Driving on route 44 northbound. It’s been several months since I’ve taken this road. A faded greying dirt-caked dump truck clunking forward two cars in front of mine. Deep inhales necessary for this sing-along breathes me back to the scotch I had drank several times in the past few weeks. My senses transport me to that damp musty Caol Ila which made her way dancing around a glass bottle from the Isle of Islay. I ordered it just last night at the pub near Fairmount and Cedar. “May I please have it neat?” I ask with intimidation turning toward the petite server who stands calm yet firm in a wool flat cap. I noticed his jokey-like build with green eyes. The eyes I hadn’t been as aware of until just this moment. Perhaps the mask is highlighting that deep shadowing seaweed hue.
I’ve come to this pub unmasked yet masked dozens of times, perceiving myself too awkward to start conversations outside of social drink-order scripts. It reminds me of the current lines farmer Eric and I have been rerunning for the past 9 weeks when picking up my CSA share. “Hi, how are you? In the far back. Thanks! Have a great weekend.” as I drive away regretting how watered down my human interactions have become, hoping to soon claw myself out of this pandemic. Julia presented as a softer barkeep who swiftly broke from the drink-order script. The way she leans in and pulls her shoulders to her ears with empathic posture and inviting robin egg eyes. My sister says bartenders are fake-nice because they are manipulating you for tips. “They all do that,” she says with quick confidence. I think Julia is different. She seems genuine. She seems authentic. I envy Julia because as she chats it up with patrons, she doesn’t hold back from sharing. For each detail a customer offers, she mirrors right back. It takes me a dozen vulnerabilities before I’m willing to share even half of one.
So, here I sit. Shifting back and forth between a perfectly neat scotch and the conversations on each side of me; double fisting the flavors of peeled moss dirt and human connection.