By Dan Zubrzycki
My studio, lodged in one of the few crappy buildings in the Gayborhood, sits just across the street from one of my favorite bar: Tria. Cooped up in the cold months, hunched over my laptop, I spend most of my time writing and reading. For an easy escape I usually grab a friend and a drink over at Tria, right across the street. A beer snob, I get into brew. I ruminate on flavors, debate pairings, and chat with the bartenders about different styles and brewers.
On this particular night, I was alone. The bar was busy, bartenders occupied, so no dice on beer talk. I strike up conversation with the awesomely bearded guy to my right. We chat about beer, beards, and libraries. Conversation rambles, as should any bar-based musings.
In my mind, combining beer and strangers allow for only a few ends: Meandering conversation, impossibly existential ranting or bed.
Grazing the topic of corporations, we begin delving into the nuances of the great Jose Garces vs. Stephen Starr competition in
"I was a waitress once," it said.
The non-sequitur from left field stunned the conversation. I saw his eyes focus on a point just behind me. In comic slowness, I turned to the girl behind me
She was staring straight ahead as if we had suddenly tuned our interest to her of our own accord. My new friend entertained her, "Where abouts?" I cringed as the flood-gate of extraneous information poured out. We soon had all the details of the establishment she had worked in. Elaborating on the details of complex he-said-she-said. My new friend and I were caught in the niceties of bar etiquette. Worse, it was compounded with gender laws. The lady had the floor, we must acquiesce.
She found a way, through the torrent, to switch the topic to her educational background. We delighted to learn she had once thought about doing radio but decided she was too pretty; she switched to PR but decided she was too funny. Theater was what she graduated with but now she absolutely needed to go back to pursue a design degree at an arts school.
While I had found myself with a new beer, my new friend found himself with an easy out. Beer gone, he closed his tab, bid me farewell and got on the road again. Farewell, mutton-chopped friend. Deciding to delve into the damsel's distresses, I turned.
"So, design?" Drink.
"Yea, I love fashion. I'd love to get into that. I mean I can always go back and do something else."
"Sure, life's pretty long. No need to tie yourself down."
"Right, I can't limit myself."
"Absolutely." Drink. "What do you do now?"
"I'm in between jobs. I was waitressing but I quit."
"Yea, I just quit my job too. Trying to..."
"Really? Yea, I couldn't stand mine. The manager was such a jerk. I just think I have more to offer than being a server. I'm funny and cute and smart. I can do a lot with myself."
Drink. The conversation hit a lull. The lull of two incompatible drinking partners, the silence of failed flirting.
She stood, handing her debit card to the bartender, "You're young. What are you, 21?"
Retrospectively, as the bartender pointed out, this may have been more flirtatious than insulting.
"22. And you're, what? 26?"
"Well I'd stay and flirt, but you're young for my taste."
"You know," I said, "girls have this big hang up about age, yet you always seem to hear them complain about how they can't find the right man."
Suave, pontifical, I had struck a blow to dating and gender laws everywhere.
"I never said that. Anyway, I've gotta go. It's not like this was going anywhere."
I made my stand: "Quite alright, you've been a tad conceited for my taste."
Victory. I drank deep of my draft. I was the hero of my gender. I was being neither a whole-sale prick nor was I politely nodding and allowing her that dignity. I had accomplished rejection Zen.
She picked up her ice-water and looked into it. For an instant I feared its contents might be emptied over my head. My mind filled with images of the bartenders laughing, the ice running down my back, my shirt soaked. Matted hair and dampened pride I would retreat from the bar to my studio.
Instead she sipped and, without looking up from the glass.
"My fiancé just left me. Was that a catch in her throat? "I guess I was just out trying to get my confidence back up."
Stunned, I stared into my glass, the wispy head of the beer dissipating. I muttered, "I'm sorry, that's a good thing to do."
She was through the door before my last word fell.