Monday, October 4, 2010

People I meet in bars #21: Seth

Romantic cross-country relocation isn't something you hear about very often outside of movies that star Josh Duhamel (topical!). The idea of uprooting yourself in order to chase The One That Got Away, a phantom of equal parts expectation and absence, is generally accepted as a foolish notion, and most reasonable people avoid doing so.

So as I'm sitting at this bar, talking to Seth while we attack our drinks with passion normally reserved for the covers of romance novels, I'm surprised to learn that this short, fit, but altogether reasonable-looking man in his early 20s is doing just that. It's his first night back in Utah, and why he's spending it in a bar, pounding down orange juice like a confused sorority girl, is a mystery to me.

"I'm just bracing myself," he says, his words dripping in what sounds like an affected southern drawl. "I'm trying to get myself pumped up."

"For what, though?" I ask.

"I'm just gonna show up at her house, man." He tilts the last drops of his glass down his throat and motions to a chuckling bartender for another. "She doesn't even know I'm here."

"Do you think she's expecting you to be?"

"Hell no."

"Have you ever mentioned it to her before? Or is this like an ending-of-The-Sixth-Sense-level surprise?"

He sighs dramatically. I think he's practiced this speech before. "I've mentioned it every day for the last six months. Every morning, she wakes up to a text from me that says 'I love you, I'm going to move out there' and stuff like that."

My brow furrows. "Every morning? Like, every morning?"

"Yeah," he says, nodding in self-congratulation.

"Uh..." I trail off in confusion so sincere that it sounds sarcastic.

"What?"

"Well, I mean," I stutter, my small red straw clinking melting ice against glass, "isn't that sort of, you know...creepy?"

"No way, dude. It's, like, romantic and shit. And I got tired of just telling her how I felt, so I decided to follow through."

What an idiot. "Yeah, but, can you at least see how it might be possible that someone else--not her, necessarily, and not even me--but someone else might look at the situation as sort of, uh, odd?"

"Yeah, but they don't know her. Not like I do. This is what she wants. This is what she's always wanted. Some big gesture. Proof that I mean what I say, you know?"

"So it's more of a follow-through thing? Like, you have the integrity to say something and then follow through?" He nods. "Wouldn't it have been easier to just change what you kept saying instead of moving to Utah from--where are you from?"

"Virginia."

"--Virginia, where you presumably don't have a place to stay, don't have a job, don't have anything but this vague hope that she'll take you seriously?"

He pauses. I'm honestly concerned that this is the first time he's ever second-guessed anything besides whether or not to wear a puka shell necklace.

"But she's just it, man. You can't understand." He seems satisfied with his response.

"Why can't I understand it?"

"Because you don't know her."

I acknowledge his first valid point with a subtle nod and a sip from my Sprite. As I tilt the glass to my lips, the ice crinkles "What's her name, anyway?"

"Who?"

"Your eight-grade English teacher. I want to see if she has any book recommendations. The girl, dude."

"Oh." He takes the heretofore deepest of a series of dramatically rehearsed deep breaths. "Taylor."

"Taylor? Like, as in James?"

"Who's Taylor James?"

"No, like--" I pause to see if he's messing with me. The empty chasm of each pupil indicates otherwise. "I meant as in James Taylor." His eyes stay as blank as printer paper. "The popular singer/songwriter. I'm sure you've heard one of his songs." Nothing. "And what does Taylor--your Taylor--do?"

"She's in school. Just taking some general classes, trying to figure out her life."

"Does she go to UVU?" He nods. My eyes open wide. "Wait, is she blonde?" He nods again, paying slightly more attention.

"Yeah, how'd you know?"

"And she's got green eyes, right?"

"Yeah, she does. Do you know her?"

"And her neck smells like that Victoria's Secret lotion?"

His pupils dilate and his eyes' whites go ivory. "Do you know her?"

"And so you're the Seth that cheated on her?" Ivory turns to an interstate map as red blood vessels draw out an itinerary. "You son of a bitch, you did, didn't you."

"What did she tell you?"

"Not that much. I was too busy making her scream my name and tell me how nice it is to finally be satisfied by a man."

He stands up and points a surprisingly stubby finger no more than three inches from my nose. "You shut your goddamn mouth."

