Sickboy sits and scribbles away at the latest installment of 101 Ways To Tell The Same Uninteresting and Hackneyed Tale. More formulaic drivel from the mind of a sorry sot. Artsy intro. Barroom banter. Insert some sappy sensitive stuff. Wrap it up with a witty line. Pure puke. Sickboy is a hack and a criminal, sentenced to a life of scribbling for violating the First Law of the Drinker’s Code: Do not fall in love with the bartender. She is just doing her job. But Sickboy has never been one to follow the rules. He’s got a red stain on his sleeve because of what he wears there. The boy has no shame.
Coast to coast. A thousand bars. A million drinks. More pretty faces than he could ever recall. Sickboy is no ordinary drunk. He is an extraordinary drunk, well versed in the trappings of the tap room. He should have known better than to let himself feel. He’s not sure how it happened, but now it’s time to let go.
“Sickboy! What’s up! You never come by any more.”
Jenny is genuinely surprised. A few months ago Sickboy committed himself to never again bellying up at the bar during Jenny’s shifts. The bar can be a bewildering place for a simple soul like Sickboy. Sometimes its hard to know what’s real. Given his feelings for the girl, he saw no point in getting all twisted up inside when he just wanted to sit and stew and sip a brew. Knocking them back with Jenny behind the bar, Sickboy would always wonder where the job ends and the girl begins. No one needs that kind of torture, especially not Sickboy.
“Hi Jenny. I’m not staying. Just poppin’ in to say Hello.”
“How sweet! What’s new with you?”
“The ususal. Actually, do you have a minute?”
“For you, Sickboy, I’ve got two.”
Sometimes in life there are perfect moments, unforgettable moments, when everything seems to go just right. This is not one of those moments. Sickboy stammers.
“Yeah, Jenny, ummmm…you know I like you, right?”
Jenny smiles and nods her head reassuringly, her comforting eyes fixed on Sickboy’s face as he nervously continues.
“Well, do you think I might ever see you outside of the bar? I would… uhhhh… I mean, I would like to… uhhhh…I’d like to get to know you better.”
It seems like a simple question, but for a mindfucked overthinker like Sickboy it just never gets any easier. It’s not so much a fear of rejection. Sickboy eats rejection the way a fatty eats ice cream – often and so quickly that brain freeze kicks in. Rejection is not a problem. The problem is that Sickboy is just too painfully aware of his own impracticality. Sure, he can be sweet, but he also carries a bus pass in his wallet to get him to and from work each day. He is perpetually Ramen Noodles broke, and his apartment is furnished only with the same cardboard boxes that he used to move in a year and a half ago. He has a freakishly large ovoid mass for a head and a grill so scary that it makes little kids cry. His job makes him miserable, and his only hobbies are barstool surfing and Beaminous poison intake. The guy is in no shape to be professing his love. No doubt Jenny deserves better.
Momentarily surprised, Jenny collects herself and manages to be both graceful and direct in her response. Heavy on the direct
“I don’t think so, Sickboy. You are such a nice guy. You’re like the sweetest customer I have ever known. But I just don’t see you like that. We’re friends though. And you make me laugh. I love that about you.”
A simple shiny sword in the chest would have sufficed. But this rusty dagger is killing the boy.
“Right on, Jenny. Well, I had to ask. I can’t help feeling that there’s something good going on here. I know it’s your job and all, but you just shine so bright…I can’t help wanting to tell you all the time.”
Sickboy is reeling and suddenly he realizes why Jim Beam is his best friend.
“Oh, and Jenny, I’m sorry about the online scribblin’ stuff. I hope that wasn’t too uncomfortable for you. It’s not like anyone read it anyway. I can’t really explain it. I just really needed to get that stuff out. You have no idea how much shit Sevrin and Bobby D. give me for falling for a bartender. You know those guys have been in the business for a long time. And Chloe? She’s ruthless. It’s hard being a joke. But the thing is, when I look across the bar at you, I don’t see the bartender. I never did. I just see this amazing girl, this beautiful and amazing girl who always makes me smile. And then when I see you off the clock, I’m so nervous and worried about being… uhhhh….a burden or something, like some guy who just doesn’t get it. Anyway, I have a ridiculous crush on you, and I had to ask. I’m pretty sure I’m in love with you. So… uhhhh… I’ll see you around.”
Never in the history of men and women has a more awkward exchange taken place. And it’s too bad because Sickboy truly loves Jenny. Bar. Church. Supermarket. Bookstore. Coffee Shop. The setting is irrelevant. The feeling is real.
Sickboy braces himself for one more painful puncture wound.
“I’m glad you came by. Don’t be a stranger.”
Graceful. The girl is absolutely graceful.
With his tail comfortably tucked between his legs, Sickboy mopes out on to Newport Avenue . Deep down he probably always knew that Jenny would never take him seriously, but he had allowed himself to hope. Relinquishing that hope was painful, but only for a moment. Sickboy is resilient. As he crosses Bacon Street, his swagger already begins to return. He has made a friend who he loves, and he doesn’t care who knows it.
Half way between Bacon and Cable, the gravitational pull of Pac Shores begins to take hold of Sickboy. The next time Sickboy walks past The Shores without stopping in for a pop it will be the first. The joint is inescapable.
In the comforting darkness of the bar Sickboy is not quite surprised to find Bobby D. sipping down some JD and watching the Lakers game on TV.
Bobby D. is glad to have the company.
“Sickboy! Yay-yeeeeah! A Beam for my boy! Where you headed?”
Sickboy takes a seat at the bar, one stool to the left of Bobby D. Shots beware.
“I’m on my way home. I just stopped by The ‘Shine to drop something off for Jenny.”
“Jenny? Look at you, big man! What did you bring her?”
“Nothing really. Just my broken heart and some awkward conversation.”
“Sounds like you. You OK?”
“Yeah, man, I’m alright. I love that girl and I had to tell her.”
“You told her? What did she say?”
“She said it’s not for her. But she said it perfectly. You know how she is.”
“Awww, fuck, man. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry. I feel good. You know I subscribe to the ninety percent rule.”
“Seriously, Sickboy, that is total bullshit. Ninety percent? Fuck that!”
“No. I mean it. Ninety percent of the fulfillment in any good relationship comes from the knowledge that the other person knows how much you care. If people could just figure that out for themselves and stop searching for so much in the other ten percent, we would all be a lot happier. Anyway, she knows. So I’m OK. “
“You’re really not hurting at all?”
“No, man. I’m good. Just like broken bones, a broken heart grows back stronger. I’ve had my share of heartache, and I learned a lot from it. If I only loved the girls capable of loving me back, then that would be a condition. And I’ve learned to love unconditionally.”
“Dude, you are so full of shit sometimes.”
“Yeah, I know. Right now I’d rather be full of Beam. Salud, my friend.”