Good to the Last Drop
Andy was my bartender. I guess he was OUR tender, but I was the only one with a drink, so I claimed him as mine. Well, I was the only one with a drink between the two of us. We were at the bar along with a nondescript couple to my right and the author and billy goat pair to our left (that’s a different story). I’m too short to see the full TV above the small cluster of beer tap handles, yet I got sucked into a lengthy cancer commercial that almost took my breath away. Yes, I needed a mission; I needed to contribute to something. I wanted to help others. In reality, what was really happening, is that Andy was the philanthropist in this venue. He was helping us all.
Wow, he hit me hard with a margarita too strong for my retreated tastes. My love-tequila-as-tequila-loves-to-play-me emotion began to initiate a civil war between my brain and my heart. The place was packed with diners all around us; this scenario came to the foreground each time the front door opened, blasting the briskness of the biting air around to our corner of the bar.
The door opened another time only to reveal a small, old man, with a bigger than life presence. He proudly marched through the front dining area to secure a seat at the bar. He whisked the Korean War Veteran hat from his head and settled it on the countertop, as it he was delicately returning it to a platform within an award case. The brim of the hat turned out, so he could see the stitching on its crown. Andy engaged him in introductions, yet he was quickly shot down by a humorous tongue and an order for a Beefeater gin on the rocks. The vet sat back in his chair with a deep breath, taking in the scenery.
He laughed at the two men to his right. He gave the couple to his left shit for leaving, almost making them rethink their decision to go home. He wanted their seat anyway; it was a better view of the bar and dining area. He shifted his personal items around the corner to the next seat down. I chuckled. He heard me. Or maybe the tequila heard me and I was a little embarrassed. Our food came - my fajitas taking up at least two seats - and he commented on the size of my meal. The tequila told me to eat all my food for spite, but my head was still a bit in the game. I took the high road by opting for the to-go box. I couldn’t get my mind off this man. I wondered about his backstory. I wondered his name. I wondered if he had a lady at home, or if he ever had a lady at all. I thought about what he may have been through, where he lived, if he was lonely.
My grandfather has been long gone, but I think about him frequently. I guess, to a point, this ball buster of a man reminded me of him. Maybe I wished that it was he sharing the bar with me. Perhaps he was.