My short hair style was too severe. I was a nervous wreck. I grasped onto the edge of the bar as if it was my very last hope to stay afloat.
A year later to the day, my hair is long and blond and straight. I am still a nervous wreck, but I understand more about why I am. And although no bar is my life raft, I still enjoy a glass or three of wine when I am out with friends.
Tonight was last call for the first place I landed as a place to go out on my own in this town. Tonight it was almost empty on its final Saturday night. You could order any wine on the list, but eventually you’d be coaxed into drinking a Fino Pino Grigio because multiple bottles of the stuff filled the cooler.
“You want veal? And you want mussels?” the bartender asked the tourist couple who thought they were ordering from a full menu at a fully functioning eatery. “Let me check with the chef to see what he’s got.”
At first, the couple looked puzzled by this response, then they let it go and acted as if this was perfectly acceptable. That’s what you do when you are a tourist on vacation in a foreign town, because, you know, maybe that’s how they do it down here, honey.
“See, I brought this Parmesan from home because I wasn’t sure we’d have any,” the bartender laughed as she carefully unwrapped the three precious chunks. So go the final days of a restaurant. My advice, skip the seafood speacial. Actually, skip all the food. Go for the pinot grigio and drink plenty of it.
I sat alone on this last night as the bartender, the one who had gently told me a year ago to pay no attention to the buffoons who poked fun at my D.C. persona, worked her last night. She said she felt it was like the last day of school. But she filled drink orders, answered the phone, chatted up guests and chastised servers as if it was mid-semester.
“Look at you now,” she smiled, topping off my wine. “You are not the same girl at all.” To which I could only shrug and wonder if this was necessarily a good thing. In the process of capturing this new look, this alleged new persona, what had I lost to attain both?
I only stayed for one drink. Frankly, it was a little bit of a downer to be there on this last night, but I wanted to thank this bartender for her many, many warm welcomes and her ready introductions over these past 12 months.
She asked for my card. I scribbled my cell phone number on the back. We both know she won’t call.
I hugged her goodnight and wished her luck.
“No, not goodbye, goodnight,” she said. “And so much good luck to you, okay?”
And to you. To us both. Salut.