Enjoy Juliet, Naked

December 15, 2009

My dearest Stephanie,

Boo, my favorite server, is a middle school English teacher by day. During the school year, he works seven days a week.

“Isn’t it exhausting? How do you manage?” I asked him recently.

“I’m just so used to it that I barely even think about it,” he replied with a shrug of his shoulders.

“Do you like being a server?”

“It’s kind of addictive,” he said after a contemplative pause. “It’s that every night is new, and you never know what’s going to happen—who you’ll meet, how much money you’ll make, how it’s going to end.”

I’ve heard this sentiment echoed by other servers and bartenders.

I can relate.

***

“Enjoy Juliet, Naked!” I said this to one of my customers, a charming and witty Brit, one night.

I actually called it across the length of the bar. I was in the midst of polishing the glasses and saw that he was putting on his coat.

“That doesn’t sound quite right, does it?” he replied with a bemused smile, as he slipped his left arm into the appropriate coat sleeve.

(I love how the British do this: make an understated observation then punctuate it with a rhetorical question: That lime I bit into whole is a bit tart, isn’t it? When you break your femur, it’s rather uncomfortable, isn’t it? Stalin was rather ghastly, wasn’t he?)

“Oh, haha. I guess it does sound rather salacious,” I said. Then turning to the rest of the bar, I added, “No worries, you lot. It’s a book title! Ha!.” I threw in the “you lot” as a sort of inside joke. That’s okay. No one was much listening anyway.

I love this dude. Or perhaps I should say, I love this bloke. He and his (American) girlfriend eat at the bar once a week or so; sometimes, they come in with a little boy to eat in the dining room. I’ve decided it’s his son from a previous relationship. Just a hunch. Anyway, he always comes in with some reading material, usually before she does. He orders a Grey Goose Gibson martini, up, and usually follows with a Sapporo beer.

He and his girlfriend are adorable together. They have a lovely, warm relationship filled with witty banter, and once a week or so, I get to be a part of it. It would seem they live together, but I try not to think of them arguing over who has to clean the toilet this week. Is he the kind of man who is excessively tidy? Does he get Type A about articles of clothing discarded wherever she sheds them or perhaps about the stacks of mail she lets pile up? Or is it the other way around?

The conversation started because I’m reading Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked, and when he first sat down and I was looking for some conversational entrée, some way of forging a connection without taking up too much of his time, I said, “I’m reading a book by one of your compatriots. Haha.”

Yes, I really, truly said “compatriots.” This is because I’m a fucking idiot who spent too much time in graduate school with other idiots, many of whom were pretentious and also socially awkward, and my vocabulary has become unwieldy. It’s sometimes a struggle to speak like a normal human being. Still. I threw in the “haha” to make it sound like I was making fun of myself, which I was actually.

Because I sensed that I sounded like an idiot, I hurried to complete the thought—I do this sometimes: just keep talking to cover over some moronic statement I’ve uttered.

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby. I love Nick Horby! He understands human motivation so well.”

“Yeah, I’ve read a number of his novels. I’m actually reading Juliet, Naked right now, as well,” he said. “It’s on my nightstand. I’m about a quarter of the way through.”

We ended up having a brief but lively conversation about Nick Hornby’s novels and the movies they spawned as he ate his Tangerine Beef with Sesame Pancakes and sipped his Sapporo and I polished the glasses. Again. There are always glasses waiting to be polished, aren’t there?

***

I suppose I decided to bartend because I felt lonely.  For what, I’m not sure because it’s not as if I don’t have wonderful friends and a wonderful family who contribute meaningfully to my life. It’s not as if I don’t have plenty of things with which to fill my time.

Perhaps the life I was living felt exhausted of possibility, and I was looking for a new context out of which to wring some meaning out of life. What I wonder is, does every experience eventually become exhausted? How can you make the old new again?

Love,

Stella

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