Wishing all a Happy Easter. Had a wonderful Easter with the family. The weather was decidedly late May, rather than early April. Wonder who does public relations for the Easter Bunny?
And, the story continues:
“Hey, dude! I take it you’re thirsty. What can I get you?” Sam, as she was called, asked. Big, blond and buxom, she was closer to his age, so he felt a kinship. Plus, she would listen to his problems, laugh at his stories and slip him a free pint for every three or so he bought.
“What’s my best option?”
“We have this new Metropolitan on tap for four bucks. It’s a pilsner. From Colorado. Otherwise, I can give you two bucks off any 22-ounce bomber in the can.”
“You know my drinking habits by now. If I want to drink beer out of a can, I’ll buy a six pack and sit on my back porch. One Metropolitan, please. And, this time make sure you give me an honest pour, okay? None of that two inches of foam pour crap.”“Okay, wise ass. Menu? Or are you cooking tonight?”
“Cooking. Just need beer.”
“Is this game okay, or do you want something else?”
“I don’t care. The Bears’ game is over. They lost. Again.”
He took a sip of the Metropolitan and felt better. Almost like being cured of some illness. She would come with him sometimes, to Wellingtons. Ask for a Manhattan or some drink the bartender could not make very well. Then she’d complain that it wasn’t up to standards. Nothing seemed to be up to her standards anymore. He remembered how the simple things would please her, like standing, hand-in-hand beneath the flowering pear tree and laughing when they were softly pelted by falling petals. That was not too many years ago. That was before their simple lives became complicated by things neither of them could explain. Some mystery without an answer. Now, now they often acted like children: Arguing over who got to watch the big TV and who got stuck watching TV in the basement. Even when they were together, it felt like they were alone, like semi-polite strangers.
“Hey, deep thinker. Are you ready for round two?” Samantha asked.
“You know my philosophy: One beer is like kissing your sister,” he said. “And I ain’t got no sister. And, even if I did, I would still want another beer.”
“Well, you know you won’t have me to abuse too much longer,” she said while serving his fresh pint. “I’m moving back to San Diego. Can’t handle another winter here.”
“No shit!,” he said. “Then who’s going to take my abuse on Sunday afternoons? Will the boss bring back Heather?”
“Ha. Heather? She’s gone back to school. Not sure, but I’ll make sure to put a warning sign out about you.”
“Never thought you cared. No, really, why would you want to go back to San Diego? It’s always the same weather there. Nothing ever dies there. It’s always the same. You’ll go nuts.”
“Wrong, man. San Diego gets rain sometimes, like now, in the fall. And you don’t have to shovel that. And, my mom needs me. You know, we didn’t get along so well. With her depression, and all. That’s one reason why I came here. Got to start rebuilding, start finding a way to make things work. I owe her that much, you know. Rather do it someplace where doesn’t snow. Hey, speaking of rain. It’s starting to rain now.”
The old lady was right. Mild, sporadic rain spattered the sidewalk and cars outside, a sort of crazy backbeat to the indie rock music that filled the bar. He swung his chair toward the window and watched as the rain and darkening sky created a little bit of tranquility, right there on a corner two short blocks from an eight-lane expressway. Why couldn’t everyone find this kind of therapy? Just divorce yourself from all the bullshit thrown before you and find small comforts. A few good pints of beer, banter with strangers, the view of a rain-soaked street through the barroom window – these had value to him. Why couldn’t she find some purpose in the common things that pleased him?
The door opened and he could smell the cleansing rain for a moment. A couple, mid-twenties, somewhat reserved and looking slightly rumpled in their torn dark denims and faded leather jackets, took seats to his right. They studied the food menu – burgers, sandwiches and wings, mainly — for what was a long time and scanned the chalkboard that listed the dozens of beers available. He tried to listen to their conversation and heard the guy offer thoughts as why the pale ale was a better choice than the kolsch. The girl, almost pretty in a gaunt way, listened intently. For some reason, he liked these two. They probably are artists, or want to be artists, but have to work at some crap retail job to afford a one-bedroom flat in one of the buildings that line this once working-class neighborhood on the upswing. They had conviction, even in ordering a beer and food from a bar menu.
He wanted to talk to them, and find out more about their lives and what brought them together and to Wellington’s on that early Sunday evening in late fall. He wondered: What will their conversation be about a year, five years from now? Will they find a common bond built upon something so everyday like what kind of beer to drink? He sort of envied them. Together, life was unfolding and could take any direction they pursued.