“Men At Work are from Australia! Everyone knows that!” she shouted at her friend.
Any other day, I would have taken this as another drunken bar table debate and let it lie. This one was different. This one rang out in my ears from across the bar, partly because there were only six people in the bar itself and partly because the woman yelling it had an Australian accent.
I looked over at, Lindsay the bartender and nodded my head toward the two friends. By this point, Lindsay has seen me in some pretty compromising states, so she just rolled her eyes and shrugged. I took that as a green light.
“Excuse me,” I interrupted, “couldn’t help but hear what you just said. Did…did one of you not know that Men At Work were from Australia?”
They both laughed.
“Well, this one said tried to tell me that nothing good ever happens in Australia,” explained the woman with the Australian accent. “So I started listing off good things from Australia.”
“If you don’t mind my asking, what else was on that list other than Men At Work?”
“Kangaroos!” she exclaimed.
“Is that it?”
“What more do you need?”
“Okay, I guess that’s a good point!” I said. “Also, hi. I’m Charlie.”
“Well hello there,” she said, getting off her bar stool. “I’m Nicole, and this is my friend, Jess.”
Nicole was dressed in athleisure from head to toe. Nikes, tight black leggings, and a dry-fit top that clung to her body as she walked over to the ATM for more cash. Jess was in a different category. She was wearing skinny jeans with a black Motorhead tee shirt. Both of them had empty shot glasses in front of their bar stools.
When Nicole got back from the ATM, we shared a round of shots. And then another round. And then another. Not to downplay Jess, but I found Nicole incredibly interesting. She kept asking me what “people my age” were doing on the weekends. She owned a catering and event planning business and asked if I knew any clients or people getting married. She would talk about “when she was my age,” to the point where I was starting to wonder some things myself.
“Hey, Nicole…how old do you think I am?” I asked.
“Well, you can’t be older than 22, right?” she replied.
“I just turned 24, actually.”
“Oh gosh, you’re, like, a baby! This is a fun game. How old do you think I am?” I hate playing this game, and when I do, I usually make a joke out of it and go extreme high or extreme low.
“I’m putting you at the same. 22 years old.”
“Oh, honey. I’m 45, turning 46 next month.”
This changed the dynamic of the conversation drastically. Not that I was intimidated, I just didn’t know what to talk about! We were in such different points of our life that we had barely anything in common. So I did what any normal person would do in a situation like that: I ordered another round of shots and asked her how she ended up in this bar.
“Well, I had a really rough day with Jake—he’s my son—and I needed a drink. But everything should be good now.” She paused and looked up at me. “You know, I just live up the street. Would you want to come over? I’ll reimburse you for all of these drinks…with more drinks.”
I was drunk and trying to process everything that was happening. In the last 30 seconds, I found out that this woman was a mother, lived down the street, invited me back to her place, and wanted to keep drinking with me. Had I not been this drunk, I probably would have said no. Shit, I probably should have said no.
“Yeah, that sounds good.”
And so we walked. She told me more about her business and how she had a big event coming up that would require a larger kitchen. We stood outside of her classic Chicago town home as she played with her keys, trying to unlock the door. As we entered, she said something that I will not soon forget.
“I’m so happy you came back, Mike is going to love you.” Oh god.
“Who…who is Mike?” I asked, “Is that you son?” I hoped she said no. I hoped that she was talking about a pet dog or pet turtle or, shit, I would have settled for a pet scorpion at that point.
“Oh, no, not my son,” she said, giving me a glimmer of hope. “Mike is my boyfriend.”.
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