I don't look like this anymore. That's Ok tho...
Last night I went to this bar in Columbus, Ohio, called St. James Tavern. It's one of those neighborhood places where a combination of hipsters and dorks, beer nerds, waitresses from other bars, anyone really, can go to hang out and feel comfortable. It's not a gay bar or a straight bar... it's just a bar. The walls are this warm wood, tight brown carpet on the floor, the specials on tap written in lazy, sloppy letters high above the table we called 'home base'. You can't smoke in bars in Columbus, so it wasn't one of those smoky kinds of places, just this medium low light that gave everything that living room glow. It has a great jukebox, as many of the hipster-ish joints do, although they weren't 'hipster' ten years ago when we discovered them, just... homey. Here, the music is always this nice background level noise, just low enough not to get in the way of conversation, just loud enough...
"What is this?" My friend, Nick, leaned in close, asking that question. He did this a lot that night.
"Pixies, dude. Where is my mind?" I told him softly. Later on, it was "Radiohead, Pyramid song" and "oh wow, this is Nina Simone, Sinnerman " and so on.
When I'd arrived at Nick's house that night I walked in to find him with clippers to his face. He sculpted off one side of his beard, then another. He looked back at me and said. "I should have kept the chops" showing me the mutton chop side-burn he had on only one side of his face.
"You can still leave it."
He laughed, then turned back and removed it. All that was left was his moustache. While I stood there, he shaved it down to a Hitler 'stache and hurriedly wet his bangs and flattened them to the side. I took a photo and we laughed about how Hitler ruined that 'stache forever. No one was going to bring that one back.
He always transforms when he shaves. He's a big, hairy, straight guy who will do almost anything for a laugh. He normally wears a full beard and when he shaves he loses a decade off his age. He's only 32 but bearded he looks 45. His heart is fucking beautiful.
When Adam and Meg picked us up, we had already had a few beers. I'm a small guy so I was already relaxed enough to be talkative. This is a good feeling for me since I clam up in loud bars or crowds. The place wasn't too far from his house - just far enough that we didn't feel like walking. The conversation was more on quick introductions and chatting and we were there before we got much further.
Entering St James felt like walking into the back door on someone's red brick duplex. Small porch, little stone steps, darkened overhang, they didn't even have a sign that I saw. We found our place pretty quickly and got orders in..
We stayed at this smooth, wood table with no chairs at first but we stole empty seats as the night progressed. It was right by this old, refurbished galaga machine. It was close enough to the door and the bathroom so people were always walking back and forth past us.
Of the people there, I only really knew Nick in that group. He was a friend from work with whom I've been trying to cultivate a healthy friendship. Most of my friendships have been the kind that either degenerate into bickering and argument and end over bad booze and cigarettes, or I end up falling in love with them and they push me away or I push them away because the closeness and the wall is too much to bear. His biggest gripe with me was that I waited until he and I had been friends for almost two years before coming out to him. I've explained to him over and over again about the walls I built a long time ago and how strange it is for me to break them down. He still gives me shit. I'm glad I did because his friendship has become pretty important to me.
He spent a long time making certain I was comfortable with his friends before he ventured away - which was really nice of him. He wandered away when I started talking more in depth with Meg, Adam's girlfriend. The conversation started out with food... weird food. They asked me what was the weirdest food I'd ever eaten. I had to say that maybe it was brains and recalled a 'surprise' that one of my aunts had made. Adam chimed in with "fallopian tube", which kind of surprised me, Meg never told me hers as she was far more interested in helping Adam talk about his. They were sweet. I let Adam win but at least he had eaten his weird food voluntarily.
I learned that Meg was an underwear desgner for abercrombie and fitch, and I pressed her with dumb questions on how one made a career out of designing underwear. It had taken her to japan and Paris, and many other places. I was naturally jealous as the only country I had visited had been mexico (Juarez) and that had only been for dinner with an ex boyfriend and his parents.
Thing was that my mind did not create variety for underwear... but, logically, someone had to design them.
"What kind?" I asked. It was a stupid conversation but I was actually fascinated by it at the time. I'm a system administrator and I deal with websites and programming at a law firm. The idea of design in something as basic as an undergarment seemed a surprisingly interesting conversation. My designs were always programmatic, functional logic and I liked building things in my head. Making them useful, saving time. Underwear seemed so .... so mundane, strips of cloth. I understand the concept but I was in a technical mode.
"Bottoms..." she said. "...mostly. I used to do bras and panties, but now I only do bottoms"
"That's odd to me." I said "and I might just be an idiot but there just doesn't seem to be a lot of variety in bottoms." I motioned on the table three times as I said "It seems with men there are boxers, boxer-briefs, and briefs." I thought of others later on but it was too late at that point.
"You have no idea about what women have to deal with."
At that moment, I looked behind her, distracted by a couple standing beside the galaga machine. Two twenty-something guys, both with scruffy, close beards and flannel shirts, hipster clothes, one of them wore a dark cap. They were talking close to each others faces with this need and intensity that was suddenly tangible. Like there was no one else in the place but them. They bubbled with happiness... reunited? Found? or were they just completely in love?
My conversation died down and I just watched them move their faces closer to each other, doing those passionate open mouthed short kisses that were less about tongue than they are about breath. It was beautiful to see that expression... not just in a common place where such a variety of people gathered. It was beautiful because it seemed like this flare of light in that homey, warm wood place. Bright light behind thick honey... waves.
All conversation paused and I grinned, uncertain if I should watch that kind of intimacy so bare - it was like my breath coming out of me. Sometimes that kind of passion can make me feel very empty - mostly out of envy. My walls isolate but I was just warm in that tunnel vision.
"Wow." I said. "They are totally into each other." I nodded behind Meg and she turned and looked.
As she did, the shorter of the two pulled his lover's face to his with both hands as he looked into his eyes. We could see them talking to each other, words sometimes breaking through. Whatever they were saying to each other was making them very happy.
"That is amazing." she said.
I agreed. "Why are they still here?" I laughed and shook my head. "I don't mind, but I feel like an intruder in their shaded little corner." and I did. "They look like they need to be in bed. Like, that's where they are right now, just standing here but... " and I paused. "...in bed."
"They are really cute." She said.
"They're fucking adorable." I said. Can we be cut so deeply by beauty? I think so... sometimes it overwhelms.
They weren't just there making out because I've seen that and sometimes that is just not pretty. You could see these words forming before they stopped them with with their lips. These shared breaths were far more powerful than the kisses. The words were like the music from the jukebox in that I wanted to lean over and ask "what is this?" because i could not make out all the words. I think it was "Let's go someplace public where we can sit there and just want each other" but I'm not sure. But it didn't matter... they were one.
I didn't want to go back to the underwear conversation but I didn't want to intrude on something so intimate in such a public place. I got back to the underwear tho, forcing my eyes back to Meg's friendly face and smiled weakly, feeling my heart break. We were both distracted and our minds weren't into the conversation anymore. I was a little grateful that Nick came back with a fresh beer in his hand. Others wandered in, the conversations changed, more people moved, the two of them vanished in the hustle.
I settled into quiet mode and looked all around the bar. In the a brief moment as I spoke to one of Nick's other friends at my side, the two of them were gone. I felt melancholy but content as I sipped at my new beet. I hoped for them. I don't know what it was that I hoped for. I think it was that the simplicity and emotion they felt never faded.
Nick leaned over at me and asked "What is this song?"
It took me a moment to know what it was. I listened to soft music carefully then I closed my eyes and smiled secretly.
"Frou Frou, The dumbing down of love"
It made me glad of my friends.