The Pool Players

it wasn’t cold enough for a coat but i rocked one anyway. that’s what i do when the idea of ironing is way more complicated than it needs to be.

brandon was already sitting at the bar, phone in one hand, drink in the other. i swooped in next to him after a quick hug. he smelled of rain and cigarette smoke. i order tamarack with a bourbon & ginger ale chaser. we call that the bradley.

 

Photo courtesy of  Miriam The Bartender.

Photo courtesy of Miriam The Bartender.

i’d been tense all day. i walk around a little edgy already (black thought voice) so i almost didn’t lift my big head off the pillow when i got the text to meet up. but my well documented love for dimly lit establishments and proper bar stool companions prevailed in the end.

one by one the others roll in. when we total five, we decide to move from bar to rainy window seat. we settle in. we talk shit loudly, toast one another, laugh in between sips, coax the owner into changing the music & exchange winks where appropriate. i love these people. they love me back. it’s easy enough to image, but even better knowing that it’s true.

eventually i excuse myself to go the ladies room. cuz you know, i’m a lady. a group of older cat’s playing pool in the back all stop and allow me to pass before they crouch back over their table to line up the perfect shot. it does not go unnoticed that some of them bare a striking resemblance to the men i grow up with, while in the care of my uncles.

funny how the early years left such an impact on me. i can’t remember doctors appointments, phone numbers or what i had for breakfast. but for certain i can tell you the first time i watched my uncle sylvester slide a record out the sleeve, place it on my grandparents record player and then drop the needle.

Photo courtesy of musicstack.com

Photo courtesy of musicstack.com

on the way back to my seat, i catch the eye of one of pool players. even though he gives me the once over he still greets me respectfully. i often trip on how it goes down like that. trust me, i’ve seen and heard some of the thangs being hurled at women in places like this. yet for reasons beyond my scope of understanding, ain’t nobody ever subjected me to such foolishness. of course i still keep my guard up regardless.

back at the window seat, we all chill for awhile longer. when the rain lifts we decide to call it a night. we grab coats, bags, and settle up tabs. one of the bartenders is standing out front. he watches as we step into darkness & exchange goodbyes and part ways.

just as i’m about to make my way towards an adjacent parking lot said bartender stops me. he asks why four grown men would drink with me all night and then not walk me to my car. i do not answer. truth is, i hadn’t even noticed. the longer i exist alone, the easier it has become not to expect anyone to do anything for me unless i ask them for it and i didn’t ask anyone to walk me to my car.

the bartender steps back points inside to the pool players and announces that they’d pulled him aside earlier and asked that he make sure i leave escorted.

okay okay, lemme stop lyin. what he actually said was they took bets on who would walk me out if one of my friends didn’t. i still don’t respond with anything coherent. i wasn’t tipsy either. just caught off guard.

he talks the entire time it takes to get to my little green car. it’s afterhours and mad people are still curled up in the corners of friday night. others wait for rides, bum change or look for places to grab yet another drink. i pretend not to notice. he mutters something about me not being afraid, then about me always looking like i can take care of myself. it’s then that i finally have something to say.

as i fumble in my bag for keys, i tell him that he just answered his own question. that most everyone i have ever met, has always assumed that i can take care of myself. that for me it has been both a curse and a blessing. i go on to say that those men playing pool understand that even though i might convey strength, i’m still somebodies daughter, somebodies sister or whatever. he nodded his head in agreement and waited for me to drive off.

for the record i don’t think my friends allowed me to walk alone out of rudeness or anything remotely close to that . i just think they haven’t reached that place in their lives where they see in me (or even other women) what the pool players might see. maybe they haven’t lived long enough for all the factors to chime in. but i betcha they will. and me? well, maybe i didn’t ask them to walk me because i have yet to reach that place where i understand that i really don’t exist alone. that it’s okay to ask for whatever it is we think we need from people who love us. but i betcha i’ll get there too.

until then, at the very least, i’ll make sure to park closer to my late night destinations.

– written by dm ( on my lower case steez)