Trish had an uncanny ability to pick all the wrong ones. Like a friend once told her, “You always try to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!” If there were a hundred available guys in a room, she always managed to zone in on the worst one there, not the kindest one, not the one with the greatest character or honor. It's like she had a special gift for finding a man—a cursed one—yet she had only herself to blame—not fate for it—like she tried to point her finger at for her troubles. In this regard, Trish was often her own worst enemy. And none of her bad experiences seemed to deter her from her defeating patterns, for it seemed that having a ****** choice of a man in her life was better than having no man at all.
A Friday night without any date was something she desperately wanted to avoid. At the age of fifty-six, trying to meet men was getting old, as old as she was feeling, lately.
At Pete’s Place, a local bar down at the end of her street, and two blocks over, Trish could at least feel like she was among friends. It was an old hangout that always felt like a safe haven to turn to, familiar territory that she could call her own turf, her home away from home. Often, Trish encountered regulars, down-to-earth faces who have been going to the family-like establishment as long as or longer than she has. Drinking really was not her thing, not more than one or two, at the most. But if anything, if worst came to worst, she could say she was not home alone and left out while the world seemed to go on its own merry way without her.
Pete’s Place was far from a glamorous hangout, but it had a cozy charm to it that made it irresistible to Trish. In the back were a pool table and a dartboard that provided some harmless enjoyment. With a couple of flat screen TVs, there usually was some sports game to watch. And every other Saturday, there was a DJ conducting Karaoke that always attracted a regular crowd. Trish couldn’t sing a note, but she loved to watch and cheer everybody else on. She just felt so welcome here, so at home, that even if she felt depressed or lonely, the atmosphere eventually lifted her heaviness of heart.
Entering the bar this time, Trish hardly saw a familiar face at all—that was except for the bartender, Henry, who worked this job since forever. For a Friday night, business seemed surprisingly slow. There was only an older couple watching a baseball game that was at Pete’s Place, a couple that she did not recognize.
“Where is everybody?” Trish asked Henry.
Henry smiled. “Hey, Trish! Good to see ya! Yeah, it is like a ghost town tonight, isn’t it? I guess there are too many good things goin’ on down in Buffalo. I think there are some big boat races goin’ on. And, for sure, there is the jazz festival”.
“Well, I’m here, Henry! Look out, everybody! Let the fun begin!” she said jokingly as she sat herself up at one of the barstools. She looked around. Even the wait staff wasn’t around, obviously gone home early and not needed.
“Would have been nice to go somewhere fun like that. I mean the jazz festival. I like jazz”, Trish said to Henry.
Henry was trying to stay busy by wiping down the bar, cleaning every nook and cranny behind the counter. “You should have called up one of your girlfriends to go over there. I am sure someone would have gone with ya”.
Trish rolled her eyes. “What girlfriends? They are often too busy with their own husbands or men in their life to care about what poor, old Trish Urbine wants to do!”
Henry felt bad for her. The more she frequented Pete’s Place, the more he knew she was all alone, was in between having some man in her life. And, lately, she was coming quite often to the bar by herself.
“You are not old, Trish! Hell, I am older than you!” Henry exclaimed.
Trish just frowned, not convinced at all by what Henry said. “Not old?” she asked. She pulled a small mirror out of her purse and looked at herself, giving herself the inspection of a drill sergeant. “That is a joke! Look at those bags under my eyes. Look at those crow’s feet, for pity’s sake! Look at that droopy skin in my neck! Horrible! I am trying to save up for a face lift. I really need it! Been needing it for a while now!”
Henry shook his head. “All you women are alike. My wife does the same, **** thing, the same putdowns to herself. Says she’s fat. Says she’s getting old and ugly. Says this and says that. But let me tell you Trish, after thirty-six years of marriage, I still see her as my sweetheart. I’d have it no other way than with my Bernadette. He patted his belly and added, "Hell, look at me. Believe it or not, with my job, I don’t even drink that much beer. But look at the gut I am getting”.
Trish scoffed at what he said. Henry looked nearly as lean as he did the first time she met him. He was just being nice. .Under better circumstances, she would have found what Henry said as endearing and charming. To say he still loved his wife as his “sweetheart” was incredibly adorable and rare.
“Hey”, Henry said. “Enough of my jibber jabber. Pardon my manners. What can I get for ya, dear?”
“Just a Diet Coke for me, Henry. I have to watch the calories myself. You know me—don’t want to get frumpy, lumpy and dumpy. At least not more than I am!” Trish smiled. She thought that her self disparaging remarks were a cute way of getting her point across with humor, but Henry couldn’t see anything funny about it.