"Oh, and she also said she didn't much care for your pottymouth. Which was one of the several reasons her mom convinced her to break up with you."

"You don't..." His shoulder drops along with his jaw. "...you don't know anything."

"I know enough. And I know that she's happier now that you're out of her life. Those text messages are super creepy and I got tired of deleting them every morning after they woke me up."

He's aghast. His face is a pendulum swinging between Really Super Pissed and Verge of Tears.

"In case you can't figure it out," I say, lowering my voice, "they woke me up because she was sleeping with me."

I'm so proud of my combination of condescension and insult that I don't notice him cock back his right arm and connect a closed fist to the same nose he had been mere centimeters away from picking only moments ago. Blood rushes to each nostril and falls like it was dropped from a cropduster.

"Want to take this outside?" I say. "I don't want everyone to see how you punch like a fourteen-year-old girl."

He stomps to the bar's front door and brushes invisible dust from his upturned collar. I smile and follow.

Once outside, I can't even get a word out before he throws a strong one-two left-right into my soda-filled belly. Wind is knocked from my belly like candy from a piñata. I cover my eyes and he gets a few more in.

"Why aren't you fighting back?" he says.

"Because the harder you hit me," I say, my back slowly rising itself straight, "the blacker my eye, the more broken my nose, the more she'll be able to see for herself what everybody that knows you knows: that you're a fool that can't take a hint."

He takes a step back.

"And because," I whisper, wiping the blood that's flooded between the hairs of my beard, "it doesn't matter how much you beat the hell out of me. Because we both know where she's gonna be sleeping tonight."

He cracks knuckles and points a now-bruised finger back at my pulped face. "She's a whore and I hope you both die." He puts his collar down--I guess it's only a heat-of-battle sorta thing--and walks away. I step back inside, bruised ribs pounding against autumn air.

"Hey," the bartender calls out, handing me a dishtowel holding some ice, "you okay? That guy really kicked your ass."

"Yeah," I say, putting on my Big Boy Face. "I'm fine." The ice stings the cut Seth left below my eye and I wonder if I look like Rocky. That would be awesome.

"That's what happens when you steal another man's woman." There's some really solid Bartender Wisdom. I smile. "Wait. You did steal his woman, right?"

"Can I get some more ice?"

"Don't dodge the question. You had stolen his girlfriend, hadn't you?"

"It's really hurting," I say, opening my mouth as I dab the towel around my eye like I was putting on mascara. "Do you have any butterfly bandages so I can close this cut?"

"Yeah, sure." He fills a paper cup and slides it across the counter. "But if you didn't actually know her, how'd you know all that?"

"Because every dude that's shitty to women is the exact same."

"But how'd you know all the stuff about the girl?" he asks.

"I didn't know anything about her," I say. "But neither did he." I reach into my back pocket and pull out a twenty, laying it flat on the bar like a prayer rug. "Sorta my fault he didn't close his tab. This cover it?"

"Yeah, you're good."

"I'm headed home to cry manly tears of pain." I give a Boy Scout's salute and he returns a nod.

I get home and slide between clean sheets. I leave the window open and drift off to the wind whistling over the hills. My last thought before I fall asleep is a brief brainstorm of the texts I'd be happy to wake up to.

I wish you could've seen me take a punch.

9 comments:

kade said...

andy. your my hero

bflood87 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andy said...

Well, that's not a very Christian thing to say.

Meg said...

you badass. Now go find Taylor, as in SWIFT. :)

Claire Valene Bagley said...

I know you didn't write this for me, but Seth is Mark and this is exactly what I needed to read today.

Heidi said...

Thank you for condemning dirt-baggery everywhere. I also needed this blog.

Kaitlyn Field - your newest and most enthusiastic fan said...

Don't know how I found your blog but I've read about 15 entries since yesterday! I love your realism, chivalry, romance, and such beautiful language, Andy. must have moooore.

Lachelleandmanasseh said...

I didn't need this blog, but I need a new one. :)

martha said...

another genius piece of writing by the writing god himself, Andy Sherwin.

man, i can't wait till the compilation and the back story and the whole thing, hard bound and on the bookshelves of barnes and noble.