b Papa Dog's Blog: Only You

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A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Only You

Every now and then I find myself playing out a scene in real life that feels as though it was contrived for a movie; usually an independently produced comedy, but rarely a really good one. I’ll hear dialogue that’s too preciously arranged to come spontaneously from a live human being or see a turn of events just too filled with symmetry and irony to have occurred by chance.

Example: One day about ten years ago I was having a late afternoon drink by myself in an otherwise empty bar. I must have been just having a Coke because I had (and still have) very strict rules with myself about drinking alone. If the bartender had offered to join me, I would have had one with him, but I didn’t really like the guy, so I didn’t bother. I just read my book in the dim bar light and sipped my Coke and had a place to sit out of the sun while the time passed.

A bag lady tottered into the bar and because the place was completely empty and she had her choice of roosts, she sat down next to me. She looked old to me, but you never really know with bag ladies. The life adds years the way cameras add pounds. She set down her bags and dumped a bunch of change on the counter and demanded a drink, which the bartender reluctantly poured. I figured since she was drinking I could too, so I ordered a seven and seven.

She grinned toothlessly at me and asked me my name. I told her. “Jerry?” she again. No, not Jerry. I repeated my name. “Jerry?” she asked again. Again I said no and again I said my name. “Jerry?” she asked. Three times is my limit, so I said, “Yeah, okay, sure, I’m Jerry.” “My name’s Pat,” she told me. “Hi, Pat.”

“You look like a nice guy, Jerry,” she said, her voice an unholy cross between Carol Channing and Tom Waits. “Well, thanks,” I said. “I try to be a nice guy.”

Just then Gary, the bartender, intervened. “How many times I got to tell you not to bother the customers?” he said to her. “Get the hell out of here.”

“I’m not bothering nobody!” Pat squawked. She turned to me. “Am I bothering you, Jerry?”

“She’s not bothering me,” I admitted. Gary gave me a dirty look. I guess I was undermining his authority, but fuck him. She had money for drinks and had as much right to be there as anyone. Gary went away, grumbling, and Pat and I clinked our glasses. We “cheersed,” as the kids were saying back then.

Pat looked over a the jukebox, sitting quiet by the door. She rummaged through her change and slid a few quarters over at me. “Will you play me a song, Jerry?” she asked. I hopped to my feet, always ready to be gallant at a moment’s notice. “Sure. What do you want to hear?” She showed me her gums again. “Anything. I just love music.”

I took her quarters and went over to the jukebox, and flipped through the choices. She had only given me enough for three songs, so I wanted to chose well. There was a collection of Top 40 hits from the 50s, which seemed about right. Even if it turned out she was only in her early 30s, she didn’t seem likely to take offence. I dropped in the quarters and made the selection.

I sat back down and took a sip and the song started up. Her eyes lit up from the opening notes. When she heard the few words, she started to laugh-cough. Then came the chorus, and damn if she didn’t sing along, gazing adoringly at me as she did: “Only you can make this change in me/For it’s true, you are my destiny/When you hold my hand/I understand the magic that you do/You’re my dream come true/My one and only you.”

It would have been a lovely moment had she not been bellowing at the top of her lungs in a voice that sounded like a car accident. Gary slapped his rag down and the counter and steamed over. “I told you! Get the fuck out of here!” he yelled.

“I’m going! I’m going!” She slammed her drink, scooped up her change, gathered her bags, and tottered out, singing as she went. At the door, she stopped and said, with great dignity, “Thank you for the song, Jerry.”

I finished my drink alone, listening by myself to Town Without Pity and Beyond the Sea. It’s funny – Gary obviously knew Pat well enough to be sick of her, but I went to that bar all the time and never saw her before that or ever again.


Blogger ArakSOT said...

Hey, great posts of late. Good lunchtime reads.

10:28 AM  

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