loner’s last drink

For reasons we’ve explored in other blog posts and on the podcast, I’m not feeling great, and part of it has to do with the dating situation, and part of it has to do with writing, and part of it is probably just a matter of chemistry. But I’m feeling this badness, this aloneness, way more pointedly when I’m sitting at a bar by myself, reading or writing, and I look up for a moment thinking I’d like to talk with someone. That now’s a good moment for company. 

And there’s none to be had. 

As a result I’ve been looking with a little more interest at the other people sitting at bars alone and, almost to boost myself up, I make note of something they’re doing and I go, “Ah! Look at that! That’s something a lonely person does!”

I guess part of the triumph or excitement in looking for these cues is that you tend to see them in the people who’ve come to the bar with a vibe like they’re hot shit. They’re wearing a nice wristwatch, or a fedora (God help us, it’s frequent). They keep talking about themselves to everyone in earshot. Braggadocious. 

But I’m writing this from a bar and I’ve noticed one particular flag in two different dudes sitting across from me just now and I think it’s worth mentioning. 

The night’s fairly young and both of these men who are here by themselves, a few stools away from each other, are dressed well. They’re freshly showered. Hair looks nice.

If I were to approach, I’m sure they’d smell good too. 

One of the flags I’m noticing is that, though immersed in their phones, these men often look up from those phones; not just up, but around. They want to see who else is here. They wanna have eye contact with somebody who might be interested in coming over and talking. 

A beautiful woman, ideally. 

If this sounds like I’m shitting on them please bear in mind that I am one of them, so…I know whereof I speak.

What interested me most, though, is that, when they each got their last drink, they started looking around more earnestly. Their sips of the drink got smaller and smaller. One of them, the older of the two, was already pretty drunk. He knocked over a stool on his way to the bathroom at one point and left his own jutting way out into the walkway. 

What it reminded me of was my last couple weeks of college before graduating when I was freaking out and writhing in bed at night for reasons I couldn’t articulate until finally, I think on the exact day I was leaving, I realized that what bothered me was this disparity between how profoundly Florida International University had influenced my development, and (conversely) how completely inconsequential I had been, personally, to Florida International University. 

I was bothered to think that I would go on referring to this institution for the rest of my life but would probably never be mentioned again on any of its campuses (one of my serious goals in life is to make such a splash in writing or podcasting or whatever that I get invited back to FIU for one of those “Evening With” things, or maybe just to teach a seminar on something–a very posh and indulgent fantasy but, hey, it’s mine).

And I think something similar happens when you come to a bar hoping to make a connection with someone, and the connection doesn’t happen, but you notice too that the people all around you appear to be having a blast.

And then it’s time to leave. 

You’re at the bottom of your last drink, and the check is paid. 

So you start sipping slowly, trying to put it off. 

But finally it’s unavoidable. 

The drink’s out, and you’re all paid up.

Time to go. 

You turn in your seat and see that there’s a line at the door. Your stool will be occupied by another person within a moment of your leaving. For the rest of your life, when asked what you did on this night, you’ll know that you occupied a stool at this bar, and spent a fair amount of money, and got a fairly good buzz.

But nobody at this bar will remember you.

It’s the feeling, I think, of constantly being the dart in the history of all your nights, pitching into the dark for company, but never the board, receiving it.

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