New Year, Same Ear

I took my usual position on New Year’s Eve at the bar with an empty stool of opportunity next to me. A huge benefit of living on the left coast is getting to watch the ball fall at 9 pm, then leaving before the DUI checkpoints open. Sure enough, a lovely specimen bellied up to order. I noticed the ring immediately and planned my retreat.

“Oh, hi. Happy New Year,” she started.

“Yes. Happy New Year.”

I noticed she came from a booth behind me with a man and another couple. Figured I’d preempt the inevitable “my husband” mention.

“Do you and your husband come here often?”

“What? Who? Oh, that asshole.”

I opened the can of regret. She ordered her wine and took a seat. Bar therapy began.

“He’s been fucking cheating on me for years.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. I found a pair of running shorts and they weren’t mine.”

“Maybe they were his?”

“Pink.”

“Oh.”

“Then, I found a Valentine love letter.”

“Pink, too?”

“Red. And, before you ask, I can’t leave him because I make like three times more than him.”

“Well, you can leave him. It’s just expensive.”

“He’s also an FBI agent.”

“Christ.”

“Yeah. We got into a fight and he shot my dog.”

The natural impulse here is to determine if she is fucking with me and, if not, begin backpedaling by bringing up my gay lover.

“He shot your dog?”

“Yeah. Don’t worry. It lived. But still, that’s so fucked up, right?”

“Right. He didn’t get in any trouble for that?”

“Nope. He’s all connected and stuff. I hate him, but there’s nowhere to go. I can’t even meet anyone because he finds out.”

“Well, sure. He’s probably got you bugged.”

At this point, I looked over my shoulder. The agent was staring future bullet holes through this dog. I smiled and gave him the gayest jazz fingers wave I could muster. He didn’t flinch.

“I don’t know why I’m bothering you with this. I’m sorry. You’re sweet to listen. What’s your name?”

“Um, my name is Joe.”

“Well, Joe, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Hey, you know the bartender, don’t you? We’re going out one of these weekends. You should meet us.”

“Ah, yes, definitely. Maybe you should …”

“… get back to my asshole. I know. Fuck. We’ll meet again soon, right?”

“Right.”

She took her wine and left as her dog terminator scanned me. I paid my tab and abandoned a half-glass of bourbon — not my modus operandi. Love is best without bulletproof vests.

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