One Night Out

“We met a few weeks ago. I’m a friend of Mark’s. Let me know if you want to hang out some evening. It would be fun.”

This in an email to me a little less than two weeks after I moved here. We had met on one of my nights off, when I forced myself to go out and at least talk to the bartender at the cozy local bar, so I would not talk solely to myself that evening. It was not a great night, as I recall. I was sad and lonely, even as I laughed and talked to so many people on that night out.

And no, this email was not from a guy. Actually, the message came from a single woman close to my age. And I answered with a vague answer like, “Sure, sounds good,” but I never contacted her again. And then, out of the blue, she emailed again this past weekend, so many weeks later, when I returned from my road trip: “Did you move back to D.C.?” she asked. “No one has seen you around.”

Now, the fact that she emailed me again was a pleasant surprise. The idea that others were wondering why I had not been “seen around” was mildly astonishing. I honestly still don’t know a soul here beyond my co-workers. And I am fine with that. In fact, I am feeling rather comfortable.

Because I now have a very pleasant routine: Get up. Go for a walk or run. Eat. Go to the beach and just sit. Shower. Run necessary and unnecessary errands. Eat. Go to work. Come home. Drink a glass or two or three of wine. Write. Listen to music or read or keep writing. Go to sleep. My mental health prescription to myself reads: “Repeat every day for the foreseeable future.”

But then this contemporary of mine emailed again. And this time her email seemed to demand a real answer. I could say yes to “hanging out” and break out of my carefully crafted schedule, or I could say no and continue to be comfortable in my solitude. As much as I relish the Walden Pond oasis I have built for myself here in South Florida, and as much as I didn’t want to commit to going out, I decided to respond in the affirmative, because that’s what seemed like the right thing to do.

“Sure, I think I am getting off early this Thursday,” I emailed back.

Thursday. Usually a double for me. Always, for no apparent reason, the day of the damned during the lunch shift. Has been, since I started here. You know those days. Micros goes down and you and the staff revive the old-school art of writing tickets and shoving plastic and carbon paper in awkward swipers. Then someone on staff has a meltdown to add drama to the shift. Then the dishwasher breaks down. Then you wonder how it is you have a double on this damned day. Then you just have to laugh.

Being off season in these parts, I knew I had a better than 50-50 shot of getting off by 9 p.m. I texted this new non-friend and told her where I’d be, which is the only place I ever go here by myself, which would be where I know the lady bartenders, where I have offered to help the Monday night bartender with her college writing assignments.

But today was Thursday. And out I went.

I don’t think my new not-quite friend has ever been married, and I am sure she has no kids. She is in sales but is changing jobs. She is hyper and a little crazy, but very nice, and she is very used to doing the single woman going-out thing. She is not like me at all, and yet we have a lot in common, it seemed.

I was surprised when she met up with me, since I got off later than I thought. We chatted at the bar, and she and another woman counseled me on how to protect myself and my drinks from date-rape drugs, and how to listen to my internal alert voice and stay safe.

Which reminded me of a regular guest at my restaurant whom I always see walking two tiny dogs in the neighborhood, who told me to get a huge, ferocious dog for a pet, because, he said, “You need it for protection here.”

Which reminded me that I don’t know all the dangers here. I thought I knew the bad places and the bad guys in D.C. Here in paradise, it’s hard to know the good areas from the bad when palm trees are everywhere and the sky is azure blue and filled with puffy white clouds.

“You drove WHERE?” asked the assistant manager today on this damned Thursday. “Don’t do that again!” Well, okay, now I know not to.

And so I chatted with this woman and the other woman I had never meet before, and learned that one loves to gamble at the high stakes tables and that the other loves her church retreats.

Which only reminded me of the friends I left behind in D.C., and my best sister friend in Montana, and how different and distant I feel from them, and how unrelated I felt to the women I was talking to on this evening.

As nice as they were. As nice as it was to be asked to hang out. As much as I wish I could just embrace the potential of new friends with whom I have little, actually, in common.

As much as I don’t think I will be hanging out with either in the near future.

Sometimes, I am sure my version of Walden Pond, the one that beckons me to relax and recharge at the edge of the warm ocean waters, is all I need. Maybe for a long time. Maybe only for the foreseeable future. I am not sure I am ready to add talk and getting-to-know-you chatter and hanging out with more strangers to the mix.

Or at least that’s how I felt on this one night out.






13 responses to “One Night Out”

  1. maureen Avatar

    when I got divorced I forced my self to go out . there was a group of girls that I never would have considered my type of friends not taht there was anything wrong with them I just didn’t think we had much in common . & we didn’t . We still don’t but when I look back a t that very difficult time for me I can’t believe how these virtual strangers helped me though it 6 Years later I’m still in touch with some of them some of them have drifted out of my life but I’ll love them all forever.

