I placed neither the face nor the voice when a thoroughly bundled woman sat next to me at the bar and said “it’s been a while since I’ve seen you, though I didn’t take you for a dive bar kind of guy the night we met.”
“I enjoy the more than occasional dive bar” I replied as I ran through my mental rolodex trying to provide a context for our meeting.
The tallish blonde escaped her coat, loosened her scarf, and settled into the faded and torn bar stool. “I promise not to pick a fight with you, if you’ll let me buy your next drink” she said and provided me with the first hint.
“Sometimes healthy discourse is a welcome distraction; and I am happy to let you get the next round if I can get the following round.”
“Sounds like a deal.”
“I have to confess that you are vaguely familiar but I am having a hard time remembering your name or how we met” I say in a risky maneuver given my occasionally horrid memory – I hope we never dated.
The events of that night scroll through my head like bad television flashbacks. Using my best poker face, I smiled as brightly as if I had been dealt situational pocket Aces instead of Seven-Two off suit and said “that’s right, good to see you LBTB.”
“Considering the way you left that night, that’s a surprise to hear” she parried back.
“That water passed the bridge months ago, let’s just leave it there and start again” I heard myself say in tone so conciliatory that it surprised me.
Acknowledging our new terms of engagement LBTB turned to the television and asked if I was pulling for either team in the football game. “I hate both of these teams and as my friend, the Only Slightly Sleazy Lobbyist, might say ‘I’m kinda just rooting for injuries’” I say with a smile hoping that she gets the joke.
“Hey, I went to the University of Refugee Hate” she responds with mild offense before continuing “since you obviously didn’t attend our rival, why do you hate URH?”
“The first time we met we had a semi-unnecessary argument; I thought we agreed we were to avoid having one this evening.”
“Fine, so what are you doing on this side of town? I thought you lived over by the bar where we met.”
“I had a client meeting earlier today on this side of town; I went to the coffee shop down the street to smoke a cigar and finish my newspaper. I was ready for a beer before dinner so, here I am. And you?”
“I live around the corner, this is my local. So what do you have against my alma mater?”
I take a deep breath and a deeper pull from my beer before deciding to actually respond. “It’s not just that URH has a dirty football program because almost all of the big ones are dirty to some degree. My problem is that URH seems proud of being dirty, proud to have thugs on your squad, proud of the fact that your players don’t graduate.” I tried hard not to be smug, to moderate my tone and deliver my answer as dispassionately as possible. Anyone want to set the odds on my ability to do that?
LBTB furrowed her brow a bit before saying “You’re what my daddy would call ‘a superior sonovabitch’” with more of a southern lilt than I had heard in her voice before.
“While you and your daddy may have a very valid point, it does not in any way refute my position about URH, its football team, or the reputation it cultivates. And that is my problem with pseudo-thinkers of every stripe. When confronted with an argument you don’t like, the first reaction is to attack the person behind the argument with the particularly spurious label of superior or intellectual as if I should be ashamed of either. So do you have any actual response?”
We sat in silence for a moment. LBTB took a long sip of beer, placed her glass down with more force than required, and squared her chair to face me.
“Refugee, I can’t tell if you are calling me stupid or not, which might answer the question. But that is besides the point. I don’t understand you. I think I have made it clear that I like you, and I don’t know how long I would have fun with you playing James Carville to my Marlee Matlin but I wouldn’t mind trying to have a conversation that doesn’t end in you being snotty and me being pissed.”
“You know, LBTB, since you are already convinced I am snotty superior sonovabitch, I guess there is no harm in saying that I am sure you meant to say Mary Matlin.”