You're probably thinking this is some deep introspective blog about the guy in the Bible. I hate to disappoint you, but it's not that at all. Instead, it's about some guy in a bar.
It's safe to say that the past couple of years have worked overtime at killing the hopeless romantic within me. In fact, there is a budding skeptic trying feverishly to take her place. In recent months the skeptic has even been winning the battles. But the hopeless romantic is quietly waiting in the corner, holding her breath, with the hopes of winning the war.
For the past month, I have been working as a bartender at a local hotel that accommodates mainly business travelers. Any given night of the week, there are any number of them perched at the bar, drinking beer and scotch, and shouting at the TV behind me that is almost always broadcasting some sporting event. Through the weeks, I have gotten to know many of them as "regulars." I know their names, where they come from, what they drink, and often times, why they feel so compelled to drink it.
Kenny is the red head who drinks Coors Lite. He is quiet, but pleasant, and he cheers for the Cincinnati Reds, caring nothing at all about any other sport. Kenny is recently divorced, and no, he doesn't want to discuss it. So don't ask.
Stan is a divorced millionaire from Denver who drinks Dewars and water and looks like Gene Hackman. By his fourth glass of scotch he begins talking with an Italian accent. If I happen to talk in an Italian accent back to him, I get a $20 tip. I may or may not take advantage of this little bit of knowledge every Monday-Thursday night at 9PM.
Doug is from Philadelphia. He is loud, like a proud yankee should be, but he enjoys the quiet seduction of a good Cabernet. He hates every sport, and instead prefers Dancing with the Stars. He is very much opposed to Germans, although I have yet to understand why. However, it never fails that by the second glass of red, he has mentioned something about the "loud ass Germans" in our very strange conversations.
Sean is from Nebraska...a husker. He is here on business related to the May Flood, and is currently in his last week here. He is a skydiver, and sticks to a low carb diet. Except for liquor. Sean drinks Glenlivet, on the rocks with a side of rocks, and drinks a lot of it. He has a wife, Karen, patiently waiting for him back home, and every night at 8:30PM he gets out his iPhone to give her a call. Sweet, huh? Oh yeah....his girlfriend, Kasey, flew in from Atlanta last week to spend the week with him. She drinks Fuzzy Navels and has an affinity for Coach.
These men have done nothing to aid in the survival of the hopeless romantic.
And then there's Paul. Paul is from Texas, and his smile is as big as the state he calls home. He is a distinguished man, probably pushing 70, but his face wears the excitement of a frat boy on his 21st birthday. Paul wears neatly pressed button down shirts, nice dress pants, polished shoes, and the leftovers of a very pleasant cologne that has been working hard at professionalism since early that morning. He exudes pleasantness, and when he grins, his eyes dance and even his wrinkles smile. Paul wears joy as if it were a pair of Prada sunglasses, and I like my job better when he is on the other side of the bar. Paul's wife is an opera singer who travels frequently, but he smiles when he talks about her. When they have time, they like to go to their vacation home and drink wine and cut limbs of cedar for the fire place. He drinks Corona with a wedge of lime, and every night, he pulls up a seat at the bar, the far left one to be exact, I grab his first Corona and ask him what he would like to have for dinner that night. He always gets a lettuce wedge, and often accompanies it with a ribeye, medium, or a plate of crab cakes.
Over the weeks Paul has gotten to know me as well as I know him, and he asks to see the newest pictures of E and keeps tabs on my love life. This past week, the night before he would be flying back to Texas for the weekend, he asked what I had going on this weekend. I told him I had a few days off work and I planned to let a nice boy take me out on a date. (Stay tuned for a blog about that, I'm sure.) Upon hearing that I had romantic plans, Paul became grandfatherly protective, and he asked 10 kinds of questions about the "character of this young man." He wanted to know if he was good enough for me. I assured him that I felt positive that he was, and when he signed the tab for the evening, he looked at me and said, "I want to know all about it next week!"
Then, Sunday night, as I was putting my money in the hotel office and returning the bar keys to the front desk, I walked out of the door to see Paul checking in for the week, button down shirts on hangers in his hand. He saw me and his eyes lit up. "Sara! How was (lowering his voice) your date?" I replied that it was wonderful, and he said, "How about a date with me at the bar tomorrow night at 7PM? I want to hear all about it."
The next night, at 7PM, I pulled a Corona out of the cooler as Paul walked around the corner. He pulled up his usual seat, placed his dinner order, squeezed the lime into his beer, and leaned forward asking, "So?" I filled him in on the fun of my weekend, him smiling the entire time. And in that moment I was struck by his happiness and obvious joy. So I asked him, "Paul, why are you so happy?"
He looked at me like he was about to tell me a secret, so I leaned forward a little. "I have absolutely NOTHING to complain about. Loving my wife is the easiest thing on the planet. My world is better because of her, because everywhere she goes, she makes bright brighter. I am just damn lucky."
Silently, the hopeless romantic in me replied, "Wow. I hope someone talks about me like that someday."
And then as if Paul had heard me, he leaned in further, reached across the bar, took my hand, and met my eyes with his. "Do you know why I eat in the bar every night?"
"No...why?" I replied.
"Because you remind me of her. Some guy out there has no idea how lucky he is going to be one day."
And just like that, the hopeless romantic exhaled.
There was nothing left to do but reach for another Corona, and grab a wedge of lime.