This story takes place many years ago. The bar is packed. It’s a college bar near the main campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Lloyd, my best friend, and I stand at the bar. We have at least fifteen years on most of the kids here. The music the DJ plays is loud but I’m not paying any attention to it.
“Man,” I’m saying to Lloyd, “don’t you wish the Sanctuary was still open?” The Sanctuary went out of business. It’s where I met my wife Caroline. It’s one year since she left me after seven years of marriage.
Lloyd gets this strange look on his face and eyeballs me until I have to look away. “Look, man,” he says. “You may as well forget Caroline.”
“How could she throw away seven years of marriage?”
“You wanted children,” he says. “She didn’t.”
“How do you get over someone you’ve know since college? And what’s so frightening about children?”
“Why do you keep going over and over and over this? She’s not coming back.”
“If I had known she didn’t want children. Why the hell else get married?”
“She wasn’t ready. Give it a rest.”
“You mean she wasn’t ready with me.”
I button up my denim jacket even though I’m not cold or leaving. I turn up the collar on the jacket.
Lloyd says, “Think the DJ has any ELO?”
Lloyd leaves. I go to use the john but young women have taken it over because their bathroom is overcrowded and one of them stands outside the men’s room to keep anyone from walking in on her friend. After I finally get to use the john I end up leaning back against the wall of the DJ’s booth. I put on my aviator’s dark glasses and sip at my new bottle of beer. The dark glasses help to give my age away. A guy wearing dark glasses in a dimly lit bar. But you never know. These kids might think it’s like totally, totally rad. Half of them are probably underage anyway. “Play That Funky Music Whiteboy” by Wild Cherry comes on and the crowd sings along on the chorus. I have to stop trying to look cool and get my back up off the wall and do a little Cabbage Patch.
All the tables have long since been removed. Several young women are dancing on this bench built into the wall. I know one of the women from the Sanctuary. I reach and put a hand on her waist and shout over the music, “What are you doing? What are you doing?” She laughs, and rubs a palm over my left cheek and keeps dancin’. I finish my beer and put the bottle on this little shelf near me. Several other empty bottles are on the shelf, too.
Now one of the women dancing with her girlfriends on the floor in front of the bench beckons me to come join them. They’re all so young. I dance with her. She’s chubby which is okay and can’t keep the beat which is okay, too. After awhile she becomes self-conscious and I realize she had meant for me to dance with the group and not to just single her out. When the music ends she and I say thanks to each other and squeeze both of each others’ hands and on impulse I lean in close and kiss her cheek and she laughs and squeezes my hands tighter. I’m shocked at how good it feels to kiss her cheek and hold her hands. She smells good, too.
“American Pie” comes on and I lean back against the wall and try to look cool again while singing along with the swaying crowd. The kids know all the words.
Finally, it’s very late and the crowd has considerably thinned out. I put away the dark glasses and make eye contact with this one in rimless glasses. She’s older. Maybe thirty-five. Straight light brown hair down to her waist and parted in the middle on the top of her head. Straight out of a Woodstock film clip. This ankle length granny dress belted at a narrow waist. She’s wearing new white Reeboks. No sandles or bare feet here. Time marches on. She dances half sitting on this high stool while facing this bearded, long haired ex-hippie type in blue bibbed overalls. I swear it. He looks like Farmer Brown. A husky Farmer Brown of lineman proportions. The Steelers could do worse although he has this very “mellow” expression on his face. Make love not war. You want a hit of this? What is it? Colombian. Far out!
“Louie, Louie” by the Kingsmen comes on and she stands up and really dances. She can dance. Sex standing up. She looks up lovingly into Farmer Brown’s face. Farmer Brown happily bobs up and down in front of her. She sees me watching her and smiles. I smile.
My ageing flower child is sitting again. While Farmer Brown is looking away she and I make eye contact again, both of us smiling. She has a happy mouth. A happy woman in rimless glasses.
This kid standing behind her leans over and says something. He has a drunken smirk on his face. She jumps up and faces him. Still smirking, he says something else. She slaps him. He punches her in the face and her glasses go flying. Farmer Brown goes after the kid. The bouncers break the fight up. All three are thrown out.
Just before closing, Farmer Brown comes in alone looking for something in the litter on the floor. I walk over to him and say, “Loose something?”
“You were here earlier. That hard ass knocked off her glasses.”
We don’t find them.
A little later I’m walking home past the Cathedral of Learning. A lot of people are walking home or back to their dorms. I live three blocks away. For some reason after the first two blocks I start running. Flat out forty yard dash running. I don’t know why but I’m suddenly very happy. Happy to be alive. This stone I’ve carried around in my chest since Caroline left me doesn’t seem as heavy. I’m running. Running, running, running as if I was a kid again.