Wednesday afternoons are a funny time for a bar and much of it depends on where you are located. If you are close to a college it is not unusual to see groups of them come in during the times when people who have to work for a living are off doing it.
The higher class joints that are located near businesses sometimes have groups of business folk hanging around a bit longer and later. Some are having working lunches and others sneak out to get a jump in happy hour.
And then there are the neighborhood bars where you have your regulars, some of whom are legitimate drunks affectionately known as bar flies and then there are the others who visit frequently but are more cautious about how much they drink before they hit the road again.
I got started in the business in college which is precisely why we are not located in a college town. I am not interested in dealing with the kind of crazy and stupid that comes with college students.
Didn’t want to run a shop that was called a dive or anything that you’d call a bar and grill so I avoided the neighborhoods that would give us that moniker and the business side of town that would charge Beverly Hills rent.
It left me with a sort of hybrid and that I like that. Makes life much more interesting and enables me to pivot and shift as needed. Must have been around 4 or so when he showed up again. Mostly I remember because he walked in just as McCartney and Wings started playing the live version of Let Em In.
Most likely coincidence, but notable.
He walked in dressed in his Johnny Cash Black same as he had done a million times before and grabbed a stool at the bar. Didn’t smile, didn’t frown just sat down and waited for me to find him.
I wandered down to his side of the bar and he asked for whatever I had on tap and sat there drinking in silence.
He made eye contact with me and smiled. I smiled back and waited for him to begin speaking and then I kept waiting.
Damn if he didn’t make me break the cardinal rule of bar tending yet again. We are not priests or rabbis. We aren’t shrinks, we don’t get involved in our patrons issues and at best we pretend to listen because a friendly face and a warm smile help to encourage our customers to buy another drink.
“As far as I know I don’t have any ninjas as customers, but you might be the exception to the rule. No one else is as good at showing up and disappearing as you are.”
He smiled at me, nodded his head and took another sip.
“It is good that I am not a ninja. You are not supposed to notice them come or go. Based upon those standards I am not very good at all.”
This time I was the one who laughed.
“Nah, you intentionally understate your ability. There is an intensity about you that only an idiot would miss.”
He nodded his head and I headed to the far end of the bar. There wasn’t any particular reason to be there other than something about him always made me feel a bit off center.
Can’t tell you what or why, but my best guess is it is tied into my interest in his story.
We both tended to our business and then when I couldn’t pretend to wipe down the bar again I refilled his beer and opened his book again.
“The last time you were here you told me you were living in the same city but you hadn’t had any contact with her. Are you still living there? Did you ever connect? Is she going to walk in tonight and surprise me? Fill me in brother, you have my ear.”
“For the moment I am not really living anywhere, I am in limbo. Yes we connected and no she is not going to show up tonight. I don’t know if I ever told her about this place. Hell, I intentionally picked somewhere where nobody knows me because sometimes I prefer my company over all others.”
“So what does that mean? Did you resolve anything?”
“If I told you she is crazy you’d say all women are and then you’d be sued by some women’s group and you’d blame me for it.”
“That is not an answer. Whatever happened to you too?”
He wiped his mouth, laughed and stood up.
“We are still trying to figure that one out.”
“Wait, you still haven’t told me what happened. Does she still love you? Do you love her?”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but were you raised solely by women. Those questions have a female bent to them.”
Sometimes the best way to get an answer from a guy like him was to read between the lines and figure out what he didn’t say. If I have learned nothing else from him there is no benefit in trying to force an answer he is not willing to give on his 0wn.
He might not know what he thinks or feels or might be afraid to say. Whatever the reason it doesn’t mater for the time being there is no upside to chasing him so I didn’t.