I love a story that begins, “a man walked into a bar…” because I can always hear my dad in my head interrupting the story teller with, “I hope he didn’t hurt himself’,” and laughing at his joke. I’ve never told “a man walked into a bar” story, but now, at the end of 2016, it’s about time…
A man walked into a bar. The bar was an upscale establishment named Morini’s, on Madison and 86th on the Upper East Side. We were meeting friends for drinks there before an event. Our table was perfectly located– my friends had snagged it by arriving at 4PM for our 5PM pre-game. They swore they arrived early for the purpose of snagging the perfect table; we knew better.
The man who walked into the bar was handsome. He was slim, about 5’9”, with glasses and silver hair. In his right hand, he carried a single white rose. He sat down at the bar right next to us, and saved the seat beside him. I was intrigued.
“I have to ask,” I said to him, “what’s with the single white rose?”
He smiled and hesitated, which I took as permission to ask more questions, even before he answered the first.
”Are you waiting for a date? Is it a first date? Male? Female? There’s got to be a story there!”
My husband gave me the same look that I used to give my mother when she talked to strangers in the supermarket line. It was not pretty, but I ignored him.
“Oh there’s a story there,” the man said, “but you’ll have to wait for my date to arrive and tell it. I will tell you this: my date is a woman, it’s not the first date, and she’s had a tough year.”
Presently, a tall, thin blond walked into the bar toward us. She wore a white, form-fitting top that flared at the waist and jeans. As she sat down with her back to us, I noticed the very sexy cut out in the back that showed off her defined lat muscles. And I couldn’t help but notice that she had most amazing breasts. Really amazing breasts.
“She obviously works out,” I whispered to my friend next to me. “But those boobs, they are totally not real,” I said.
“How do you know?” my friend asked me.
“Takes one to know one,” I said, pointing to my fake right boob. “Check them out. Her boobs are really, really perfect. Just look at them! They’re beautiful…so much better than mine. I should have gone bigger.” (It’s all about me.) I wondered about this woman silently—was she the super superficial type, going for a newer, bigger set of boobs at midlife? I was ready to write her off.
The man introduced the woman to his new friends (us) and she told us the story of how they met on match.com, how they exchanged a few emails at first using non-identifying users names. Their correspondence stopped because she was distracted by health issues. Months later, she looked at his picture online, realized he looked like the brother of a boy she used to date in high school in Rhode Island. She emailed him again, asking if he was the brother of the high school guy. Indeed he was. And they’ve been dating ever since. So romantic!
“But what’s with the white rose?” I asked again.
“She’s been through a lot.” He said. “She’s a remarkable woman.”
It turned out that they were into sailing (though I informed her she was way too skinny to come on my sailboat unless she promised she would not wear a bikini.) We talked about kids, about life, about coincidences. And then we left them alone.
As we got up to leave, I walked over to them to say goodbye, and to tell them it was great to meet them. “But, really, what’s with the white rose?” I asked quietly.
“I had a double mastectomy in April,” she said to me softly. “That was my health issue.”
“Breast cancer?” I asked. And indeed, it was.
And I told her that I had breast cancer too- that I just finished my reconstruction surgery a few weeks before.
I was right about the boobs, but very wrong about the back story. I made a mental note to not draw conclusions about anyone’s story any more. We know nothing.
I wanted to stay and talk with them all night. I wanted to hear more about her journey. I wanted to know what was in her head, how she dealt with cancer so many months as a single, middle-aged woman. I wanted to know more about their love story. But our event was starting. My husband literally had to pull me out of the bar.
So, despite what you learn as a kid, when you are a grown up, you should talk to strangers. People are interesting. They have stories you would love to hear. And in the rarest of circumstances, you might find come across someone special, someone who is on the same journey as you.