A few weeks ago, Geoff and I decided to meet up at a bar after work to catch up on one another’s lives. Neither of us go to bars very often: I can count on one finger the previous times I’d gone to a bar before 9pm, and neither of us are real drinkers, but the concept struck us as “grown up”. We decided on Toad, a bar that is, for me, notorious for squeezing far too many people into far too small a space to play far too loud a gig.
“Holy crow!” I cried as we peeked in the window. “It’s completely empty in there!” Two men sat at opposite ends of the bar, reading newspapers. The bartender was lazily polishing a glass. We wandered inside as if we were entering the Bermuda Triangle, hesitantly ordering drinks and then . . . we sat down at a table. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a table at Toad before. It doesn’t take too many customers to create this problem: there’s probably a grand total of four two-person tables in the place.
“So!” Geoff said, squeaking in his chair. “How are ya, Addy.”
He is the only person in the world who I let call me Addy. It’s a remnant from our very brief dating career, before I felt comfortable enough to be honest with him. It’s funny, the secrets we can choose to keep: to this day I haven’t told him that I prefer to be called by my full name (because it’s my name, and I like it) but a little over a month into our dating I felt comfortable enough to tell him that our relationship was “fun and all” but it wasn’t “going anywhere.” We were in the car and he started talking about getting serious. “Look,” I said, “here’s the thing: you’re always going to be number two for me. I like this other guy a lot. More than you.”
Geoff recently told me that this was the most hilariously blunt thing a girl has ever said to him. “I mean, it sucked,” he said, “but it was great! Like, there was no question after that. You know, I tell that story at parties.”
Personally, I’m just glad that we decided to be friends after the conversation, because I’d have a hard time living with my own callousness if we’d never spoken again. He’s dating a lovely and hilarious woman now, and occasionally the four of us have gone bowling. But lately we’ve all been busy.
“I’m good!” I said. “Things are good. How are you?”
There was a pause, as we both slumped in our chairs and stared listlessly into the distance. “Ah, actually I lied,” I confessed.
“Today was dreadful. Yesterday was too. This week sucked, and last week sucked, and I don’t really see a light at the end of the tunnel. Something needs to change, but I don’t know what. It’s depressing.”
“Hah, no way, Addy!” he laughed. (Here’s the thing with the nickname: it’s a perfectly lovely name. But it’s just not me. I would not turn my head if you called it. So when someone looks into my eyes and addresses me with these foreign consonants, I have to translate, every time. Oh. He means Adrianne.) “I feel the same way. It’s funny how those responses are so auto-pilot, you know?”
God. What sweet relief to find a friend in similar misery! Almost instantly my bad mood evaporated, a weight lifted as if it had never been there in the first place, leaving the muscles relieved but unstrained. We talked about our rotten lives and drank our beer, and we didn’t have to shout over a million sweaty bodies or the sound of drums, and around seven we paid our tab and stumbled outside to get his laundry from the laundromat. It was dusk, because it was early autumn then, and the air was like cider. “This is fun!” I shouted. “No wonder people do this!”
“Seriously!” he said. “Let’s go to the grocery store!”
We cavorted around my neighborhood a little longer, thrilled to be drunk on a single beer while the sun was still up. When he had to go he said what he always says — See ya later, Addy. Oh, I thought, he means Adrianne. And I turned my head.