Life has been good lately. I've had the last month or so off of school, so instead of running around crazy, I've actually had time to sit around the house and do a whole lot of nothing all that spectacular. It's been, in a word, amazing. My crazy schedule starts back next week, but I feel rejuvenated and ready to take on this last semester. I graduate in May...so the countdown is O.N. (I actually wish the word "on" had more letters in it so I could make that point even more emphatically. Two just didn't quite feel satisfying...)
Anyway, I've continued working at the bar which has been both interesting and frustrating for the past month. The bar that I work at is in a hotel that I may have mentioned before mainly caters to business travel. As you can imagine, most of our patrons head home for the holidays, so with the exception of New Year's Eve, for the last month I've been pouring drinks less often than I've been standing behind the bar and counting how many cars can drive by outside the floor to ceiling window during the amount of time it takes me to sing the chorus of "Glory of Love" in my head. The record is 13...in case you were curious.
The week after New Years brought a sigh of relief, because most of my regular guys were back. Paul got back in town and took his usual seat, drinking his usual Corona. Kenny came back from Cincinnati, Doug came back from Philly, and Mark came back from Houston.
Mark is here on business with a company that does very official IT business with a very official local corporation. He is probably in his mid to late 50's and often sports a salt and pepper 5 o'clock shadow that seems to argue "I'm masculine" while his eyes gently urge that he's kind. He always starts the night with a shot of Glenlivet on the rocks. He pays $15 a glass for the good stuff, insisting that the difference between the 12 year and the 18 year is like a prepubescent kid and John Wayne smoking a cigarette with a naked blond in the room. He carries around a quiet demeanor but exudes an aire of "get the job done." He's wealthy beyond measure, but he wears it like a man who at one point in time probably had to shovel manure in cowboy boots and 100 degree heat just to get his beat up pinto running again. I like him, because he drinks enough to come to the bar, but not enough to stop talking nice about his wife. Whenever he comes to the bar he starts by asking me how my day has been. And whenever he stands to go, he ends the night with, "Well, Sara....that's all for me."
Last week, he joined me in the bar and I poured his regular glass of scotch. A young man in a jeans and white t shirt sat beside him. I had never seen this guy before, and seeing as how he was leaving town the next day, I bothered only to get his name and the basic "What are you in town for" information. His name was Jim, and he was in town on business from Cincinnati. He was from Michigan, but his wife wanted to move to Ohio, so he did. His head was shaved, and he kept rubbing it like it itched. He drank a Bud Light and ordered a burger. When Mark sat next to him they began to chat. I brought their food and listened to them talk between moving around behind the bar refilling drinks. The talked about their wives...their kids....the game....business. For about an hour, they chit chatted like old friends, as perfect strangers in bars tend to do. I perched myself in front of them and listened to them talk about the holidays and found myself smiling. Then, as I gathered dirty plates and printed tabs for them to sign, Mark looked at me and smiled asking, "Sara, are you happy?"
And I felt my smile widen as I replied, "I really am." And Mark looked to his right at the young man sitting beside him and said, "I knew she was happy. That's why I asked that." Then he looked back at me, placed the ink pen back in the black check presenter, drank the last bit of scotch from the bottom of his glass, and said, "Well, Sara...that's all for me." And with that, he walked out of the bar.
I didn't really see it coming, but seeing as how it's visible from the other side of the bar, I must be wearing happiness well these days. It fits better than it used to....like a pair of jeans the day after you take them out of the dryer. Somehow I managed in this crazy life to make sense of motherhood, of grad school, of divorce, of work, of love. For the first time in almost 30 years, I feel that I am owning my life instead of it owning me. I feel like I have served my time in the trenches of confusion and made my peace with the demons there. And I feel like I have won....like I'm blessed....like I'm whole...like I'm doing this life thing right. Happiness used to be like a coat to put on when it was cold and take off when it wasn't. Now it's like an ember in my core, something that lights up inside of me when the wind hits it just right, and without any effort at all, suddenly I'm warm.
The journey hasn't been quite as smooth as a glass of 18 year scotch, but I'll drink in the life just the same...and well....that's all for me.