“I’m sorry,” she said after walking up to me with her head down. “I want to be with someone else. He’s a guy I had a crush on in high school.” Then she turned and walked back to her car. There was no hug goodbye, there was no moment when I could cry on her shoulder, there wasn’t even a chance to fight.” I was d-u-m-p-e-d. So I went to the bar.
I’m not going to tell you I’ve been in the bar every night since then but I do know that more times than not the first High Life is opened for me before the door closes behind me. I’m telling you all of this to help you understand how hungover I was when I woke up Saturday and realized that Pinecone’s birthday was the next day and I had promised to take him out to eat.
I dialed his number still in my boxers and didn’t even think about the possibility of Sheila answering. “Hello,” my little soon-to-be ten- year- old friend said.
“Birthday. Lunch. Today. What do you want?” I blurted into the phone.
“Well it’s nice to hear from you again,” Pinecone said and it sort of dawned on me that we were switching roles in life. Not really that he was getting that much older, but more so that I was regressing in maturity. “What do you think about jalapeno cornbread?”
“I know the place,” I blurted out again. And after arranging the time and whatnot I showered, brushed my teeth, and took one big shot and one little shot of whiskey; just to get my head straight.
It was crowded when Pinecone and I got to the restaurant but I slipped the hostess two dollar bills and she found us a booth in the back. She looked at me kinda like she knew me from reading the paper but it could have been that I had something in my teeth. The mirrors were still just as dirty as when I had been in last and the paintings were extra quirky.
The waitress was polite when she came over and told us her name and asked us what we’d like to drink. Pinecone ordered a sweet tea and looked over at me like he was making sure it was ok to order that. I nodded and told the young lady I wanted a water. She turned and started to walk away so I had to call out, “and a Heineken!” She turned back toward us and had a look on her face like something had just clicked.
“Are you Pinecone?” the waitress asked after walking back to our table. Pinecone shook his head yes but I could tell he didn’t understand. “I’ve been reading about you in the paper, you’re kind of a celebrity in here.” When the waitress walked away again I noticed that she had a really nice ass and I wondered if she ever wore glasses.
“Have you been writing about me or something?” Pinecone asked while we waited on our food. If I hadn’t been emotionally raw from my recent break-up I probably would not have been as honest with him as I was. Pinecone thought it was strange that I had been writing about him in the paper but he shrugged it off like any soon-to-be ten-year-old would. Then he changed the subject and asked me how the toothpicks got in the ceiling. I told him you have to stick it in your straw, lean way back, and blow as hard as you can. He tried a few times but failed. I knew how he felt and so I ordered another beer and while he went to piss I went to the bar and took a shot. I really missed Sheila and thought if I got drunk enough I could look at Pinecone out of one eye and see a little bit of her.
Pinecone started devouring his meatloaf as soon as it showed up. I had ordered country fried steak but really I just wanted the gravy; and this time I remember to order an extra side of it. The waitress appeared cuter and cuter each time she came over to the table and each time she walked away I confirmed her nice-assedness.
After our plates had been cleared and I had just took the first sip of a new Heineken I heard some mumbling in the back. When I turned toward the noise I saw several waitresses coming our way. The nice-assed one was carrying a giant brownie with a little candle in it. I wondered if she was saving her cupcake for me. They were singing “Happy Birthday” and I was overcome with the emotion they were sharing. When they finished our waitress said, “we read in The Local Voice that your birthday was coming up. We didn’t know if we missed it but we thought we’d bring this over anyway.” Pinecone said thank you and blew out the candle.
But I didn’t like that these waitresses were showing me up and I was drunk and heartbroken so I jumped up on the table and started singing Happy Birthday all by myself. Nobody really clapped when I finished so I started in on Achy Breaky Heart, but no one clapped. Then a toothpick fell from the ceiling and landed in Pinecone’s eye. It bounced off and he wasn’t hurt, but right then I knew two things. First, I’m not the kind of guy that needed to be looking after kids and second, we needed to get the hell out of there. I pulled sixty dollars out of my pocket, threw it on the table, jumped off the table and grabbed Pinecone’s arm. We were halfway to the door when I looked at him and asked, “Are you old enough to drive yet?” and he looked at me like he didn’t recognize the man I had become. But at least I was still a good tipper because cheating this town’s service workers is a shameful offense.
This is part 11. To read part 10, click here.
This article was originally printed in The Local Voice #92 (published October 29, 2009).