Weekends she works at the more-stately bar 5 blocks down the street whose menu has an unfortunately grilled-cheese-shaped hole in it. It was nestled in the basement of a gothic leviathan of a building encrusted with personality-plus gargoyles. The way in is a set of stairs that smacked of “servants entrance” off to the side of a sweeping grand staircase that never fails to make her feel as if she is trespassing and underdressed while having the audacity to do so. And while her place of employment never fails to stock her favorite pear ale, AND boasts a unique table version of shuffleboard at which she excelled, AND lets her DJ an amply stocked jukebox with a bottomless trove of free quarters gifted by her boss – despite all this – during the week she could always be found at the aforementioned dive. It was exactly a two and a half minute walk from her apartment – which makes a difference when blizzards are a common occurrence October through March. Even more so because she was often blazed and when she was high she had a perpetually plummeting tolerance for temperatures even fractionally below 60.
But that’s not the real reason. The real reason was Max. Max the bartender. Seriously?! She’d sometimes admonish herself in disgust. There is nothing more cliche than an alcoholic infatuated with her bartender. For awhile she had done a good job at convincing herself that it was a simple matter of convenience because when you endear yourself to bartenders you get a lot of free booze. So her appreciation of his affable Puerto Rican-ness could arguably be written off as strategic. But later she was certain she’d desire him even if he were a teacher or a contractor or a pharmacist. OK, bad example – pharmacist – because then she’d no doubt be scoring serious pills. Heaven help her if she ever marries someone with a prescription pad.
She had just turned 21 and was happy to have discovered that her ass felt most at home on a bar stool. But for months after an initial interested appraisal, Max’s goings on didn’t even register. She was busy settling important matters over gin and tonic – happily giggling through breezy philosophical debates, bemoaning Karl Marx’s intractable manifesto and vehemently refuting the high regard enjoyed by Slaughterhouse Five to her companions’ chagrin. In her first reconnaissance of Max the bartender she found cause to hate the very concept of being even remotely relatable to the flock of tinged-with-desperation girls hard-pressed to get him into bed. She was more than willing to execute complex and painful looking contortions to avoid ever being mistaken for one of those cliche vapid groupie-esque women whose cookie cutter flirtations made her skin crawl. So in a 85% subliminal decision, she contorted herself into unattracted and he got categorized under: ignore. But after a winter of enjoying an engrossing rolodex of friendships lubricated with everyone’s favorite new beer – Fat Tire, certain observations started wheedling into her notice:
For one, the supremely tactful way he handled all those women was astounding. How any person could appear so unflappably good-natured with seemingly no guile under that kind of constant bombardment was beyond her and once she became aware of him strategically navigating and deftly enduring, as opposed to basking, in the attention she inadvertently started paying more him attention…