The band, two guys on guitar, and the female singer, played four nights a week, and I came to hear her every one of those nights. Sitting at the bar, it was as if the stool now had my name on it.
I was in love. And so was she, apparently, with some dude who also showed up every night and sat smack dab in front of her.
Worse yet, he drank only Coke. He was sober. What if she liked that? What if she wouldn’t even consider going with a guy who drank alcohol?
I’ve always been shy. Too many opportunities have passed me by. It isn’t like I fall in love with every woman I meet. But her, her, well I was smitten. And I had no idea of how to approach her, not with that watchdog on duty.
“S’blood, man,” a hand clapped me on the back. I looked up to see a bearded man standing next to me.
“In times like this,” the hirsute stranger continued, “you must screw your courage to the sticking post.”
I’d heard that line before, some play or something, but I had no idea of its meaning.
“Egads, you must embolden yourself, my friend, become resolute, determined, and stand courageous in the face of such adversity. Into the breech! Go man go!”
This sounded awfully difficult. “Maybe later,” I said, examining the bottom of my beer glass.
He slapped me on the back again.
“Barkeep,” he called out, “another pint of pluck for this downhearted young man. We must boost his failing spirit and bolster his romantic resolve.”
Well . . .
Will, the bartender, delivered me another 16 ounces of beer spinach, and like Popeye, I drained it in well under a minute.
“Thank you,” I said, turning to the elderly gentleman with the strange way of speaking.
He was gone.
“Will,” I said, “did you see where that man disappeared to?”
“What man?” inquired the curious barkeep.
“The one who just bought me this beer.”
Will laughed. “Eh,” he said, “you aren’t trying to get out of paying for that one, are you?”
“What man are you talking about?”
“The one who asked you to pour me this beer.”
Again Will laughed. “I’ve seen many tricks for trying to trim tabs in my time, Chris, but this is an original. You asked me to pour that one, buddy, and it’s definitely being added to your bill.”
I shook my head. Perhaps this last one was the proverbial one too many.
Swiveling on my stool, I scanned the room for my beer benefactor. He was nowhere to be seen. Was it possible I’d imagined him, a kind of spirit guide, a rhetorically bombastic genie of the golden lamp, a guardian angel seeking his wings at the next bell ring?
The band took the stage. My intended’s BF kissed her before she stepped up on the platform.
I growled, a tethered animal pulling at his chain. “Gimme another,” I said to Will, pointing into the depths of my glass.
“You gonna pay for this one?” he asked.
“Yeah, yeah, of course. And the last one too.”
Amazingly, I realized, my pilot light was in fact lit. I knew that the flame was about to be fanned, knew that my courage was now stuck to a post.
At the first break, she sat with the third wheel. Boldly I rose from my stool and strode to the table, put down my foaming mug and sat as well.
“Hello,” I said to her, leaning forward so as to block out the current beau. “Mind if I sit here?”
She sort of smiled, undoubtedly falling under the spell of my smoldering charisma.
“I guess,” she said.
“Excellent,” I said, “and would you marry me?”
Her eyes lit up and she gave me a strange look.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “but do I know you?”
I sat back in my chair and thought, What a blundering fool I am. I said, “I’m so sorry about forgetting to introduce myself. My name is Chris. Shall we start planning the wedding?”
The soon-to-be ex-boyfriend placed his hand on my shoulder. “Friend,” he said, “you’re drunk and I think you need to go home and sleep it off.”
I glanced at his hand, then into his beady eyes. Saying not a word, I gave him the most laser-like stink eye I could muster. The loser stood up.
“Get the fuck up and let’s step outside,” he said.
This was it. I was all in now. In my mind I thanked the old man for having fueled this fight in me.
I laughed and said, “After you, my pummel-ee,” gesturing him the way to the door.
“Boys, boys,” my future wife said as she stood up, “this is ridiculous. You, whoever you are,” she said to me, “you need to go back to your seat and settle down. And you,” she turned to her Prince Charmless, “you always make like you think you own me or something, and I’m sick of it.”
She pushed in her chair. “Cool your jets, boys. There will be no fighting.”
And with that she mounted the stage again. He and I glared at each other.
“Ah ah ah,” she called down at us. “Knock it off, you two.”
With that the guy threw himself into his seat, and I made for the bar, forgetting my untouched beer at the table.
“Damn,” I said, as I resumed my perch on the stool, then climbed off again.
As I neared the table, that ass saw me coming, picked up the untouched beer, and drank it down in one long swallow, slamming the glass down, and running his arm across his lips. So he did drink.
I cursed inwardly and returned to the bar.
Will brought my a fresh glass of inspiration. “What was that all about?” he asked.
“I asked her to marry me,” I said.
“Wow, really? I didn’t even know you knew her.”
“I don’t,” I said, “but the old man told me if I wanted her so bad, I should just do it.”
“Huh, so her boyfriend was upset because she said yes to you?”
“No, she didn’t say yes. She asked me who I was.”
Will shook his head. “So you’ve never met her or talked to her before.”
“No,” I said, “but I’m in love.”
“Well, you being a total stranger and all, I can sort of understand why she turned you down.”
I nodded, looked deep into my beer glass, and listened to the music pour out of her for the last time.