Friction

I never liked going out. It’s challenging to find meaningful conversation in the types of places that I could actually afford to go, you see. Local bars are most interesting in the early evening, before the specials run. Before the “going out” actually begins.

That’s when you could find me there, hoping to fall in love with you. That’s when the regulars and I swap stories. They enjoy my choosy words and winding drop-off sentences, and I’ve taken quite a liking to their slurred and riddled advice. They are puzzle pieces, just like me, just like you. Our edges rarely fit nicely.

The straight-laced and straight-edged fit, but never feel. They allow themselves no friction.

The jagged and ragged fight for the warmth and nearness of a snug fit. They sand away their most precious corners in these efforts.

The smooth and swooping are beautiful like crashing waves, but they rarely fit in. They’re burdened with being elegant and particular.

The ordinary and obedient have calculated knobs and notches. Given something close enough, they will take the fit and give up on creating the perfect picture.

We’re all puzzle pieces.

The drunks tell me, every Wednesday at 5:30, that I’m a middle piece, different on every side. It’s because I’ve loved so hard and so much, and perhaps a few too many times. The drunk soul in my sober body agrees. I give my all more often than I can really afford to. Vulnerability, though very much present, was scratched from my list of concerns the first time I fell asleep with my head tucked into a bare chest. I will always be vulnerable, so what difference does it make. I’ll continue to love like I’ve always loved, so why do I talk about it.

There’s just one reason.

One day, a tired man with tired eyes is going to pull over at a century-old, twelve-stool bar at six o’clock on a Wednesday. He’ll slam the truck door and half-walk, half-limp from the parking lot, flighting numbness in his legs from the long drive. The door will swing open and he’ll be surprised to see his shadow fall along the wall. Only one or two men turn to look at him. The other four or five people will be huddled at the end of the bar nearest the whiskey. Mostly older men, maybe a woman, and then a young girl right in the middle. Everyone will be listening to her.

She’ll be loud and passionate, but her very conversation could have been published prose. She could be talking about anything from elections to moonshine, but he wouldn’t even notice. He’ll sit down two seats away and ask for a burger and beer. He’ll listen to the conversation and realize all at once that he has an overwhelming urge to ask her to go with him.

In the meantime, I’ll pretend that I haven’t noticed. That will be vulnerability making one last ditch effort in protecting my heart. You could be the one I always hoped to fall in love with. I’ll be racing, wondering, pleading that maybe one of our sides will fit. The old men will catch me glancing at you and slowly peel away to their homes and wives. This same routine has come up a time or two before, but when they find me back there the next day, alone and upset, they catch my courage for it. So even if you’re not the one I’ve been hoping to fall in love with, I can risk it.

It will be me and you and the clueless. I’ll reach out with words rather than hands, trying to get a feel for your edges. When they’re different, I’ll begin to notice my own more closely. Different, yes, but perhaps complementary. Seven o’clock on a Wednesday, and I catch myself smitten and hoping to fall in love. I’ll miss the regulars, but I need new stories. We can come visit in a few years. This bar is my safe place, you know, even though I never really liked going out.

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