He filled her glass of pop from the tap and handed it over to her. “Hey, how’s that daughter of yours doing? Is she still living in Albany?”
Trish cupped her hands up to her forehead and rested her head on them. “She is still in Albany, but she might as be on the moon for all we ever talk to each other”. She looked up at Henry and he could see the frustration written all over her face.
“I didn’t mean to upset you”, he said.
“Oh, you didn’t”, she returned. “I appreciate you asking, but you know the situation with Patti and I. It is either that we are at each other’s throat or we just don’t talk. Truth be told, we haven’t really got along since she was a girl. Once she hit those teenage years—oh, man they were a nightmare! I wouldn’t relive those years for anything!”
Henry rested his elbows up on the bar counter. “Oh, I know what you mean!. My second son, my boy, Steven, and I had a terrible time once he hit about fifteen. Man, him and I bucked heads all the time. Yes, indeed! It could get ugly, and it sure as heck did! But now I’m proud of him! In Afghanistan, fighting for his country—that is somethin’ that makes me glad! Now, I say that I couldn’t ask for better sons. I’m proud of him—of all four of my boys as good, strong men that they are!”
Trish sipped on her coke, a hurtful look upon her face while reflecting on her daughter, a daughter that she named after herself. Both were named Patricia, but the same name did not mean two peas in a pod, actually far from it. Trish definitely preferred her name, short and sophisticated—so she had liked to think—and the name, Patti, seemed cute and carefree. But Patti seemed anything but cute and carefree, not like she was when she was very little. But the name stuck with her, as she preferred to be called
“Yeah, but Patti still lives in the past” Trish said. “She still blames me for everything wrong in her life. Nothing has changed, and I am still the bad guy. Trish thought for a second. “Well, her dad, too. He’s bad, too, in her eyes. She always says she raised herself, that she never had real parents. That’s crap because I raised her and I was around—unlike her useless father!”
“Sounds bitter on her part”, Henry agreed. He thought to say that Trish sounded a bit like that, too, but he did not think it was his place to say it out loud.
“Bitter is right”, Trish said in disgust.
Bartenders have always been seen as good listeners, like the working man’s counselor. People, like Trish, often came in for a drink to try to forget their troubles, and wanting to lean on a trusty soul in need. Henry has seen plenty of this in his twenty-four years on the job, and he has honed the skill quite well, the skill of providing a listening ear. Sometimes he had good advice, but he knew he was no psychiatrist.
Frustrated, Trish went on. “I mean who else was there for her? When her dad and I divorced, she wanted to stay with him just to spite me! But would he have her? No, he only wanted to be with his under aged, ***** wife!
“And who else would do what I did? When my step dad died, and my mom couldn’t handle my little brother anymore, who was it that took him in? It was me! He was eleven and I was almost twenty-two and living with my boyfriend. I helped to finish raising him, kept him at my place right up to the day that he was grown—and more! And I did it because it needed doing, and nobody else was stepping in! When my sister moved to Colorado, and one of her kids, my nephew, Craig, wanted to stay here to graduate here from high school, I agreed to take him in for two years until he finished high school. And yet I am such a bad, selfish person in Patti’s opinion! It makes me sick to think of how she sees me as her mother!”
Henry poured her a refill of pop in her half empty glass. He knew that Trish was on bad terms with her daughter, that their relationship was shaky and strained. Patti was Trish’s only child, and it troubled him that they didn’t have much of a relationship. Yet Trish did not need pity. She needed to refocus and find a new direction. Henry knew that she has needed a new direction for quite a while now.
“Well, you know I love my daughter”, he replied. “I know your heart must be achin’ bad—real bad. I couldn’t imagine my life without Jocelyn or me not talkin’ to her. She’s the apple of my eye, ya know! And my boys know it and get that she’s special to me—Daddy’s little girl. With four older brothers, she has always been outnumbered. And myself and the Mrs. never expected her, neither. One—two—three—four, the boys all came right in a row! She came way after, Ben, the last one—a big surprise, I tell ya! But I was tickled pink and couldn’t have been happier to have my little girl”. Henry smiled warmly, and added, “No matter how old she gets, she will always be my little girl.”
Trish’s mood wasn’t influenced by what Henry said, not for the good. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”
Henry looked a bit embarrassed. “Oh, I ain’t tryin’ to rub it in to ya! No, no Trish! I’m just sayin’ you should see Patti as someone special, no matter what it is like now. She still is your daughter. And ya lover her! You know ya do! Try to get through to her. Keep on tryin’ and don’t give up hope.”
