Strangers in Bars: Settling or Reaching Too High?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

It was a brutally cold fall evening--the first of it's kind in 2016.  I wanted to attend this monthly festival in the worst way.  Live bands in the street, food and drinks lining the sidewalk.  I'd missed the previous monthly events since moving into the city and I thought I would be able to wrangle this event because it was so close to my birthday and I could guilt people into tagging along.

What I didn't take into account was the possibility that the ridiculously unusual beautiful fall weather that ruined my gorgeous maxi pink skirt birthday outfit (far too warm for pairing that with a black sweater!) just days before would suddenly up and disappear.

In it's place, frigid wind temperatures settled in.  Not only did my friends drop like flies, but as soon as I and the one friend who did pull through left the house, we discovered that the rest of Pittsburgh was locking themselves indoors as well.

A band played as we past them on our way into the first bar of the evening where we stuffed our faces on Buffalo Chicken Dip and Curly Fries.

When we grudgingly agreed to leave the first bar to extend the evening into a second trip, the street was still empty for the most part.

"Kids" in their early 20's swarmed the heated rooftop bar in a variety of costumes.  Richard Simmons, Donald Trumps, Sexy Cats.  Situated perfectly underneath a heater, my friend and I parked it for what I hoped was only a short while longer.  The night was a disappointment and I was ready to call it a night, go home, and cuddle the crap out of my cat.

"Can I sit with you?  I've lost my friends," he said and swiftly sat on my friend's feet.  After exchanging glances that any other non-desperate human being would have identified as a cue to exit stage right, he excused himself from her feet and sat across from me.

I spotted his wedding ring immediately.  Inwardly, I groaned believing him to the be the gutsy wingman to approach two ladies in the wild.

Wrong.  After chatting with him for some time, he admitted he was trying to escape the "friends" he came with.  They weren't really his friends after all but colleagues he was in town with for the weekend.  A few of them tried to insert themselves in the opening he made and talk to my friend and I, but we were quickly able to shoo them away.  This is due, in part, to my friend's less than approachable demeanor.

As the night wore on and our encounter stretched into hours, he told us the tale of his romance with his wife.  High school sweethearts, they'd continued dating through college and married soon after.  He was happy with her, but he made a comment that made my ears perk up:  "I knew when I met her that she's not the type of girl you put on the backburner while you figure yourself out.  I would have preferred to meet her later in life, but I didn't want to risk losing her.  Girls like her are rare."

So, he married her.  He had some regrets in terms of wishing he didn't have to tell someone where he was headed every night.  He wasn't interested in other women, but would have liked to have been able to come home some nights and play video games all evening or grab a drink with his friends and not have to "worry about someone else."

My friend sitting next to me was recently discarded and floating a bit adrift from a bad relationship encounter (I call it an encounter because he didn't really give it a try at a full-fledged relationship).  While speaking with our new friend, her eyes were constantly roaming the bar, searching for someone who caught her eye, someone she could spar with for the evening.

The two tossed insults about other patrons, judging costumes and looks.  I sat back momentarily and eyed both of them up.  He, a man younger than us, was married and, by his own definition, done living.  She was tired of living alone and wanted to make a connection, a real one, with anyone or so she said.  Yet, she tore men down from their appearance, the sound of their voice, or some tiny miniscule thing they disagreed upon meeting them so that she could reject her suitors first.

They were both defining themselves by their relationship status.  He wasn't free and she was too free  I wondered why there were only two options in relationships:  freedom or locked up.  A few times, our new pal utilized the phrase, "The grass is always greener."  But what if I want my own grass to grow?  Why do we spend so much time focusing on who's watering our lawn?

My long-time friend and my friend for the evening were both playing at happiness, desperately trying to convince themselves and strangers that they were perfectly fine in their situations--situations that they, essentially, voluntarily put themselves in.  He was terrified of spending his life alone, so he married the first girl who came along, even if he wasn't convincing in his love for her.   The risk of being alone and never finding someone else was too great.  She wanted the world to believe she was happy and independent, but spent most of her time dissecting her Tinder matches and strangers on the street for relationship potential.

At the end of the night, we parted from our newly-found and now lost forever friend on the corner with a wish to have a nice life.  We walked to our car where she also trekked her way back home.

I sat on my couch and pondered the idea of sneaking into my boyfriend's apartment and wrapping my arms around him.  Instead, I climbed into bed, turned on the electric blanket, and slipped into a very deep sleep.


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