The other night I went out in my pajamas at about 10 o’clock at night to get wine, ice cream, and jellybeans. There is a very reasonable back story there, but it's not the point of my story. I was wearing Trent’s polartech over my pajamas, my hair was in a messy bun, and I think I even had my glasses on, although I rarely wear my glasses in public. In short, I was not exactly looking my best. (I would like to think this is relevant.)
I picked out my wine and my ice cream and jelly beans and got in line, clutching my goodies, behind a guy who looked to be at least 30, with long hair, a nose ring, and combat boots. He was buying a six pack of beer and a sack of potatoes. And he was arguing with the store clerk because his driver’s license was expired. He told her that was all he had because his wallet had been stolen, and he showed her his social security card as further evidence that the expiration of his license had not altered his age. She didn't budge. So I’m standing there, thinking, that’s really silly, and maybe I should buy the beer for him. But I live in a city and people don’t do nice things for strangers in cities. Even in Chicago, the nicest of cities. It would probably turn out awkwardly, I thought. But when my turn came and the guy was still standing there counting his change, I gave in to the impulse and asked the clerk for the beer she’d put behind the cash register. The guy looked at me, and seemed to give a half smile of recognition, and I gave a half smile to acknowledge what I thought was our silent pact, and then when I’d finished paying, I turned around and he was gone. No problem, I thought, he’s probably waiting outside the door. Nope. Gone.
And, really, I can’t blame him. A woman buying wine and ice cream in her pajamas at 10 o’ clock at night wants to buy him some beer? I guess I’d run like hell too.
So I ended up with a six-pack of Busch that I never intended to buy. Now, Trent and I are pretty snobby about beer. So I was pretty annoyed to end up with Busch, although I did count myself fortunate that it wasn’t Busch Light. Plus, it only cost me $4, so that's something. And when I tried it, I was actually pleasantly surprised that it was less like water than I expected. And yet it had a terrible aftertaste: the sour flavor of rejection, with a hint of regret for the lost beauty of youth. And a dash of irritation because I wasn’t actually even trying to hit on the guy, goddamnit, I was just trying to be nice.