Weidman’s calm, measured petitioning is infuriating even to me, though I have no stake in this dispute, in fact have no idea what it’s about. I had taken the stool next to him at the bar well after the objection or complaint that precipitated it had been aired. By which party, Weidman or the barkeep, I do not know.
But it’s the barkeep, petite, middle-aged with stringy dishwater blonde hair, who is speaking now. Her voice cuts like a discus of knapped obsidian spinning through the chatter and the laughter and the music of a raucous Friday evening at Pittsburgh’s Pub, Outer Sunset, which they used to call The Outside Lands, San Francisco.
“Last time she was in here I got in all kinds of trouble.”
Weidman shakes his head, puts his hands out onto the bar, palms up. “I’m sorry for that.”
“The owner called me next morning to bitch me out about it.”
“See, I didn’t know that. And now I’m real sorry to hear about it.” And he did seem genuinely sorry. “But she’s a good girl, I swear she didn’t do anything. If she had, I would’ve taken her right out of here.” He pointed to the door, and then he shrugged. “And really, what is she going to do?”
Weidman’s friend must be one exceptionally ill-mannered human being. I am in sympathy with the barkeep, but her vigilance against an appearance by Weidman’s girl is having an effect on me opposite of that she intends it to have: I want to meet this girl.
“It’s not about what she did. She doesn’t have to do anything for a customer to complain.”
“Yeah, see, some people get uncomfortable just from seeing her.” He looks to me. “And that’s understandable. But still,” he turns back to the barkeep, “a little unfair.”
I’m imagining that Weidman’s companion is grotesque, maybe by virtue of some birth defect or skin condition or unfortunate accident, and that some douchebag bearded hipster who had so infuriated his Uber driver that that driver dumped him here rather than at his stated destination in the Marina or Nob Hill, where he then got hammered, and then sputtered hateful words to the poor girl, and then sputtered again to the establishment’s owner. My sympathies swing to Weidman and his companion in absentia, who is as entitled to an evening of drinking and socializing with her good friend, the gallant Weidman, as anybody else in the City.
He sips his bourbon. “I really wish whoever it was that complained had just said something to me. I’m sure I could’ve talked him down. She wasn’t doing anything, I swear.” He laid a hand over his breast. “Again, I’m so sorry I got you into trouble.”
“It’s her appearance, is all.”
Now I’m thinking she’s a leper. Is leprosy still a problem in the 21st century?
Weidman swings an arm toward the door. “Look, I mean, c’mon, it’s cold out there.”
“You should just take her home.”
“But if I have to go home I can’t be here, spending money. Drawing in the likes of Brian here.” He points to me. “He’s going to spend even more money than I will.”
On cue, I sip my rye, served neat. “I will, indeed. I buy quality. Your taste in liquor is for shit.” Weidman laughs a wonderful, high, cartoonish laugh all out of character with his severe, angular haircut, horn-rimmed glasses and imposing size. He could be an outsize D-Fens Foster from Falling Down, except that he’s so damn friendly. We clink shot glasses. “Next round’s on me,” I say. “Another Buellit for me, and another shot of whatever shit my friend here is drinking!”
The barkeep shoots a disdainful glance at me before saying to Weidman, “Take her home, then come back.”
“She’s been home all week. It’s Friday! C’mon!”
“Can’t have her in here again. Sorry.”
“She would be just barely in here. I mean, look where we are – right inside the door. If there’s any trouble, we just duck outside. You tell me when to go, we’ll go.”
The barkeep sighs, shakes her head. Weidman points to his shoulders, and that’s when I notice how brilliant white his sweatshirt is, so out of place here, where the attire is generally pretty dark. He is something of a spectacle. Right next to him, his haircut, his laugh, is not where you should put something you want to hide. He is beseeching a woman who is literally half his size. “She will be right here.” He points even more emphatically to his shoulders, shakes his head solemnly. “Promise. She will never leave me. Not for a moment.”
“The owner called me. On a Saturday morning.”
