Galivan traced the shapes carved into the rough surface of the wooden table and passively listened to the conversation that flowed around him. He had gotten together with a number of his friends to celebrate his promotion to Master Smith, but the merriment was lost on him. He should have been participating in the diatribe, but he felt empty and too distant to engage.
He heard his name mentioned, and he looked up, forcing a smile and entering into the foray of the discussion, “I think Lady Hurn is just as intelligent as her contenders, but I don’t think she would make a good Bishop. Her actions reveal a certain amount of capriciousness that wouldn’t be good for the city.” That sparked a loud outcry on both sides, and outwardly, he carried on the debate, both giving and taking ground, yet inwardly he sighed, knowing the end of the argument would be no different from the beginning. His companions would move on to the next random topic with the same perspective as when they started.
It should have been a joyous occasion, and as he scanned the group at his table, everyone did seem to be enjoying themselves, but he wondered if any of the others were wearing a mask as he did. He excused himself and went to the bar for another beer. As he waited for the foam to settle in the glass, he eyed the door. The option of just leaving flitted through his mind, and he wondered if anyone would notice his absence. He watched from across the room as Victor put Sed in a headlock to emphasize a point, and he smiled at the sound of their laughter.
Instead of fleeing, he again shouldered the burden of loneliness he had grown accustomed to bearing and returned to the table. That moment of solitude had allowed him to better affix the smiling mask that was the face his friends knew, before diving back into the verbal repertoire.
The rest of the night passed in a blur of arguing, laughing, cajoling, and friendly bantering, and when his last cohort departed, he sat alone, tracing the shapes carved into the rough surface of the wooden table. His friends had surrounded him, celebrating his achievement for the past several hours, yet he felt more alone than ever. He looked up to lock gazes with his reflection in the window.
What is wrong with you? You have great friends and a promising career….why are you so depressed? Suck it up, man, and get over yourself. So what if no one cares that you don’t want to be a Smith, you’re a damned-good one! Play the cards you’re dealt instead of moping for someone else’s life.
He downed the dregs of the now-warm beer and stood. Throwing some cash on the table, he straighted his shoulders and left with his head held high.
It’s good to give yourself a pep talk every once in a while.