War Stories

February 18, 2008


“So how did you meet your wife?” The woman asked.

“That’s actually a pretty funny story…” he began, “… I’m originally from San Diego and moved to Chicago for school. She was a bartender there but she knew some people who were from San Diego from her job…”

I took a swig of my beer and glanced at the woman next to me at our table. She seemed interested, but only really in that kind of way that you pay attention when you otherwise would be sitting in silence with a group of people you only really sort of know.  

I looked the other way and saw couples all over the place. The dining room was dusky and what dim lighting was available refracted against the red liberally used all over the place.  I wasn’t sure if everything was red because it was St. Valentine’s Day or because it was an Italian restaurant.  Everyone at the table was trading war stories of love, or something like it. We were all textbooks examples of steps of the relationship latter. The happily married one, the one with the pain-in-the-ass spouse but overall happy, the divorcee, and the single guy. Instead of being with someone we might want to be with today or simply being alone, we were with each other on a business trip. I had ordered Fettuccine Alfredo and a Peroni… I thought that a good consolation prize.

“… and the real kicker is that we BOTH were thinking about not going to the party that night, otherwise we would never have met!”

“Wow, that’s SO funny!” The woman next to me said. She had just told us the story of her on-and-off boyfriend who was ten years older than her, had 4 kids, and did contract work overseas for the government, leaving the states for months at a time every few months.

“Yeah…” I said, “… good story Steve.”

We were quiet for a few seconds, and then Steve spoke.

“Ok, we’ve all shared now it’s your turn for a Valentine’s Day story.” And suddenly all eyes were on me. I took another swig of my Peroni.

“Well… last Valentine’s Day I went down to the City to see an ex-girlfriend and ended up having dinner at a Mexican restaurant. We drank 3 pitchers of Margarita’s and then I woke up in the train station a few hours later.”

The table was silent.

“Well… that’s romantic.” Steve finally said. Then the woman next to me spoke.

“Why was she your ex-girlfriend?”

“… because we had broken up.” I said plainly, and had a piece of bread.

“I know that, but why did you break up?”

“Well… we dated for a while and then both decided one day that we didn’t like each other anymore. It was really as simple as that.”

“Oh.” The other woman at the table said. “Well, at least you guys were on the same page about it.”

I nodded and finished my beer, ordered another one from the first waitress I saw, and then we were all quiet again.  I thought my story had made them somewhat uncomfortable because it was suddenly apparent that the mild-mannered one of the group was some sort of beast. Too bad the story was made up, just because I had nothing better to say, and because I had met these people only days before. I wasn’t ready to divulge my life’s story to them just yet.

Personally I thought the story was pretty good and that I would at least have to write later about the whole scenario. I stuck the glass up and proclaimed, “Happy Valentine’s Day guys!”

They raised their glasses and echoed the sentiment and Steve added, “And to a successful trip!”

The woman across the table from me added, “And to going home!”

We all smiled and took a drink. I gazed into the deep brown abyss of my beer and tasted its cold, hoppy goodness all the way down my throat and into my stomache, where it was welcomed gladly on top of the bread and rich Alfredo sauce from my pasta. I leaned back and looked around and noticed for the first time that the restaurant was indeed full of couples and our group might have been the only table for four in the entire dining room. 

I felt bad for the two that were actually married because they weren’t home with their spouses. Looking around I think they did too, but business is business I supposed. The waitress stopped by and in her southern accent offered us a dessert special of a “Can-oh-lee”, to which I wrinkled my nose and said no thanks, just because she didn’t pronounce it right. I informed the table that being from NY I would not eat one of those from anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line, same as I considered the state’s idea of pizza to be offensive.

It was time to go anyway, so we paid the bill and got up to leave. I picked up my glass and sunk deep into by beer, embracing my drink one last time and draining it all away. I felt a bit of a rush of blood to my head and thought then that it was the only Valentine that I really needed


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