My hair was done to perfection. Come hell or high water, I was going out to dinner - with or without company.
I didn't recognize anyone at the bar, which was unusual, but not a big deal. I knew the bartenders, who I feel much more comfortable recognizing as my friends, along with most of the other restaurant staff and management, since this was my local haunt. Plus, I really don't mind dining alone - I can even prefer it - so 'twas just me and my new hairdo, on that fine Wednesday.
I couldn't yet tell if the suit with his back turned toward me was as obnoxious as I'd presumed him to be, since I hadn't actually spoken with him. I was totally judging, I admit it, based partially on his attire and partially on a conversation I'd been overhearing between him and a man he'd later call a "grifter" (enough said). There was only one open barstool at the bar, in the far left corner - you guessed it - right next to the suit. I moved it an inch or two closer to the wall and sat down.
"Great view, isn't it?" he said, after waiting a few minutes longer than I had expected to attempt a conversation.
"Yep," I replied dismissively, and picked up my champagne flute.
"I mean really, it's a great view," he persisted.
"It is nice."
"Are you dating one of the bartenders?" he asked.
I shot him a look. I can't just go out to dinner because I'm hungry, and because I like my hair today? "No," I declared, and immediately regretted it. He was waiting for me to follow up my answer, so I pointed to one of my two bartender/friends and said "I'm friends with his wife." I'm 2-2 now, I thought, realizing I had opened a door for further conversation.
"Oh," he said. "What's she like?"
Knew it. "She's great," I responded. "A wonderful photographer."
Somehow sensing my annoyance from across the bar, Joe suddenly appeared in front of me and asked if I was ready for round two. Trying to use some sort of ESP to tell him I had gotten into a conversation about his wife, I laughed and said "Just keep them coming," circling my forefinger in the air.
"You know, my daughter is going off to college in Boston, and I'm really nervous," he began to ramble after sipping his cocktail. "She's never had a boyfriend, and I'm afraid some douchebag will see her as some sort of Californian bait. Do you think some fisherman will break her heart?"
"I think so," he answered his own question. "She's beautiful and she doesn't even know it. Want to see a photo?" Before I could answer, he pulled his phone out of his pocket and stuck it in my face.
"She's very pretty," I remarked. (I was being honest.) "I'm sure she has a good head on her shoulders."
"She does. I told her not to have sex with guys because of low self-esteem, and things like that. You know, don't just give it up."
I took a big gulp of my champagne, and wondered if he was aware he had begun to talk about his kid's sex life. "She seems smart," I tried to assure him. Granted, I knew nothing of the girl or the situation.
"She's beautiful," he repeated. "Do you think I should be worried? About these fisherman?"
I'm sure I looked offended, but he wouldn't understand why just yet. "I'm actually from that area," I paused for his reaction, "and I'm not sure what your hangup is with fisherman, but I mean, it's college. And you're a guy, what did you do when you were a college freshman?" I asked. "Fish?" I smiled. Good one, KB.
"Oh man, now I'm worried. Thanks for that," he said. And he really did look worried.
"I'm just being honest," I told him. "You're married, right?" I had noticed a tattoo on his ring finger - no physical wedding ring - a squiggly design resembling an infinity symbol. Married men without wedding rings doesn't surprise me; a suit with an exposed tattoo kind of does, though.
"Twenty-five years," he announced.
"You must have gotten married young," I noted.
"I was twenty-five."
Another round of drinks arrived, which I credited for making me less annoyed with the incessant chatting. I even started to proactively contribute. "Ever cheat on her?" Apparently, the champagne was making me much more comfortable asking such personal questions, too.
"I have," he admitted, unabashedly.
"Oh," I said, caught off guard by his honesty. I am sooo going to write about you, I thought. "Is this a...consistent thing?"
"Define consistent," he challenged.
My eyebrows raised. "I think you just answered my question."
"It's only ever been sex," he started to explain, "and never an emotional affair. I did have a torrid affair once, before I was married, but that was the only time."
At this point, I was intrigued. "I think you just became my muse," I informed him. "But I'll let you pick your alias." I'd expected him to white-knuckle it, the idea of his story surfacing somewhere, but he didn't seem to care. He seemed flattered, even. I watched him think for a few seconds.
"Mr. Big," he blurted out.
"Mr. Big?" I laughed. "C'mon."
"No, okay," he paused. "Mr. X. Let's go with Mr. X."
To be continued...