Shira, the hopeful romantic
“How’d you know?” asked Shira as I poured her a Maker’s Mark and soda.
“You order this drink every time,” I said.
“No, Knox—I mean, how’d you know I needed to hear this song right now?”
My ipod was playing on random and in fact I didn’t “know” at all. It’s just that a drunk gets to thinking that everything he or she hears or reads was actually created for them to fit that very moment. Every drunk believes in fate.
“I was on a beach the first time I heard this song,” she said. “John had just proposed to me. We ate cracked crab on a blanket and shared a bottle of Veuve Cliquot served in plastic cups. We talked about all of the lives we wanted to live together.”
“One is never enough, after all,” I said.
Indeed. You find someone you love and you want to have everything with them—the kids and the mortgage and picket fences; the fiery tryst that ends badly; the partner in crime who confesses her undying love to you before smashing a beer bottle over your head in an abandoned boxcar; or, just a knowing look from a stranger in the airport of Albuquerque, NM. You find the one you love, and you want them to be your beginning, middle and end—you want the bad just as much as the good.
As if reading my thoughts she said, “Still, I would have settled for just one life with John. It wasn’t in the cards, I guess.”
I had spent many an evening with Shira on the opposite side of the bar, humoring her drunken loneliness that was all too familiar. But on this night, the song resonated. Sure, she was twice my age; sure, she was a hopeless alcoholic. But she was a romantic. And whoever coined the term “hopeless romantic” obviously never met a Shira. If they did, they would’ve recognized that romance is its own kind of hope. For some of us, it’s our only hope.
As I watched the lyrics and melody course through Shira and bring her back through time, making her eyes water and chest heave, I felt a paradoxical feeling. I was so happy to have had the life I’ve had to this point—and so sad for all the paths I did not take. I often wish I could have everything at once, but we only get one shot at it. And this makes everything as important as it does limited. I’m not sure if that’s hopeful or hopeless. This I said to a bartender when I was on the other side of the bar.
“Fuckit,” he said. “It’s all hopeless. But it sure as hell beats the shit out of sitting on your hands.”
Well, I thought, I suppose I can drink to that.
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