I was meeting some former co-workers for lunch in a bar that is known for blues, not food. Seven of us in a far corner, I cornermost, as is my habit, so I was first to see the maintenance man from our former building.
T[...]. is hard to miss with his long ponytail and his strut, part former jock, part bad back. He ran our building — an old one with problems unpredictable only in their specificity, not their frequency — in the way maintenance men do: with a trace of menace overlaying a general attitude of indifference. We got on well because I recognized a fellow practitioner of fool filtration and knew the way around it.
For T. was a man with more going for him than he let on, and certainly more than he bothered to use. He maintained a symbiotic relationship with our building, not because it was the best he could do, but because it allowed him to do the minimum while pursuing his real interests, which included horses, drink, golf and women who should really know better.
And I imagine I don't know the half of it.
So when I saw T. at the bar, his back to us, it suited me just fine. I had moved on and didn't need one more awkward dance. Still, I couldn't help but watch as he chatted up the blonde woman in the black pant suit, so smooth, then they easily slid over to the video bowling machine. She was just enough older than him for it to be painful to see — how he congratulated her on a strike, how they brushed hands in low five that, between men and women, retained none of the original, how she patted him on the back, and he did not reciprocate.
Something going on there, for sure. This was not the first time they'd met. Their food came and they moved back to the bar.
Was she a property manager from a nearby building? He was at least a mile from his old haunts, a long way to walk for a guy with a bad back, work boots and a suspended license. Maybe this was their neutral territory, where they wouldn't be recognized. They didn't count on us.
But none of my business.
I thought I could slip out back but then discovered the exit was on the other side of the bar. Head down, I attempted my getaway.
"Hey, Charles." He saw me. Of course he saw me. He never would call me Charlie. I turn.
"Hi,T." She is older, but not as far gone as she seemed from a distance. Not bad, really.
"Charles, I want you to meet my mom."