Trish didn’t look convinced by his little pep talk, so he said, “One day she will have her own children, and realize she will make mistakes, too. You sure will want to see those grandkids. Trust me! I live to see all of mine! ”
Patti sniffed at that comment, putting forth a laugh that seemed so phony and snarky. This behavior was not like her at all, not the bubbly Trish that Henry used to see coming into the bar. “Grandchildren? Are you kidding me? Patti wants nothing to do with men! She avoids them like the plague! Says she doesn’t want to end up like me…married and divorced four times…she says there is no excuse for it. But she uses me all the time as an excuse! I think she is just scared to death of relationships with guys!”
“I thought you were married three times?” Henry asked. He had a surprised look on his face, but then he tried to think differently. “But I don’t want to **** in on your life. It’s your business, not mine to judge”.
“No, Henry, it’s ok. My last marriage lasted only seven weeks”. She turned red in the face now, but she wanted to set it straight. “Patti thinks it is disgusting that I married all those times. My last husband tried to clear out my bank account, and I left him. Patti says she will never marry. She won’t touch a man with a ten foot pole to save her life!”
She paused as Henry stared intently at her, listening. “She does not want to end up like me”, she added, her voice throaty. Tears welled up in her eyes.
Patti was the product of Trish’s first marriage to a man named Earl Colbert. When Patti was six, her father divorced her mother. Since then, Patti had seen plenty of men come and go. In between her other three husbands, there were too many boyfriends to even keep track of. Trish was also engaged twice, but the engagements were eventually broken off.
She sat in silence as Henry was still thinking of the right thing to say to comfort her. Soon, two young couples had entered through the door, dispersing the air of awkwardness, and stopping the conversation between Henry and Trish. Henry continued to clean up around the bar as he waved to them and welcomed their presence. One of the guys came up and ordered a pitcher of beer before joining his friends at a table.
It was no more than a few minutes later that another customer approached inside Pete’s Place. It was Jake. Trish rolled her eyes at Henry. He was a regular here, too, like she was, and about the same age as her.
Jake immediately came up to Trish and put his arm around her. “Buy you a drink, darlin’?” he asked. His breath already smelled of alcohol.
“Oh, Jake, get away!” Trish scolded him. “You know I don’t accept drinks from married men, so move on!” She waved her hand in the air to clear the bothersome odor of his ***** away from her.
Jack just laughed, and moved to the other end of the bar, his usual spot. Henry kept his calm although he did not like Jake acting like a fool to Trish, or to any of the women who came here. He had to do his duty and serve Jake, but if he had his way the guy would be just a step away from being told to leave. Henry always kept a close eye on how much Jake was drinking, and he often cut him off when it seemed he had his share.
“Whisky, Henry”, Jake ordered. They both knew the routine.
With his whisky in hand, Jake smirked at Trish and asked, “How come you ain’t at that big jazz festival downtown?”
“How come you ain’t?” she echoed him, sarcastically
“Cuz I don’t have a sweet lady to go with me and keep my company”. He winked at her, and downed a gulp of whisky.
“Oh, you mean like your—wife!” Trish said. Jake and Trish often bantered like this to each other. “You will never change, Jake. You are a rude and obnoxious flirt, and you ought to be ashamed!”
Jake just laughed her off. “Sweetie, my wife knows I’m a big flirt. She’s OK with it! She says ‘as long as you are peeking and not seeking, who cares what you do!’”
The two young couples that came in a while ago overheard Jake’s conversation and started to crack up in laughter. It seemed that he was the entertainment for a lackluster evening at the bar, a court jester of sorts. Trish looked at the four, young faces that were laughing at her expense, glanced at Henry in silent agreement that Jake was an idiot, and quickly turned red in the face.
“Jake, shut your big mouth!” Henry intervened. “You lie as much as you belt them down!” When Jake was more sober, he seemed pretty reasonable, but he was nauseating when he was on a drinking binge.
Henry exited into a room behind the bar for a moment. Jake whispered loudly to Trish, like an impish, little boy who knew he might get caught, but loved the thrill of it. “Psst. Hey, Trish! Look! My wife’s no fun at all! Won’t go out with me no more. The festival is going on all weekend. Just give me your number and I’ll call you tomorrow and pick you up to take you there”.
Trish pretended like she did not hear him, still rattled up a bit, but trying her best to hide it, and Jake soon devoted his mind to his drink.
She turned herself around in the barstool and pretended to watch the baseball game. The scene in the room was still practically the same way since she first arrived. Only now there was an edgier atmosphere with the four younger people in it. The older couple was still sitting together in the corner, intent on watching the ball game. The two younger couples were drinking down their pitcher of beer and talking away. One of the young man had his arm around his girlfriend, gently caressing her back, and the other young couple, that was sitting across from them was holding hands.
In longing, Trish looked on at the young couples. How she m