Last night I went to the small town down the road where I lived briefly after separating from the Ex. My main reason for going was to visit a master gardener who was having an open house and plant division sale. She has beautiful gardens and she had split some of her perennials and was selling them for unheard of bargains ($2 for a mature yellow & white siberian Iris? Come to mama.)
After taking in the glory of her garden, I stopped by the local dive that was across the street from where I'd lived for that short period of time. You know the place - just a dark little hole in the wall where the locals go. A place where everybody knows your name - if you're a local. I went there because it was Johnny Love's birthday and I had a gut feeling he would be there.
Johnny Love is one of the boys. I've been sending news about our "girls day out" to him c/o this local dive for several years, and for the past few years, I've even sent him a birthday card, care of the local dive. He bar tends there occasionally, so I knew he would get the card. Even if he didn't, he would have gotten the card.
This is a really small town. Everyone in that bar knew everyone else and their business. They all went to the same high school. They know who dated who and who slept with who and who cheated on who and who got arrested last week. They are, I decided last night, family. They all knew it was Johnny Love's birthday, because it was on the calendar. Yes, they have a calendar upon which all the regulars write their birthdays. Just another reason to celebrate and buy a round for the bar.
In some ways, it was really sweet. The small circle I was drawn into all knew each other and really cared about each other. It was the first time I had met Megan and Kathy, but obviously they've known Johnny Love for years and years. They were the ones who went out shopping to help him furnish his crappy apartment. ("There I was in Wal-Mart, on the phone with Johnny asking what kind of pillow he wanted - soft? medium? firm? And he says, 'I don't know - grab your left breast and get me one like that.' So there I am in Wal-Mart, squeezing my boob and saying no, too soft - better go with the medium.")
I had a beer, and then magically a second one appeared. It seemed as if we were all drinking for free. There was money on the bar, but the bartender didn't seem to be touching it. At one point though, someone did need to ante up, and Johnny Love pulled a wad of bills out of his pocket and peeled off four twenties. He must have cashed his paycheck. And there he was spending it in the bar. And suddenly I felt sad.
I never finished the second beer.