Part the second.
The young men on my right, Eric and Jordan, went to high school with me and were two or three grades behind me. Good kids. When I walk in, they're pounding tequila shots. When asked why, they indicated that they're celebrating Eric's recent unemployment, but that seems like a mixed blessing, at best.
As a chaser, Jordan orders an AMF (Adios Motherfucker, apparently) , a neon blue cocktail whose appearance is about as radioactive as its ingredients list. When asked why any self-respecting 22-year old man would order something that looks more like toilet bowl cleaner than something even remotely drinkable, Jordan says "Because it tastes good, bro!" Gail and I laugh and Eric joins in when he realizes that's what the adults are doing.
"Blue drinks are for sorority girls and prison inmates," I tell them. "You want to have any self-worth, you drink a real drink, generally something with no more than two words in the name."
Gail nods in agreement and takes a deep draw from her white wine and exhales in that strange mixture of self-loathing and deep satisfaction that comes only from consuming a copious amount of cheap alcohol because either nothing else is available or nothing else will do.
Maybe I'm only one like this, but sometimes I feel like I don't deserve better liquor. The only thing I can compare it to, while arguably blasphemous, are Born-Again Christians that weep when they think about their impending salvation. Faith like that must make you feel a lot better about yourself. Thinking that someone out there with the power to do anything has taken it upon Himself (or Herself) to dedicate those powers to saving your immortal soul sounds like a real confidence booster. But sometimes I'm pretty happy to dismiss speculative theology in favor of a single malt scotch, so what the fuck do I know.
Gail, despite knowing me for about a half an hour at this point, already has a higher opinion of me than I do. She tells me that I need to take Eric and Jordan, these newcomers to the game of adult life, under my proverbial wing. She believes that my difficultly-acquired wisdom beyond my years needs to be imparted on minds as impressionable as these.
"Just look at Andy," she tells them. "He's wearing nice jeans, a t-shirt, a button-down shirt over that, and a leather jacket to top it all off. He's like..." she pauses.
"He's like a model."
I immediately get about four times as bashful as a comment like that should really inspire, but I can't help it. The only compliment better than a deserved one is an undeserved one, and her praise nuzzles itself in the crink of my neck and kisses my bare shoulder. I'm taken aback.
"Why are you wearing a leather jacket, anyway?" she asks. "It's mid-August."
"I was in Park City. Elvis Costello played outdoors tonight and I froze my ass off," I explain.
I think about launching into my usual Elvis Costello tirade. My well-documented fascination and adoration of the man and his music. I briefly consider gushing about the concert, about Elvis' passion and howling and banter and wordplay and virtuosity and musicianship and pain and joy and dynamic and then I realize something.
Everyone has an Elvis Costello. Mine just happens to be named Elvis Costello.
Speaking of which, Gail orders another glass of wine. She pays in single dollar bills, and leaves an extra one on the bar. 33% tip is pretty generous in this place, and I'm impressed. She takes her time with this glass, doing all of those stereotypical wine snob things; swirling it in her glass, dipping her nose right into its aroma, making a comment about its nose, its body, its hue, etc., but somehow, these things don't annoy me like they usually do. They're endearing me to this singular woman. She closes her eyes whenever she puts the glass to her lips and when you watch her drink it in, it's both clear and a little frightening that she's sharing a moment as intense as that with stemware. Then I think of the people that were surely silently berating me for giggling like a first-time pot smoker when Elvis came out for an encore and I feel judgmental and conceited. Not wrong, though; just judgmental and conceited.
"So," Gail says. "Almost married? What happened?"
I motion to the bartender that I'd like another G&T.
"It's a long story," I begin. I squeeze the lime and drop the rind into my drink, swirling it with my finger, hygiene be damned.
I lick my finger clean and cannot think of many things more refreshing.
More soon. Thanks for the nice words.