“She does anything, I will never come back.” He turned to me. “Most people really like her. Especially women. And you know,” he winked, “this place could sure use more women.”
I feel like I have been enlisted for the cause, and because I like Weidman, I pitch right in. “Yes,” I say, pounding the bar once with a fist, “more women.” Weidman raises his shot glass, I raise mine. We clink, and toast together, “More women!”
The barkeep seems ready to cave. She is impressed, as am I, with Weidman’s persistence. He will make an evening without his leper friend more uncomfortable than any evening with her. “I never want to get another call like that from the owner.”
“You won’t.” Weidman is solemn. Again, his shoulders. “She stays right here.”
Another patron calls the barkeep away. She waves a hand as she leaves us. Weidman ducks out the door. I look over to the pool tables, where a drunken young woman flirts with a sober young man while playing at the game, poorly. When the barkeep wanders back near me, I ask for quarters in change for a dollar. Weidman comes back to his stool just as the barkeep is dumping quarters into my hand. She gives him a warning glance, but says nothing.
He’s a large man, so I’m not curious as to why I don’t see his companion next to him. I don’t ask to see her, figuring that’d be tacky, but instead crane awkwardly around him on lame pretenses at looking for something.
She must be one tiny leper.
I notice that while he’d been away Weidman had put a pale green denim jacket with a high collar on over his brilliant white sweatshirt. We talk about all the usual stuff we talk about: Work (he’s working, so we toast), women (he has a friend with benefits, so we toast again). I keep craning until it dawns on me Weidman and the barkeep might’ve been talking about a dog. I look to the floor, expecting to see a bully breed, like a pit bull or a Rottweiler, at his feet. Nope.
Weidman’s never offered to introduce me to his companion, so I begin to think he just never brought her in. I pity her, poor lonely leprous creature, waiting, shivering in the cold salt air for permission to enter only to walk away just as that permission had been granted.
“You know,” he starts at me, and he seems uncharacteristically self-conscious. He’s generally boisterous, so in-your-face friendly I envy him. “I would say that our relationship has gone past the point where it’s safe, nay, expected for us to exchange phone numbers.”
I’m nonplussed. Exchanging numbers in a bar is something we heterosexual men Simply Don’t Do. We seek numbers from women, anything short of that feels like Failure. Yet, because I am hard-pressed for friendship, being just no good at whatever mysterious bonding protocol men, Weidman especially, learned in their youth and follow in adulthood, I’m touched.
“Yeah,” I say. “Let’s do that.”
Weidman is smiling in a lethargic, buzzed way, face looming, floating, practically glowing. It seems his shoulders are hunched under that high collar, maybe something he does when he feels vulnerable, like the way I tug at my right ear whenever I feel out of sorts. I examine his shoulders a bit more closely, and that, finally, is when I see her. I feel like an ass recalling that he’d pointed to his shoulders when he’d said, more than once, that she’d be “right here.” I suppress my shock, because again, shock is something we heterosexual men Simply Don’t Do. I follow the swell of her passing around Weidman’s nape, down along his arm, to her head stretching out beyond his hand, tongue darting at a ring of water left by a glass of some chilled, frou-frou cocktail consumed before either Weidman or I got there.
Weidman’s ‘girl’ is a 6-foot boa constrictor very nearly the color of his jacket.
“I’ll be right back,” I say, and head to the pool table, where I put a quarter on the rail. The girl and the boy are still playing, and judging by the quality of the shots, will be for some time. After flubbing an easy shot he for some reason comes over to me and apologizes. “I was really trying to make that.”
“Dude,” I say, nodding to the girl, “Miss as many shots as you need to. I’m in no hurries tonight.”
He apologizes again, but also says, “thanks!”
Predictably, he wins, then sticks around to play me in the next game. We play, and his game with me is much better than it had been against the girl, and I’m fine with that. I am summarily dispatched.
I go back to find Weidman, to exchange those numbers. But he – and his girl – are gone.