  2. jali Avatar

    After 2 years in Atlanta I’ve found a real woman friend. I’ve tried with others I’ve met, but the conversations seemed forced and I really didn’t follow up so the connections faded away.

    I feel closer to some of my blogger buddies and look forward to the meet and greet dates we plan. (I hope you can come to Atlanta on the weekend of the 22nd.)

  3. Tere Avatar

    It’s tricky to figure out what places not to go to alone, especially at night.

    The area immediately west of Biscayne Blvd. (and out further west from there, but how far west varies) are all BAD. Ignore all the new condos and flashy advertising. These areas are full of drug and gang activity, at least until you hit Miami Shores. Overtown, Little Haiti and Liberty City = not safe.

    There are pockets of Miami Gardens and North Miami that are unsafe as well; and same goes for down south in areas like Perrine, Cutler Ridge and Homestead. The middle tends to be the safest: Coral Gables, South Miami, Westchester, Kendall – at least as far as being able to drive through at night or stop at a bar.

    A general rule of thumb, I guess, is that crime happens everywhere in this town, no matter how ritzy the area, but some areas are generally safer than others. Unfortunately, the stereotype that the poorest areas are also the most dangerous is true here.

    Hope that helps.

  4. Kim Ayres Avatar

    Sometimes we cocoon ourselves for our own protection. It’s safe, it’s known. And it’s ok.

    There will come a time when the cocoon itches, chafes and is uncomfortable. At that point you’re ready to leave it and embrace the world again.

    You’ve been through so many changes in such a short period of time, go easy on yourself ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Tinker Avatar

    Maybe you are just asocial (as opposed to antisocial) right now, its okay to be be alone, as long as you aren’t lonely. But sometimes, you do need people, and if you have not cultivated friendships now, where will you find them, when you NEED them? Have I obscured the subject sufficiently?

    You seem to have adjusted well, to your new life. Can we stop worrying, now? (Not that you asked us to worry in the first place.)

  6. Willow Avatar

    Even though they might not be people in whom you see “friend potential”, they have a social network — friends, family and coworkers — and you need a social network, too. You may find a friend or two among the people they know.

  7. Brave Astronaut Avatar

    Sometimes it is nice to just go out and be with people. As you say, it might not become a longstanding thing, but companionship has its plusses and minuses. Although sitting on the beach watching the waves is awfully nice too. Maybe you could get a webcam and load it up and let us all come and sit and watch with you.

    Problem solved. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Rick Avatar

    I liked this post.

    Sometimes I think there’s a lot of pressure to go out and do things and “be social” and interact. I’ve felt it at least and I have to admit, I succumb at times. But I find that it’s all a matter of what feels right at the time and what makes you happy. There can be times when you desire the company but there’s a lot to be said for being able to do things your way and on your schedule.

    I say consider yourself lucky that you have that choice.


  9. Ex-Restaurant Manager Avatar

    I think that just the act of going out is an accomplishment. Those of us who’ve experienced what you’re going through know how easy it is to just stay home. It’s much simpler, but for people with aspirations of more, not very satisfying. Good for you to take those important steps out. You go, RG!

  10. Ex-Restaurant Manager Avatar

    Not that I claim I’ve gone through what you’re going through. But similar. Kinda. Without the husband part. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Julie Avatar

    RG — I’m glad you did something a little different than your usual routine. It’s nice to shake things up once in a while. If you don’t enjoy yourself, you appreciate your usual stuff even more. And, if you had fun, even better.

  12. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Maureen–Nice perspective. Thanks.

    Jali–Please keep the gathering going into Sunday, my day off!

    Tere–Now THAT’s the kind of local info I need before I drive aimlessly about. Thank you!

    Kim–You know exactly what to say at just the right time.

    Tinker–I don’t know, it’s kind of nice knowing someone out there is worrying about me, whether I need it or not ๐Ÿ™‚

    Willow–Excellent point. When I went to the post office and a customer and the clerk were trading tennis league information, I wondered, maybe that’s something I could take up again, and certainly meet people.

    Brave Astronaut–A web cam of my view of the beach. Kind of intriguing.

    Rick–Thank you for commenting, and thanks for the perceptive thoughts. You know, I hope, that I think you have one hell of a blog covering South Florida. Welcome to my world, which has been yours for whole lot longer!

    Ex-RM–Believe me, I forced myself to turn into the parking lot and not just keep driving home after I got off. But I am glad I did, regardless of what comes next. And as always, I appreciate the ๐Ÿ™‚

    Julie–True, a shake up is good now and then. But I am also revelling in feeling settled just a little, and am reluctant to shake anything more up at this point, you know? On the other hand, the evening out was fun in its way.

  13. John Avatar

    What is for some people a wall, is for others a foundation.