For a man who gets paid to notice things in restaurants, I can be horrifically unobservant when I am really into something else – book, newspaper, conversation, or even my own thoughts. Thiswas the case one recent evening when I was enjoying a cigar, a bourbon, and the editorial section of the New York Times at one of my usual haunts. I didn’t notice the striking woman in the winter white pant suit until she was standing at my bar table.
“Hi there” she opened; “I need you to settle a bet for me” she continued without giving me opportunity to return her salutation.
“Good evening” I said while rising from my chair. “How may I help you settle this bet; and would you care to have a seat while we resolve this?”
“Thank you, I would like to sit… and I’m Jessica”
“Jessica, I’m Refugee; it’s a pleasure to meet you. Now what is the bet?”
“Well, my girlfriends and I” she said while pointing to two women sitting at the far end of the bar “saw your wedding ring…”
“Not a wedding ring as I am wearing it on my right hand ring finger” I corrected.
“Exactly. That’s the question. We have it narrowed down to: you’re from some country where they wear wedding bands on that hand but I think your lack of an accent eliminates that, or you’re actually married but shift the ring to the other hand when you go to bars, or you’re gay and wear that ring to let other men know you’re available.”
I snickered a bit at the options before replying “There are a couple of flaws in your logic. If I was the kind of married man who switched his ring in bars, why would I ever admit to it? Also, I am not positive about this, but I am fairly sure that gay people, especially gay women wear rings on the thumb to indicate such – though that may just be an old wives tale.”
“OK, let’s check your left ring finger for tan lines then” Jessica said with a bit of a smile.
She inspected my hand and declared my hands tan-line free. “You didn’t answer the question about being gay” Jessica noted.
“No, I didn’t… I am straight” I acknowledged and answered.
“So why the ring?” she pressed.
“It’s a long story, but the short version is that I bought it as a gift to myself and a reminder of the lessons I tried to learn when I took a yearlong sabbatical from women several years ago.”
Just as I finished, Jessica’s two girlfriends arrived at the table demanding to know the verdict on the bet.
“Well, none of us were right. Apparently, Refugee here has another reason having to do with a ‘sabbatical from women’”
I stood and formerly introduced myself to Stephanie and Maria. They sat down and we ordered another round of drinks. Before the cocktails arrived, Maria asked “So tell us more about this sabbatical.”
I laughed to myself before answering “You know, I am normally much more of an open book type of guy, but that’s just a bit more than I am willing to discuss this evening.”
I hadn’t meant for that to be a conversational grenade, but the table was silent for an uncomfortable moment. Stefanie broke the quiet with “Well then, Mr.-Normally-An-Open-Book-Refugee, what would you be doing if we hadn’t crashed your table?”
I drained the last of my bourbon as our server had just brought the next round and said “Literally just having a drink, smoking a cigar, reading and waiting for a phone call that I don’t expect to come… metaphorically, I’d be running towards the football and foolishly thinking that Lucy won’t snatch it away again… maybe starting another sabbatical.”