The bar was not crowded but soon would be. The after-work crowd always
arrives at 5:15: 20-something men in colored shirts and black pants
with gel in their hair, initially talking about interest rates and
mutual funds but eventually collapsing into not-yet tired stories of
pranks done at their fraternities when they were in college. For every
10 white men there were 2 Asian men and one black guy
The women always arrived between 5:45 and 6:00. The happiest ones were
tall and blond and slim with big teeth, and the other women tried to
be tall and blond as well. For every 10 white women there were 3 Asian
The bartender had an Irish accent and looked like his nose had been
broken a few times. The waitress was a little heavy with a large
Outside, a smelly middle-aged man in filthy clothes and scraggly beard
panhandled for change from the people entering the bar. Down the
street a group of teenage boys in baggy pants and baseball caps
shuffled along, staring at the passers-by.
HE sat at the window in the bar, watching these people that he had
seen in a hundred different places around the country, seen thousands
of times in movies and on TV. HE was waiting for HER. SHE was out
there somewhere. HE existed, and HE couldn't be alone in the world. It
wasn't possible that everyone on the planet fit the roles that
Hollywood writers called "2-dimensional background characters". THEY
must wake up in the morning with the intention of molding themselves
more closely into the pre-imagined appearance of whatever role they
had selected for themselves. At the mall THEY buy clothes with
idealized versions of their own stereotypes as role models.
Everyone was a model of competitive conformity; who had the most
piercings, in the oddest locations? Who knew more about the characters
in Star Trek or Harry Potter? Who had the biggest, flattest
television? The MP3 player with the most songs? The most obscure
songs? Who had the biggest SUV? The smallest carbon footprint? Who
could brag about the shortest commute? Who could brag about the
longest? Who had gotten the least sleep last night?
But HE knew that SHE was different. SHE wouldn't care about any of
that. SHE was her own person, just as HE was; not above anything, just
simply not part of it. SHE would enjoy music as he did, not judging
anyone or anything, just like HIM. Although, HE had to admit, HE was
being rather judgemental.
"Another one?" The waitress cleared the table as he nodded and swigged
the last drops from his glass. He had been sitting in the same chair
for hours and stretched his legs and back. HE was at least 45, maybe
50. SHE was in her early twenties, although was mature for her age. HE
was a little short for a man, with hair somewhere between thinning and
bald. He wore jeans and sneakers with a dark-colored jacket. HE hadn't
shaved in long enough that he could start calling it a beard. HE
wasn't obese, but his paunch got a little bigger each year. SHE was
stunningly beautiful, but thought of herself as homely. SHE was
brilliant, although not quite as smart as HE was.
HE was a drunk.
SHE was real, but would never talk to him again.
HE was alone.