You Always Know
I tend to overthink things. That’s me. I’ve come to the realization that I probably won’t lose that characteristic. Sometimes it will work for me and sometimes it can really work against me. When it’s working against me, I need to cut myself off. I need to decompress.
The thing is, when you tend to overthink and need to escape your own mind, nature isn’t the setting that works for me. Nature will invigorate me but it will also lead me to spend plenty of my time reflecting. Some people want to be in a natural setting when they need to think about things but if there is no choice to be made, action to follow or a particular matter to resolve, I need a different setting.
There are times I need to blow off steam. Heck, there are times I just want to ignore it all, shut things out … maybe even avoid a decision that needs to be made. I’m a big believer that escapism is a good thing; it can be exactly what my mind needs in order to return to that decision-making mode. I don’t have to be polite, chatty or anything at all. I don’t have to concern myself with how I’m coming off … I can just be.
It’s a funny thing because I think I’m connecting with something on some level … the atmosphere, a vibe that I get to observe and feel but to a very subtle degree. It’s as if I disappear and become part of the backdrop where others exist. When there is an animated person or group, I may observe. I’m not there to engage with anyone, though, and people can see that right away if they even notice me at all. I talk to two people in the place … Johnny and Maggie. It’s a superficial exchange.
John is the owner and Maggie seems to be working every night I’m there. Sometimes it’s a nod from Johnny and other times it’s a quick commentary about the game that’s on if we’re both staring at the same screen. It’s never forced and it’s not the usual exchange of pleasantries. I never get asked how I am and I never ask him how he is. This is the kind of place where people know to mind there own business unless someone looks like they’re looking for more. This is even the kind of place where you’re expected to make it obvious if you’re looking for more.
Johnny seems like a good guy. It’s clear he cares about the place many think of as a dump. It’s very clean and he’s always moving. He has his regulars and he knows just how to share enough to keep them coming back and feel that they’re welcome but not to the point where they’re taking up too much of his time. Yes, I enjoy our exchange but don’t want to know him more than I do.
Maggie, on the other hand, is there to make tips and she does it well. She returns the tease to the men flirting at the bar, but not to the point where they think they can grope her or even ask her out. Sometimes there’s the odd guy that gets a case of liquid courage … and she wears a ring and flashes it and says something like “Hey now. I’m a taken woman!” There may be some variation of this. I suspect it’s something she slips on. A boyfriend never visits and it’s the kind of place a man would want to show his face around if his woman is working. There are inconsistencies with some things she’s told the men but they don’t remember. I notice she’s always in steel-toed boots. It’s a seedy place, but it’s mostly a precaution. Maggie knows how to adjust her style and she’s attentive. She smiles at me and asks if it will be a beer or hard one tonight. Sometimes she just knows and smiles proudly as she places whatever she thinks I want in front of me. I find it funny that she’s been wrong and has forced me to drink something I didn’t want. It’s part of her charm and I always say, “Thanks Maggie. You always know.” I make it a little easier for Maggie by always drinking the same beer or whiskey, which I’m sure is part of the reason she decides she’s safe to select for me sometimes. Her lack of professionalism does not rob her of sheer charisma. Her errors and the drunks and the occasional shady dealings keep the place so real in a way that no other space does. It’s actually why I think the spot has charm even if most people would never understand or refer to this place with terrible lighting as charming.
Although I may people-watch from the corner of my eye, my face is turned to the screen. I watch football, hockey or whatever else is playing. When the Leafs are playing you can see the camaraderie. It’s always interesting to watch how the mood changes with the sports season much like how our lives change with nature’s seasons.
Yes, my secret garden isn’t a garden at all. I have an anti-garden that brings me peace when my wheels are spinning. It’s not Cheers … I go to a place where no one knows my name except Johnny and Maggie and they’ve probably forgotten. I have a place that gives me a break from my concerns and irritations, yet material to create. I have a spot I go to that I keep secret from absolutely everyone and, just like George Thorogood, I always drink alone.
Written by: Leni Sosa; Permanence of Wings