I took my friend’s hand as she led me through the thick, swaying crowd to the bar. “I hate waiting,” I whined a few minutes later with my head back. The bartenders, as usual, were totally slammed.
“There’s your military boyfriend.” My friend nudged me, and I turned to my left to find a young man in camo staring at me intensely. “I think I’ll go with the tequila like you suggested.”
“I knew that would be your alcohol tonight,” I said confidently.
“Excuse me, may I buy you two ladies a drink?” Military Guy made his move. It was literally the first time that had ever happened to me, but the luster quickly degraded into panic as his extraordinarily tall friend came up behind me to introduce himself to my friend. I suddenly felt cornered; trapped into the obligatory “So who/what/how are you?” line of conversation. The lights were brighter. I felt disoriented.
“I’m super panicking right now,” I whispered to my friend.
“We don’t have to do this,” she said supportively.
“I’m sorry… we have to go,” I apologized as we began pushing our way back through the crowd toward the band and second bar. I wasn’t swayed by the crestfallen look on Military Guy’s face.
We were able to get our drinks without incident inside, and found a quiet and private room to lounge in.
“Something just wasn’t right,” I told her as I sipped. “Something with his vibe.”
“He’s probably been in combat,” she said sadly.
“Aw, sad. I think they are just trying to get laid. I do not imagine meeting my next love at a bar.” I meant it, too. I loved coming to our place on the weekends. It was a moody, energetic backdrop for the stoned mind, with live music and small twinkling lights everywhere. It also happened to be a venue where I was consistently hit on, which was normally an ego-booster even though I didn’t take any of it seriously. When I was high and extra observant, the young, horny, drunken crowd felt distinctly predatory, like it did this night. I was glad for the solitude of the room, and sank into the sofa. Unfortunately, the peace did not last long. Military Guy and his giant of a friend maneuvered into the armchairs next to us. We turned to each other and made a decision to be nice. They had been to Iraq, we remembered.
OG Military Guy slid onto the sofa next to me, his leg touching mine. I tried to make conversation, but he seemed not to know how to hit the ball back. My friend turned to me quickly, and whispered, “Mine is only 19.”
Fuck that. “How old are you?” I demanded of Military Guy.
“23,” he responded.
“Aw. This,” I gestured between us, “isn’t going to happen. We can be friends though.”
He looked sad, but more interested. “Why?” he asked, leaning closer to me.
“I’m 30. It’s not going to happen.”
He looked shocked. “I thought you were my age.”
I smiled. “I get that a lot, thanks.”
“Well, you don’t have to worry…” he began. “On my nineteenth birthday, my friend invited me over and I got hammered. She said I had to stay the night because I was too drunk and I woke up in bed with her mom.”
I just looked at him. And then I asked my friend if she wanted to dance, and we made a hasty exit. They followed us to the dance floor, so we went the opposite direction and went to the pizza parlor. A homeless woman rounded out the night when she threw a pepper shaker at us, and we went home.
Being single can be so fucking weird.