It was the day after Valentine’s Day and I was sure that most of the customers that were coming in were the lonely lost souls that spent yesterday’s Valentine’s Day alone—including myself. There were lots of odd couples that seemed out of sync here and there, plenty parties of three that were obvious groups of single men and woman, and then the loners that braved through the cold to find comfort in comfort food itself.
A couple walked in. There was no love in their glazed eyes. In fact, I would have guessed they met at the bar next door less than an hour ago. The man slurred something I could not understand, and the couple made their own way to the last two seats at the bar. Sloppy drunks were never fun to be around. I made note in my head to keep an eye on the drunk couple despite the busy night of Post-Valentine’s Day customers.
More hungry customers filled the corner, waiting for open tables. After about twenty minutes, sloppy drunk #1 began to float around the bar. He was a man with a large gut. He leaned into groups at the bar. He interrupted a group of three girls. I made eye contact with one of the customers. I don’t know this man, her eyes said. I nodded. It was time.
Within a few minutes, we had the nice man out of the restaurant after a large glass of water. That’s a good fellow, I thought as he shook my hand and I said thanks for stopping by. (But not really.)
Thirty minutes later, he was back. He took quick steps up to me. There was an older woman behind me with a cane and a glass of red wine standing up, waiting for a table. I knew I could not budge an inch backwards or I might knock her over, so I held my ground. The drunk leaned in.
“Where’s my girl?” He looked at me angrily.
“I’m not sure, Sir. She left with you.”
“Did you take her away? You took her away! Didn’t you! Din’t you?” He shouted.
And then a voice cut through from somewhere behind me: “HEY. Don’t yell at a woman, man.”
“She took my—“
“I don’t care what she did. You never raise your voice to a woman.”
The voice behind me gave me courage. I spoke once again to the drunk man who had apparently lost his friend, “Sir, you need to calm down. If you’ll step over this way,” Away from the poor old lady with the cane, “I’ll help you find your friend.”
“She’s not my friend!” he yelled. He moved forward, and knowing I had a fragile woman behind me, I did my best to not be pushed backwards. I told him to calm down once again, and then the manager and bar tender made their way to help usher him out. The space was cleared quickly. I looked down at my hands holding the restaurant telephone. They were trembling.
“Are you alright?” the voice behind me asked. I turned around. The old lady held the cane and handed it to a man in his thirties to whom the voice belonged to. He had dark hair and thick winter beard. He took the cane from the woman as he nodded and hobbled forward in front of me. I was surprised to see that the cane did not belong to the older woman—it belonged to him. I had been quite frightened until he had spoken up from behind me. All it took was his voice, and I had regained my courage. I would have never guessed he couldn’t even stand up straight. Sometimes all it takes to be brave is to know you’re not alone.
“Yes. Thank you so much,” I replied. I wished I could have said more. I wished I could have made sure he knew how much I appreciated him speaking up.
“Of course. I’m just a cripple now, but that’s still no way to talk to a woman.”
“My son’s not a cripple,” the old woman with the wine said lovingly, “ He’s a veteran.”
The man and his mother moved slowly around me and took the two open seats at the bar. A few minutes later, I looked over to their corner at the bar. The man smiled, and his mother laughed. I saw them cheers to some good wine and meatballs.
Happy President’s Day.