Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Ballad of Jake

It had been almost a month since we hit the Lava Lounge, and consequently a month since we had seen our friend Greg. He was overjoyed at our return. As we entered the bar he began to mock us loudly, in faux irritation. He’s wonderful. We explained our hiatus. It’s remarkable that we’re there so frequently that our absence requires explanation. His ex-girlfriend was there too. She’s always there, and I can never remember her name. She’s cool. They have the most amazing relationship. I understand they were an item for quite a length of time. They broke up, and she hated him for quite a while. Now they hang out at this bar every Saturday night. They’re best friends. The dynamic is odd but cool. There was also a very drunk older-looking fellow named Jake sitting on the other side of her. He was quite drunk, and loud, and flirting with anything female that will listen to him. Unfortunately, this included my wife. He was trying to talk to her through, over, and around Greg’s girlfriend, whom he’d given up on. My wife is occasionally struck dumb with inexplicable politeness. This night was one of those occasions. I kept suggesting that if she would quit looking down that way and obliging him, he might leave her alone. Instead, she just suffered though it, and complained to me sideways. Eventually he learned that she was a teacher, and he blurted out, “I wish I had a teacher that looked as nice as you.” Immediately afterwards, feigning embarrassment, he said, “I’m sorry! That wasn’t right. Let me buy you a drink.” Greg wasn’t helping. These sorts of bizarre situations amuse him. He likes to fuel them. Jake is basically harmless, and just seems to like talking about himself. He’s got an endless love for the sound of his own voice. It’s kind of touching, in a strange way. He talked about his service in Vietnam, the strange white streak that he’s developed in his mustache, volunteering at the animal shelter, how he knows all the Pittsburgh Steelers, and how the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wants him to write some sort of column, or book, or essay, or something on some subject that only he is qualified to write…but he won’t because he’s too busy, or it’s below him or something. He’s endearing, irritating, charming, and annoying, all at once. He claimed to be 47 years old. It’s 2007. If he’s 47, then he was born in 1960. The Vietnam War took place from 1965 to 1975. That means that he would've had to have entered the service before he was 15. That seems difficult to swallow. My guess is that he’s not really 47. Eventually, my wife and I decided that we needed to eat something. So we walked to a Thai place down the street to get some take-out to bring back to the bar and eat there. We hoped that he would be drunk off his stool or would have left by the time of our return. This was not the case. We sat down at the other end of the bar with our fried rice, chicken, and tofu. It was incredible. Eating in bars is wonderful. Jake was aware that we’d returned and he was still shouting inane stories down to my wife and laughing at his own jokes. A new girl walked into the bar. She was cute and young. Greg said her name is Claire. She plopped down right beside Jake, and we all cringed. He started back at the beginning. All the same stories. It was punishing. His bullshit was difficult enough to endure the first time. The second time around it was even worse, though kind of amusing now that we could anticipate the punchlines before they come. At one point, my wife turned to Claire and asked if she’d like to escape down to our end of the bar, to come sit with us. She smiled, and said that she was doing all right. The unexpected turn came when he announced that he was a libertine, and Claire asked if he really meant that he was a libertarian. It was genuinely funny, and we all laughed hard. And Jake said, “I’m sure the teacher can tell us all the difference between a libertine and a libertarian!”

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