YALIUD and I met back in 2004. Close to eleven and a few times a week, she would arrive at the bar of the restaurant I was running at the time. Three years removed from law school, she was a mid-level and fast-tracked associate at a white shoe law firm. Most nights she would have a single malt while perusing the menu (for no good reason as she only ordered a pair of the same four things) and scribbling on a yellow legal pad. When her appetizer arrived, she would move to a glass of red wine – whatever we recommended – and continue scribbling. By the time the entrée arrived, she was ready to nurse her second glass and put away her work.
We were a convenient anesthetic for her as we were only a block away from her condo and we had a habit of sending her a complimentary dessert, and always ensured that someone walked her home if she had enough for that to be prudent. The nights of her visits fluctuated, but she was always there on Tuesdays – the night that I chose to keep my bartending skills sharp. We would always do the three drink, 45 minutes of work, maybe one more dance. After a few weeks of regular patronage, she asked me for “a last drink of the night.”
After a few moderately successful but far from spectacular attempts, we settled on the Long Kiss Goodnight as her valedictory drink. It was the right balance of soft, and spice, and cream and subtle for her. She and I had the casual flirtation that is a tool a bartender’s uses more frequently than any jigger or shaker, but nothing further.
YALIUD had been coming to the restaurant for several months when I invited her to my private “Going Away” party for my last night there. I was headed to another, higher end, restaurant. One of the my favorite bands was going to play, one of my favorite distributors donated plenty of booze for the open bar, one of my favorite bartenders from another bar was kind enough to “guest” that night so all of the staff could attend.
“Have you ever seen the movie Good Will Hunting” YALIUD asked me as soon as she arrived at the party and before I could even say hello.
“It’s one of my favorites… according to my definition of favorites which is movies I have seen at least seven times and would watch again tonight” I replied.
“Ferfuckssaake, do you have to use every question as an excuse to pontificate?” YALIUD stated testily.
I wanted to give some variation of the “have you met me” defense but I have learned enough to know that sarcasm’s most receptive audience is not an angry woman – even more so when you don’t know why she’s angry. I went with “Sorry – bad habit” instead.
“You know that scene in the Will and Skylar first meet in the bar?” YALIUD said in what was only partly a question.
“Yeah” was my very cautious reply, you know the kind of “yeah” that takes almost three syllables to articulate because you’re not sure where things are going and don’t think you’ll like the destination.
“As she’s leaving she walks over to Will and says ‘You’re an idiot’”
“Yeah, well, you’re an idiot. Why have you never asked me out?”
Mission Control to Mouth, Mission Control to Mouth, come in Mouth.
Mouth here, go ahead Mission Control.
Mouth, you are instructed to proceed with extreme caution. The very attractive, and slightly annoyed woman is a notoriously dangerous creature – move forward with great care and godspeed, Mouth…. Mission Control out.
“May I get you a drink while I think of the best way to explain my obvious stupidity?”
I went behind the bar and grabbed the hidden bottle of scotch, Glen Garioch 21 year old, that I reserved for really great or really craptastic nights. I poured two fingers into a heavy bottom rocks glass and returned to YALIUD.
“The explanation for my idiocy is more complicated than you might think” I said while placing the rich and complex single malt in her hand. “You asked, so you’re going to get the full answer. You are a stunning woman with a rapier wit and intelligence that you wear so gracefully. Only a moron wouldn’t find you incredibly attractive. But I’m in the restaurant business, which means that I generally avoid dating my guests because it’s most often bad for business. Of course, I have made exceptions and I would be lying if I said I never thought about dating you. The real problem is that despite the light flexibility of the aforementioned rule, there is no flexibility about staff asking out a guest. I have fired people for doing that, so certainly couldn’t do it myself.”
YALIUD’s look made it clear that she understood my point, but I sensed a need to preempt the next question, now that I am leaving…
“And as much as I’d love to take you to dinner sometime, now that I am going to another restaurant, you should know what it’s like to date someone who runs a restaurant:
- I will break plans with you at the last minute a minimum of three times before we actually have dinner
- Most frequently we would only see each other after midnight
- We would never get together on a Friday or Saturday night because I will always work those nights
- When we do, finally, go to dinner, I will be interrupted by phone calls at least twice and leave you sitting at the table while I attempt to resolve the crisis du jour over the phone
- I will never get to meet any of your friends unless you bring them to the restaurant, and even then I will have severely limited amounts of time to spend with you
- Our social life will exist, by necessity, based on my schedule and there won’t be much that I can do to change that
- I will be constantly distracted and preoccupied with thoughts of the restaurant.
“You still want to go on a date with me?”
“Wow, that was like a bad romantic comedy all condensed into forty seconds there” YALIUD replied snarkastically. “You’re right, I probably don’t want to date you any more… taking you home is a different story though.”