit alone. To sit alone takes a lot from you because you have to feed it your time and yourself. Not many men have learnt that discipline of sitting alone, of sitting still on a straw bed of your thoughts. Most men, they want voices for company, they want to hear their own and of others. But that’s not silence. Silence isn’t the absence of sound, it’s the ignorance of it. Silence is a high stool, one that leaves one leg slightly dangling. It’s saying little, much less than the body of your language because to sit alone is also to speak with your body.
Nobody made the rules. There are no rules apart from silence. So you place your phone aside, face down if you are easily lured by temptation, and you order your drink. That’s another thing; there is never a need for a long elaborate order. The language of alcohol is short, like the language of love; I love you. I need you. I miss you. I burn for you. Remove that. The language of the man who sits alone indeed has love in it, because it’s a language of someone who has learnt to love his company. So you keep it short, like your utterances of desire. You say, “Beer, cold.” Two words. No room for error. No margin of misinterpretation. No fodder for imagination. Or if you are the kind of guy we think you are you say, Johnny Walker Green, neat. Of course you don’t even need to say a word if it’s your local, where they know your spirit – and the length of your shadow. Those are the best haunts; where you hoist your length up on the stool and suddenly, a drink is sat before you, in the right glass with nary a word.
You sit there, with a straight back, because to slouch is to disrespect your age – whatever it may be. There might be a TV on, showing football or cricket or an old video of Kenny Latimore and his wide collars. You will look at it, but you will not see it. You sip your drinks in between long stretches of what seems like introspection but which actually is decompression. Your face shows inactivity, because your mind is emptying, your heartbeat is slowing, all the toxicity of the day – the shouty emails from clients with cheesy email signatures, the numbers never added up, the lunch that came late and cold – they all sip from your pores sucked out by this ecosystem of silence.
You never touch your phone. You never touch your neighbour. You never read a book, not in the bar – unless you are a wine drinker – and you certainly don’t make friends. This is not a networking session, you have enough friends. This is your time. This is your opaque moment between work and home, a small window where you catch your breath for a minute and decant your day. No email can reach you here, no phone call, nothing that urges urgency. Here, everything is still because what has to wait, will wait.
It’s a skill, this silence. Because most of us want to take an Instagram a picture of their drink to show the world that they have a life. Or they want to chat the barman. Or chat up that leggy babe reading a book while nursing a wine. (Don’t). But that’s not why people sit at the bar alone and if you feel you need to talk to someone then you don’t need to be at the counter.
You can bite something. You can light a cigarette, if they allow it. But it’s also fine to just sit still and if you are in your bar you will not need to order another drink, if they know you, they will know that you need another. Sometimes the Walking Man also embraces stillness.