Two Drunks Leave a Bar…

Nate had barely left for his new job and home in California before he returned for a visit. I was at work when Tina informed me that Nate was picking her up to go out. She said I could meet up with them at the Doghouse when I got done.

I walked into the dive bar, very overdressed in a suit and tie, around 9:30, expecting that everyone would already be there, but I was the first to arrive. I tried calling Tina to see where she was but she didn’t answer. I texted her, “I guess I beat you here” and waited in the lot for nearly an hour before I took another wander around to see if anyone had snuck in yet.

Nate was seated to the left of Tina at the bar. She had a drink before her and he was ordering food.

“There you are,” I said.

“Yeah. We just got here,” she said.

I wondered where they had been all that time, why she didn’t bother getting back to me and where the rest of the expected gang was. It was very noisy and not conducive to conversation. I sat to the right of Tina. She was leaned in talking to Nate, but I couldn’t hear either one of them. After a while, she turned to me and asked if I’d be OK with Nate taking her to his brother’s wedding as his plus one.

I shrugged. “Sure.”

The wedding was in a few weeks, so Nate would be back in Minnesota again, soon. “Can’t get rid of this guy,” I thought, a bit irked. I knew little about him, but I did know he had a one-sided romantic interest in Tina. Despite that, Tina assured me he was harmless and said she’d been very clear that she didn’t like him that way. “He’s just a good friend.”

Amber, and a few of her other friends showed up an hour later. Tina seemed excited to see one of the gang: A guy who I only knew by the moniker, “purple.” It was the name Tina assigned his number when she put it in her phone for reasons unknown. I’d picked up that it was a reference to purple eyeliner that had been applied to him whilst passed out, drunk. When and where, I also didn’t know.

It was Jessie’s birthday so I bought her a shot. Tina hit the floor to dance and Nate followed her, awkwardly dancing around her. He reminded me vaguely of one of those convulsing fan men you sometimes see at car lots and gas stations.

I made an effort at conversing with Amber. She said she was somewhat concerned because she had to work in the morning and was expected to drive the usually sober birthday psychic home, but Jess was getting her drinking groove on.

“Bummer,” I sympathized. “Maybe I could give her a lift back if you need to cut out. I don’t have to work tomorrow. Knowing Tina, we’ll be out late, anyhow,” I suggested. 

Tina and I shot a game of pool and we all chatted in the back of the bar for a while. I was surprised when Tina suggested calling it a night, kind of early. “Are you getting tired?” She asked, “want to get going pretty soon?” I shrugged. I was in no hurry and was willing to follow her lead. After a while, she approached Amber. “Well, we’re going to have to get going. Dan has to work in the morning,” she said apologetically.

I cringed. Why would she lie? Of course, she couldn’t have known that I had just told Amber the opposite.

Amber shot me a quick look. I couldn’t quite read her expression. It was forced, perhaps, or I didn’t understand the subtext. Embarrassment, maybe? “Uh, OK,” she said.

Tina picked up her purse. “I’m just going to say my goodbyes.” She disappeared into the crowd, leaving me and Amber standing awkwardly together. Without further word, Amber wandered off, too. I said a couple quick goodbyes to other members of our group that were nearby, wished Jess a happy birthday again and waited near the door. Tina came up to me saying she wanted to stay later and could get a ride back with Amber. “You can just head back. I’ll meet you there.” She explained that she’d been tasked with helping Amber drag Jess out of the bar at a reasonable time.

Sadly, I recognized Tina’s transparent manipulation. When she was drinking, she thought she was clever. I didn’t know exactly what she was up to, but I knew she was trying to get rid of me and to say it made me uneasy would be an understatement. She was probably used to getting by with a lot of poorly executed lies and manipulations because I was rarely in a mind to question her.

I initially thought her scheming might have something to do with her interest in the “Purple” guy. It didn’t occur to me at the time that it could also have been to do with the decidedly unattractive Nate.

I resolved to stick around and see what I would see.

“No. I’m cool with staying as late as you want. I don’t have anything to do tomorrow.”

“I just figured you weren’t having any fun with my friends and would want to go,” she said.

“No. I’m having a good time. It’s all cool. I can hang in there… Unless you’re just trying to get rid of me, then I certainly could go,” I said with a teasing tone.

“What? No. Of course not,” she said.

I spoke with Amber again about these apparent concerns about Jess being able to leave the bar at a reasonable time. I offered suggestions and assistance.

“No. It’s all cool. We made a deal and I’m going to stay out an extra hour and her friend is going to pick her up at my house so I don’t have to drive her all the way back.”

Mere minutes later, Tina, looking deflated, told me she was ready to go and I drove her home. I was mightily puzzled, but it all makes much more sense in retrospect.

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