I guess it really was my fault. I had asked the question.
“It’s been a good run, but I think it’s finally over,” said the man nursing his beer. “We just really don’t have that connection anymore. Know what I mean?”
I did and I didn’t. I have had a thousand conversations like that. For some reason, people will often pour out their whole lives to a bartender they barely know. And it gets more intense the more you do know them.
“I wanted to break the final news to her here, in a public place,” he said. “I don’t want any big scene.”
A strange calculation because if there’s ever a place for a big scene, it’s in a public place, with a big audience.
“I don’t want her throwing a drink in my face, or anything,” he added, looking around at potential witnesses. “Ultimately I just want her to be OK.”
That was a lot of information, quite a bit more than I asked for. And not really the information I was looking for because the question I had asked was, “You good here?”
Just a little heads up to anyone so inclined — throwing a drink in someone’s face, regardless of what the movies tell us, is a type of assault and possibly even battery. You could get arrested, go to jail and even be sued — and maybe all three. That behavior might be a common cultural trope, but in reality, it’s a really, really bad idea.
“I’ll have another drink,” he said wearily. “Breaking hearts is never easy.”
Bartenders hear stories all the time from every different perspective there is. I have heard about breakups from father-in-laws, grandmothers, children and participants. I have learned over time that not every story told is true. It might be true from that person’s perspective (and maybe not) but it won’t be true from the other person’s perspective. The truth is always somewhere in between, and even that is a perspective.
She finally arrived, which was a relief in some ways because sometimes a perspective is completely made up.
“I’ll have a sauvignon blanc,” she said, as she sat next to him.
“I have Sancerre,” I replied.
“No sauvignon blanc?” she asked.
“Sancerre is sauvignon blanc,” I said. “It’s just French in style and cost.”
She laughed. “I’m not paying.”
I think he winced. But he nodded. I also took note of giving her one of our sturdier glasses, just in case.
Another man, about the same age as the couple, sat down next to the woman. Not because he really wanted to, but because the economy of choice left him only one option.
Soon he and I became privy to the man’s long, rambling breakup speech.
“It’s not you.” “We are looking for different things.”
It was a litany of cliches, all uttered without any sense of irony. Which made it kind of funny, at least to me and to the man sitting next to them. And ironically also to the woman because at one point she laughed, too.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, covering her mouth. “Please continue.”
He didn’t find her finding of what he said to be funny.
“I’ll have another glass of Sancerre,” she said, halfway through the first glass.
“I have to use the restroom,” he said eventually. Liquid courage does have its drawbacks and they get worse as you get older.
“I couldn’t help but hear what was going on,” said the man next to her. “Does all that mean that you are available?”
“I guess it does,” she said.
“Here’s my number,” he said, handing her his card.
An event that happened just as the man reappeared. It took a second for him to process what was happening and he didn’t seem to like it.
Five minutes later, the man who handed her his card had an idea. “Want to get out of here?” he asked her.
“Sure,” she said, as her date was in mid-sentence.
“You don’t mind, do you?” she asked him.
He said “no” but one got the strong impression that he did in fact mind.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
• Opportunity can knock at any time, sometimes even in mid-sentence.
• “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, where you stop your story,” wrote Orson Welles.
• I have a feeling she’s going to be OK, but that’s just my perspective.
• The real reason you don’t bring sand to the beach is because someone else might just leave with it.
• All stories have three perspectives — yours, theirs and the truth.