“Can I have some of your fries?” she slurred, then reached over me and grabbed a handful of French fries off the plate of steak and potatoes that Upset Waitress and I were sharing.
We were starving. We were tired from work. We were drinking. We decided to order a big fat steak to make us feel better. “We’re putting our TIPS training to work,” UW laughed, referring to TIPS Class Rule No. 2,304–offer food to someone who’s done in. Who could potentially be us.
TIPS training is a program one’s bar makes you endure every few years to teach you how to recognize who’s a drunk and who’s not. Based on what I learned at my class a few weeks ago, UW and I should be cut off on a regular basis, and no one frequenting my bar should be served after 1 p.m.
So there we were, doing our best to behave ourselves in front of the remaining two bartenders in these parts who still smile hello when we walk in, and now a hungry drunk was making us look like t-totaling church ladies as she scarfed our fries.
“Are you kidding me?” I said to UW, turning to hunch over our plate of food so the drunk couldn’t grab any more of our coveted food.
“Eeew!” UW grimaced. “I’m not touching those fries now.”
The drunk girl stumbled away, only to return a moment later begging for more of everything. Every time she reached toward the bar and our food, I blocked her with my shoulder. This continued for another 20 minutes, despite the bartenders’ best efforts to force her out the door and into a cab they had called.
“Rouletta has better manners when she begs!” I told UW. “This is gross.”
“She’s just a drunk,” UW replied, her appetite now clearly gone. “We should just give her the damn dinner.”
So we did. And she ate it all until the plate was clean.
When she woke up the next morning, she remembered nothing about her steak dinner, until the bartenders gleefully told her about her antics the next evening. And then she offered to pay us for it, except she didn’t know who we were. Which made us even, because when UW and I woke up the next morning and laughed as we rehashed the night’s events, we didn’t know who she was, either. Nor did we care.
I had only been tending bar for a minute when he walked in, so thin and so obviously not well. He nursed a rum and Coke for three hours, barely taking a sip. He asked me where I was from, and when I told him, he regaled me with stories about the years he had spent in D.C. He made me smile, and I made him laugh, just a little.
When his sister woke up yesterday morning, he was dying. When she came in later that evening, she cried because he was gone. When UW and I cried with her, I knew there was nothing we could do to ease her pain. Time, we told her. Time. And then you’ll wake up one morning and you won’t cry.
He prefers his Manhattan in a plastic cup, two cherries please. She’s the social go-to gal at my bar. And I wondered how it was they both seemed so alone and lonely, until I found out that they wake up every morning next to one another. Which just goes to show how little I know.
I try not to hang on his every text. I tell myself I don’t care at all. Then I wake up in the morning, and I wonder if I’ll hear from him. When I do, it means so much fun. When I don’t, I shrug and I tell myself I still don’t care.
Because when you wake up in the morning, you start all over again. And again. And again.