“Are you guys still open?” asked the clean-cut, suntanned youth.
“We just want a drink,” said his equally tanned female companion.
I recognized them right away. Not because of their tans, or their youth. But rather because of the story of how they met.
It was a couple of months ago when reopening was a new thing. Protocols were still being firmly enforced and some people were hesitant to re-enter the world of hospitality.
They had peeked meekly in the front door, the heat of an intensely warm Spring day driving them inwards. I ushered them over to our only indoor table. Since it was just me and them in one giant room we became fairly well acquainted fairly quickly.
“We just met,” he announced, for no other reason than the fact that they had just met.
“Really?” I said, recognizing that the opportunities to meet anyone new were severely limited at the time.
It was an innocent question. Or so I thought at the time.
“Uhhhh…” he stammered.
“Mmmmm,” she stammered.
They both looked at each other. When conspiracies often unfold before your eyes, you learn to recognize the signs. And you learn to back away.
“I’m sorry,” I said taking an actual physical step back. “You don’t have to…”
“No,” he said. “It’s OK, it’s just…”
“We met at the beach,” she said, putting the stamp of authority on it.
“The beaches are open?” I questioned.
“It wasn’t a regular beach,” he said, possibly before realizing that silence might have been a better option.
“What’s that mean?” I asked, too far in now to back away gracefully.
“It was the nude beach,” she said, again with authority.
The thought of meeting someone new, naked, and then putting on clothes to go get a drink struck me as completely backwards. But that was not the question that popped out of my mouth.
“Did you have to wear masks?”
They both nodded and giggled.
The irony of being completely nude except for a mask was especially funny. And the further thought that an attraction was formed before they could see each other’s faces was hilarious. Maybe it was her eyes? Or his hair? Whatever it was they both saw something they liked in the other.
This time they either didn’t recognize me, or didn’t want to, either way we started again from the beginning, which of course, is always the best place to start.
They sat at the bar, and with nobody allowed to congregate behind them – due to spacing considerations – it became rather cozy for them. And they seemed to enjoy that. Being a free spirit can be so liberating.
I approached to see if they wanted anything, only to catch them mid-conversation.
“You really just need to relax,” he said. “You’ve got to loosen up and let it all come to you.”
She didn’t seem to appreciate what he was saying.
“You don’t have to mansplain it to me,” she said.
“It’s not ‘mansplaining’ if you don’t know,” he said. “Then it’s just called ‘explaining’.”
Luckily, I was there to save him from himself.
“I sure hope you two are talking about something other than what it sounds like.”
They were still at the point in a young relationship where faux pas are given wide latitude. It hadn’t reached the “you always” or “you never” part. At least not yet.
They both laughed.
“Surfing,” they said in unison.
“I’m just learning,” she said. “I just don’t want to be criticized for not knowing. Or have it mansplained. I can figure it out on my own.”
Duty, such as it was, called me to other parts of the bar. Answering phones, picking up tables, and taking To Go orders are all part of the new normal. Eventually I drifted back their way.
“You just have to relax,” she was saying to him now.
“It will take as long as it takes. Just let it happen,” she added, cupping his chin in her hands.
“You can’t make it happen. It either will, or it won’t,” she said. “You can’t force it.”
He didn’t look happy with that thought.
It was in that awkward moment that they both realized that I was standing there. They looked at me uncomfortably.
“Surfing, again?” I asked.
“Not exactly,” she said.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
-Nobody appreciates having something “mansplained” to them. Especially, it would seem, not men.
-Innocent questions don’t always get innocent answers.
-Airing your dirty laundry in public might be better than having no laundry in the first place. Just saying.
-Open communication is a noble goal, but sometimes it’s a rocky path.
-Sometimes the last thing you ever tell someone, is how to do something.