Saturday, January 03, 2015

And then tab me out

People like to tell me their stories. Usually,  I don't really give a shit. I stand on one side of the bar and they sit on the other. They pay and I pour. They talk and I appear to listen. They tip and I might pay attention. There's a lot of give and take. A lot of pretend.

Every once in a while, someone tells me something that I haven't heard before.

Something new.

Something shocking.

Something I have to lean in to hear, because it's all they can do to just get it out with half a voice.

The other night...

A regular customer was sitting at the end of the bar. Barely anyone else was in. He's always been a loud, boisterous individual. Kind of tough. Works in construction. Laughs loudly. Talks loudly. Drinks a lot and fast. We got to talking about kids. I know his wife had two when they got together- later in life- a second marriage for both and he speaks of her kids often. It occurred to me I've never heard him talk of his own kids- so I asked if he had any.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't ask a personal question like that. Ordinarily, I couldn't care less. But I did ask the question. And as soon as it was out the look on his face suggested it was a mistake.

Big drunken smile vanished.

Eyes cast down.

Uncomfortable shifting of weight.

"No, no kids.
I mean, I was going to have kids. Like, I was going to. I was married before. Eight years. Married young for no reason. Had the house, had the cars, had the whole set up. We were gonna have a kid. I mean to say, she was pregnant at one time."

I thought to myself, oh shit. He's going to tell me she miscarried. What do I say,  what do I say, what do I say...?

"Yeah, yeah,  we were supposed to have a kid I thought. But in the end she didn't keep it"

I nodded, ah, she lost the baby.

"Not really. Not exactly. I mean to say she didn't keep it. She had an abortion. She did it secretly because she just didn't feel ready. I mean that's what I told myself I guess,  because she never did give me a reason."

I said, you were married for eight years and she secretly aborted your baby?

"Yeah. Yeah she did that. I thought we were going to have a child. I wanted kids and she did as well and we were excited. But then she came home one afternoon and said what she had done and I was... I mean... I wished she was dead instead. I left. I walked out the door and she moved down to Cleveland. I just walked out the door and left it swinging. I was drunk for six months"

I said nothing. I stood there, stricken and stunned.

"Now that's some heavy shit, I know. She wanted to reconcile with me years later. She moved back up here. She was back in town. But I can't even look at her. I have no stomach for her. I wish she would have just lied to me because I am haunted now and I've been haunted ever since. I mean, this is over twenty years dead and buried- but I still think about that baby. I still think about that life I created and I had no say and there's no changing it.
Anyway, no. No. I never really had any kids other than that.
I'll... uh...
I'll take a double scotch neat when you get a sec, Hon. And then tab me out."