She was a poet and a painter and liked to say she had a posthumous crush on Buster Keaton.We met at the whiskey bar where I hang out when I have nothing better to do, which is most every night. I call it “my bar,” partly because other than work and possibly my apartment it’s the place I spend most of my time, but also because I literally claimed it in my divorce. I plopped down on a bar stool and ordered a glass of Four Roses Small Batch. She was sipping Pappy Van Winkle’s 20-year-old bourbon neat. She had a T.S. Eliot tattoo on her back. She was taller than me and wore the same glasses. She gave me the once-over twice. I gave her my hand.
It turned out we had friends in common. Dozens, in fact.
It also turned out that she lived in my building. Just down the hall.
Another round, bartender.
From there things unfolded slowly and inevitably but not without collateral damage. She’d been attached but unhappy and so she ended it, perhaps a bit hastily. It was messy.
And then, at least briefly, it wasn’t. We’d come home from work most nights and watch old movies, smoke cigarettes and drink wine. She’d throw together an extemporaneous charcuterie plate or make borscht for dinner, and we’d debate the merits of Luis Buñuel’s “Exterminating Angel” or laugh hysterically while reciting our favorite “Kids in the Hall” skits. Some nights we’d say to hell with sleep and pile into her green mid-’70s Dodge Challenger, roll over to our favorite seedy, late-night downtown bar and share a few cheap, stiff drinks with her husband.
Oh, right. She was married. But not married married. He was gay. He was also Ukrainian. He needed citizenship to be with the man he loved. Ever the iconoclast, always an outlaw, she was happy to help.
She often sang to me, mostly at night as we dozed off to sleep. She didn’t have a particularly good singing voice, but she didn’t care. More often than not, the song she chose was “I’m Sticking With You” by the Velvet Undergound. Moe Tucker didn’t have a particularly good singing voice either, so it worked.
I’m sticking with you
‘cos I’m made out of glue
Anything that you might do
I’m gonna do, too
She sang it to me, affectionately, like she meant it.
But she didn’t. Mean it, I mean. And deep down we both knew it. From the very beginning it was apparent our relationship had a shelf-life. Ultimately she wanted things I didn’t want. Like to be married married.
And then about six weeks after it began, it ended. Her ex came back. He vowed to change. He got down on one knee and offered her a ring. A week later she moved out and, as far as I know, they’re living happily ever after.
But I don’t really know for sure. They don’t stop by the whiskey bar much anymore, and neither do their friends. From our old group of “regulars,” I’m the last man standing. I suppose nothing lasts forever.
Just ask the Ukrainian.