"I paid $7 for this beer, and I'm drinking every drop of it if it kills me."
One of the most popular questions that I receive via email is “How did you meet the Love of Your Life (a.k.a. ‘The LOML’)”?
And I usually think, “Jesus-H-Christ, if they all knew what I had done that night I’d get hate mail from now until all eternity.” Because I used to do some seriously irresponsible shit. Like smoke weed. And drive drunk. Not things I’m happy to admit I did, but they’re a part of my past nonetheless. I thank God every day that I never hurt or killed anyone.
[I'm serious. This is not an easy tale to share.]
However, since today is the 15th anniversary of our meeting, I decided to come clean and just put it out there. Because it’s a damn good (if not very long) story . . .
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Fifteen years ago today, I was 21.
Eight months prior to that, I had decided to get out of a horribly abusive relationship, where the man in question had turned me into a shrinking violet that rarely spoke to my Mom. He did not drink. And he did not allow me to drink (so I went out and did it without his knowing). He didn’t allow me to do a lot of things. Like talk to my BFF. Or spend time with my own family. I’m not sure why it took three years for me to realize I was making the hugest mistake of my life, but I realized it nonetheless.
So, on one sunny day in late July of 1993, I announced to my family, friends, and co-workers (so I’d have accountability partners) that I was going to leave him. I spent three weeks cleaning house and packing, all the while telling him that I was just “reorganizing.” On the morning that I left him, I loaded up what was mine into a few small trucks, taped a note to the wall, and moved back home.
Three days after we broke up, I took a trip with my mom, sister, and her three daughters to a theme park resort. I smiled and laughed with a passion and spirit that I hadn’t seen in over three years. Later that night, I won a tequila shooting contest at the hotel bar and ended up making out with the evening’s emcee. My sister officially declared me “over him.”
Then between September 1993 and March 1994, I spent most of my evenings making up for lost fun. I was single, had successfully completed the “ain’t-nobody-new-gonna-see-me-naked-until-I-lose-40-pounds-diet,” and was on a mission from hell to paint every bar within a 500-mile radius of Sacramento red.
On April 6, 1994, I had spent the day begging the BFF to meet me at a country bar that had become our hangout. It was a Wednesday, which meant that we only had to pay $1 for anything on the bar menu. And I was also itching to dance.
She was married at the time, and kept arguing that it would better for her to stay home.
But I persisted, and she eventually gave in. She said she’d meet me there at 8:00pm.
Later that day, I decided to go to my usual after-work watering hole to spend some time with a bartender that had been doing the flirt tango with me for what seemed like weeks. A bunch of my co-workers followed me over, and we did an amazing job of getting our drink on.
We started with beer, then moved on to shots. In between we munched on appetizers and whatever else the bartender decided we needed to have. He liked me, so most of what was served was either deeply discounted or free. Including booze.
Over the course of 2 ½ hours, I got so drunk, I could barely stand up, let alone walk a straight line. Or drive.
I remember putting my face down on the top of the bar, which was covered in blue tile. It was cool on my face. The bartender, stroking the hair away from my face, asked me to hang out so he could drive me home. But I told him no, because I didn’t want to incur the wrath of the BFF if I stood her up. I had spent all day begging her to go out, so I HAD to meet her. I would either kill myself on the road, or she would kill me for not meeting her. Either way, I was screwed.
So I stumbled to the bathroom, splashed water on my face, and changed into my two-steppin’ clothes.
The bartender then begged me to stay. Not only so he could drive me home, but maybe take advantage of me. A supreme offer, really, but I declined. And left.
I would never see him again.
From there, the evening’s events get a little fuzzy. And can only be described as reckless, negligent, and downright foolish.
I do not remember getting into the car. I do remember getting on the freeway and talking myself through the driving process. “You’re just driving. You do this every day. You’re only going three miles. You can do this. You can TOTALLY do this.”
I do not remember being on the freeway.
I do remember being on the road that I needed to be on after exiting the freeway. I was still talking to myself. “You’re almost there. Just a few more lights, girl. Just get there.”
And if that wasn’t scary enough, I don’t remember anything else. I just remember waking up in the parking lot of the country bar. At 8:30pm.
Since the bouncers knew me, I didn’t have to go through the I.D. or line-vetting process to get through the door. If they had known how drunk I was, or what I had done to get there, they would have called the police.
I walked in and began to look around for the BFF, who found me within three minutes of my arrival. “Are you KIDDING me with this?” she said, and grabbed the keys out of my hand. “Come on, let’s go have Ed make you some coffee. And get you some gum . . . Jesus! I’ve been watching the place for 30 minutes and there’s this really cute cowboy that I want you to check out. But not looking the way you do. How’d you get in?”
“I put my bangs over my eyes and smiled for the boys.”
“Jesus. I can’t believe you drove here.”
She spent the better part of an hour getting me pumped full of caffeine, then took me to the bathroom to fix my face.
A few minutes later, after we emerged from the ladies room, she was asked to dance. She was always asked to dance – my BFF is a natural beauty without even trying. When done up, she looks like something out of an Estee Lauder ad. It’s totally disgusting. But I love her anyway.
She and her dance partner headed for the floor. I then realized that dance partner’s wingman was fast approaching me, assuming that I’d partner up with him. He resembled George Costanza, and was wearing a shirt that was too tight, unbuttoned to show his hairy chest, and drenched with sweat. I was SO not going there.
Behind him though, and gaining ground, was a tall, handsome, blue-eyed cowboy. Thinking as quickly as I could for as drunk as I was, I walked right past George, went up to the cowboy, and said, “Dance with me! This is my FAVORITE song!” Then I grabbed his hand and ran, leaving George in a cloud of dust.
While we were dancing, the BFF made her way over to me and mouthed the words, “THAT WAS THE GUY I WANTED YOU TO SEE!” And did the thumbs up move.
When the music stopped, we made our way to a small spot at the end of the bar to talk. This is where it’s really important for you to know that I have no sense of smell. At all.
For the first ten minutes of the conversation, I was scared out of my mind. Because whenever I said anything to him, he would immediately turn his face away. I kept thinking, “Oh-my-f’ing-GOD-my-breath-must-smell-like-hot-ass.” But I had no way to really know. Having no sense of smell, the old “breathe-into-your-palm-and-sniff” trick never worked for me.
Finally, I just said, “Uh, does my breath smell?”
“Because you keep turning your face away when I say something.”
He laughed and then said, “Ohhh. Sorry. I can’t hear out of this [pointing to his left] ear. I’m just trying to make sure I understand you.”
And I was like, “No . . . WAY! I have no sense of smell. Don’t we make an awesome couple?!”
He laughed again, and we spent the rest of the night talking and dancing. The BFF met up with some of our other friends, but would stop by to check on me here and there. By the time ‘last call’ was announced, I’d sobered up enough to drive home. He walked me to my car, kissed me on the cheek, and we agreed to meet again two days later.
The next morning, I told my mom that I had met a really nice guy, and I remember her rolling her eyes immediately.
Five years later, she would give him her wedding ring so he could use it to propose marriage.
Yes. Women really do marry guys that they meet at bars.