Start with the beginning, people say, but tonight’s story starts with the end.
“You are a workaholic,” she says, stumbling on the word in a heartbreakingly beautiful way.
“I am,” I admit. “But I’m happy.” With those words I formally removed myself from the list of potential replacements for the boyfriend she thinks is about to dump her. I had just explained to her that I would be a terrible boyfriend, and she believed me. I was convincing.
I was talking to Martin when she came in. She is striking, and where in the US tall girls often feel awkward, she was a tall woman wearing tall shoes. Tall is not a sin here. (I think I’ll move to Japan.) I’ve seen her several times before, but tonight she struck me harder than usual. Enough that I made a comment to Martin.
Ah, Martin. It warms my cold, desolate heart to see him with Leigh. Things have been pissy between them for the last few days; there’s a lot going on for them all at once, including a career-making (or busting) panel appearance for Leigh. Then there’s the part where they’re buying their first place together. They showed up tonight and I happily put down my book. They told me in a good-natured way about the squabbles they’d been having, and as I wondered why it was me that heard this, I also felt that these guys had what it takes to last. They’re in love, and it’s possible to be in love and be angry at the same time. At some level they know that.
Anyway, Leigh decided to take off before she had even ordered. She wasn’t feeling well, and just wanted to be home. I can understand that. Martin said he would be home at 11:05 — five minutes after the bar closed, less than an hour hence. He promised. She left.
We chatted, Martin and I, about this and that, all fascinating topics I’m sure, only one of which I remember. “I would stay away from one so young,” Martin said, in reference to the girl who had just walked in. “But that’s just me…” She never struck me as that young, myself.
The big hand was moving uphill, the little hand inching toward eleven, when I ordered my last beer for the night. I chatted with Martin some more. No beer arrived, and closing time was fast approaching. “Technical difficulties,” I was told. No fear, I would be served my beer. That snafu looked to push my night past 11:05, and Martin decided I should not drink my last beer alone. He called the Missus.
While it might seem quite reasonable to you and me to delay ones return home because ones buddy’s beer was slow in coming, I was nonetheless grateful for Leigh’s perspective and her extension of Martin’s curfew. He made another promise: 11:23. My beer finally arrived, he had another, and we talked some more. Time passed.
The universe would be a lot cooler if time would just chill out once in a while.
The time: 11:15. Martin still has most of a beer in front of him. In eight minutes he must be home. “You’re running out of time, dude,” I said (or something like that). “You better start drinking.” He looked at the clock on the wall, then in shock turned to his watch for confirmation. He was out of time. He reached for… his phone.
“No!” said I. “Better to leave half a beer on the table than to make that call! Just go home!”
He made the call. I only heard one side of the phone conversation, but the best part for me was when he said, “Yeah, Jerry said you would kill me…” We had a laugh about that before Martin left at 11:20. He’s three minutes from home if he walks quickly.
He was barely out the door, I had picked up my book but had yet to scan the point I left off, when the astonishingly beautiful woman slid next to me. “What are you reading?” she asked.
“Philosophy, but it’s pissing me off again.”
We talked for quite a while. Out of some chivalrous impulse I defended her boyfriend until I had to admit that he was a spoiled little baby who wanted to go out and play but always wanted someone to come home to. We both agreed she’d be better off without him. That’s when I explained what a horrible boyfriend I would be.
“You are a workaholic”, she said, stumbling on the word in a heartbreakingly beautiful way.