“It’s good to get out.” –My Wonderful Friend
“I was separated from my wife for almost a year. Maybe it was only eight months. But I got the single-guy thing out of my system. Now…you, know, it’s okay.” –A coworker
“You’ll know, when you know.” –A special friend
Exile. I really need to thank the commenter who described my life here as such. It is the perfect word, vision, and reality of where I am, what I am experiencing, and what defines my existence amid the palm trees and perennially warm days. I could not be so arrogant as to compare my exile to the well-known exiles of the great writers, philosophers, and religious men. It is, nevertheless, my exile, and it is allowing me time and space and reflection to knit my life back together.
The problem with exile, at least mine, is sometimes I get bored. I know, being bored is not exactly the state of mind that is called to mind when one thinks of the great thinkers in exile. But there it is, and here I am. I want to talk to people in a social setting that is not work. I want to be asked what I’d like to drink, how I am, who I am. Hell, I’d be happy to meet a couple of friends who aren’t drunks or borderline creepy.
Thus, I spent this past Sunday “out” with the sole intent to talk to people I don’t know. First stop, a giant sports bar to watch the Washington Redskins vs. the Arizona Cardinals. Would that we had been playing Dallas or Philadelphia, because such a game might have drawn a more interesting crowd.
But never mind that. I walked into the dark, cavernous space, noted TV 7 would air the ‘Skins game in a few minutes and spied an empty bar stool right next to a young guy wearing a Redskins jersey.
“Is this taken?” I smiled at the shaggy-haired, cap-wearing boy in the jersey. “I promise, I am a ‘Skins fan.”
“Uh, well, um…okay, I guess.”
Oh, I get it. Don’t sit here. But I did anyway, because no other stools were available. And as I sat, one of the boy’s friends appeared, frowned at me, and made a big deal about having to walk around the horseshoe-shaped bar to lug another barstool back to the spot next to his friend. And as I realized he had expected me to give up my stool to him, all I could think about was how somebody’s mama had failed to teach someone some manners.
The blond bartender studiously ignored me for 10 minutes, while she stocked beer in coolers, walked away from my end of the bar to polish glasses, and then simply chose to talk to anyone and everyone else who was a man and not me. Wonderful! I finally got the attention of her male counterpart, who grudgingly took my drink order and tossed me a menu with a look that said, “Please don’t order anything complicated. In fact, please don’t order any food at all.”
Some days, I hate people who work in restaurants.
A couple sitting next to me asked for their check, which meant I could now move to one of their stools and give Mr. ‘Skins Fan his stool back for his other rude pal who had just arrived, as he, too, made it clear how annoyed he was that “his” stool was taken by me.
Some days, I hate people who patronize restaurants.
I had just settled in to my new spot at the bar, given my order for a burger and fries, when a cute young man wearing a Cardinals cap slid onto the stool next to me. “Hi,” he smiled. “Okay if I sit here?”
“You should know I am rooting for the ‘Skins,” I smiled back.
“You should know I am the only Cardinals fan in here, I guarantee it,” he laughed.
I would like to say he was a great guy. I would like to say we hit it off and he will be my entree to more fun folks to hang out with on my days off. I would like to say this, but all I can say is this: He was really nice, but a complete crazy man about football. He almost got in a fight with the rude ‘Skins fans next to me, and every time he wrapped his arm around my shoulder to cheer when the Cardinals did anything right, he pushed my T-shirt off my shoulder to the extent that my bra was very much exposed. The Ravens fan across the bar waited for these moments and raised his glass in a silent toast every time it happened.
The rude ‘Skins fans finally had enough to drink to introduce themselves to me, although all I gleaned from them was that one was from Potomac, one was from Bethesda, and another was from Ocean City, Md., and none of them could believe I actually ever lived in D.C. proper.
“Why would you live in D.C.? I mean, did you go to A.U or something?” the shaggy-haired one asked. I went to both A.U. and Georgetown, I started to say, but didn’t, because then they started talking about the great weed they were going to smoke after the game, and, well, I just didn’t have much more to say.
The ‘Skins did their best to make the game a nail-biter, but they won, and I was outta there before the 4 p.m. games aired. Now, that was a fun outing!
Next stop, my neighborhood bar, where I hoped to meet up with a potential friend I had met my first minute in town, a potential friend I had emailed my third minute in town to thank him for picking up my dinner tab, but who had instructed me months later when he finally read that email, that I should call him “the next time you plan to be at the bar, because I never check my email, except every now and then.”
Sometimes, I hate people who never check their email.
He apparently doesn’t check his voice mail, either, because he wasn’t there when I got there, and he never showed up while I nursed a glass of wine for an hour and 13 minutes. But I caught up on the past month’s happenings with the young bartender, whom I have always liked, and discovered she is doing quite well without my assistance as her editorial advisor on her papers. She is taking five full-time classes and working full-time, and she has a B+ average.
Sometimes, I am floored by what people do in their “other” lives.
It was at this point in the evening when another regular walked in, one of the ones who had told me a few weeks after I moved here that I should go by a different name, cut my hair and change just about everything else about myself in order to fit into the South Florida scene. This would be the same man who had also asked for my phone number that horrible evening, saying, “So we can have dinner together. But no one can know, because I am, you know, married.”
On this Sunday night, however, he pretended never to have seen me in his life, despite my having run into him in passing several times (and no, I had not given him my phone number or gone out to dinner with him!). Because on this Sunday he was here with his snowbird wife. His blond haired, blue-eyed, petit, stylish, adorable snowbird wife. How could he not appreciate her?
Sometimes, I hate people, period.
At the end of a rough few days, as a busy week in the early season looms with the reality of a six-day stint that means at least two doubles, I find myself wondering about the point of my exile. I also find myself asking myself, again and again, with far more regularity: What the hell am I doing?
“You’ll know, when you know,” says a special friend.
In the meantime, I don’t think I need to get out so much, after all.