Her oasis looks like a bar. An old English style pub, dimly lit with lots of cozy corners where a person, or two, can hide in the shadows, away from the eyes of the bartender. The bar never closes and the clock never quite makes it to midnight. There are no cell phones on her oasis, and although there is someone out there, waiting for her call, she is never late.
I say oasis and you think of sand and sun, but she is too pale, bright lights hurt her eyes. You ask, are there palm trees growing there? No, there is nowhere to grow things, because there is no outside. It is all inside, in the gloom of perpetual one-minute-before-midnight, when even 100-watt bulbs cast only shadows. But there are wedges of pineapple, pierced by tiny umbrellas, precariously balanced on the edges of frosty, cool drinks. She can see them when some slinky chick enters the bar and orders one. She is envious of the slinky ones, not for their looks, but for their youth and their freedom.
Free? No, she is not free. The outside world frightens her. It demands things of her that she is not prepared to do. If she steps beyond the edge of the oasis, then the clock will strike midnight, and it will be time for her to make that dreaded call. Outside the bar door there is a pay phone; in her pocket there is a quarter. She will lie to someone she loves. (I’m so sorry, I didn’t notice the time. I’m leaving now. I’ll be home in twenty minutes.)
You ask me if there are other people in the bar. As I mentioned earlier, there are the extras, the slinky chicks and the business casual men, the ones who flit through and have no speaking parts. They make up the moving, changing background that gives the scene depth. Their drinks are fake, just tinted water.
The bartender? Well, he can’t or won’t leave either, but I’m not sure why. The conversations she has with him are vague, confusing. He always has a clever line, but just when she thinks he is trying to seduce her, he walks away to fill someone else’s glass. He knows her name and her favorite beer and he never makes her wait. But he never crosses to her side of the bar.
I think sometimes, he looks down on her, disappointed. He knows perfectly well what she is up to and he doesn’t like it. I like to imagine some of his disapproval hides some frustrated longing though.
And who else is there, you ask, what is it really that keeps her there? Are you implying that the comfort of a familiar bar and beer that always keeps one buzzed but never drunk and time standing still isn’t enough? No, it is not, you are correct. Even with all that, she would be bored in no time.
And it is the certainty of constant boredom on the outside that keeps her in there.
If you must know, there are pockets of stimulation in that oasis bar. A pocket may not seem like the best simile, but wait, I will explain. A pocket is dark and secretive. You can not see into a pocket, you can only grope blindly with your fingers, and try to recognize what it is you are looking for with only your sense of touch.
She sits at the bar and sip her beer, making it last. The bartender has just made some flirtatious remark and walked away. She spins slowly on a red leather bar stool. Not a bright red; there is nothing bright in this bar. Well, there is one bright thing. It shines on her finger like a laser, slashing the comforting darkness to ribbons. A diamond set in a band of gold, and pull as she might, it won’t come off. She twists it so to shield the light in her palm.
The red bar stool is comfortable. It curves perfectly to her back, but doesn’t let her slouch. It spins smoothly without resistance or squeaking. In a slow spin, she scans the room, looking for… A someone, maybe me, maybe you, who can lure her with dark eyes and knowing looks into a velvet lined pocket of time. A moment within a moment. A moment of exquisite sensation that lasts as long as forever or no time at all.
What are you trying to say? Escapism? Well, yes, you are right of course. But isn’t that what the word ‘oasis’ implies? An escape from the harsh realities of the world.
It doesn’t matter that the reality is one of your own making.
What else can she do? She changed, but her reality did not change with her. You escape into music or books. I escape into my words. She escapes into a bar that never closes, that serves drinks that relax while never inebriating, where she is whomever I want to her be. And I never have to deal with the consequences of her actions.