The weather indecisively alternates between swirling snow and diagonal sleet as I make my way down the last stretch of my 3 mile run to the brewery. Usually I’m surrounded by other runners from our Tuesday night running club at this point. However, because of the inclement weather and my late start, this run is a solo effort, except for the motivation coming from not wanting to be the wimp in my new group of buddies. The lights in the brewery glow ahead, and I feel myself start to smile in anticipation of meeting the group inside. When I open the doors and walk inside, I’m happy to find my lofty expectations validated. A chorus of “hi!” “look who made it!” “how was the run?” welcome me right away, in Cheers fashion. “What are you drinking?” Dave asks immediately as he walks toward the bar. I sit down at our table, ready to catch up with the guys on what’s been going on since Saturday. Of course, since we’ve just known each other for a little over a month, we have a little more to catch up on.
Just watching the group interact is entertaining enough. Two guys light-heartedly rehashing Saturday’s basketball game, a bunch of men imitating the Civil War history buff who ran next to me last weekend, and another man showing off the new running tights he got that were half-off last Sunday (which “nobody wants to hear about!”). I can hardly touch my beer because I’m laughing so much. This isn’t much of an issue until I realize people are headed for the door, and I still have well over half of my beer to drink. Brian and Dave settle my momentary anxiety as they each go to order another drink. I ask Brian if he’ll please grab me a water while he’s up. “Waaaaader?” he laughs. “She’ll have a waaader,” he added with an especially southern accent. I look over at Dave confused. There’s no way I sound like that. I say it out loud, just to check, “water. I’ll have a water… No, I say that normal.” Brian and I go back and forth comparing our “water” pronunciation before we conclude we both say water with a d sound, and that no one really says waTER.
This reminds him of a story. Dave and I laugh as Brian recounts how his formerly heavy accent led him to get the nickname Huckleberry when he joined the coast guard. “Now I go by Brian, but I used to call myself Briiine,” he starts off. He has me laughing so much my smile aches. He adds in how he would get letters from his high school sweetheart who was named Becky, and the crew always used to tease him that he had a letter from Becky Thatcher. He adds in at some point that Becky went on to break his heart and marry an extremely rich and perfect guy and that she probably looks back on him and thinks she dodged a bullet. Dave and I are still laughing, but we assure him that she’s missing out.
Now Dave chimes in about his wife’s exuberantly rich ex-boyfriend. Brian excitedly comments, “yeah, it’s the same for her!” Dave shakes his head. They both said in unison, “No! It’s the opposite!” More laughter. Dave explains the story of how he met and married Tracy. They were very good friends, but he dated other girls, and Tracy would come along as a sort of third wheel. He laughs as he remembers thinking on one such date, “man I wish I could just date a girl like Tracy…” Brian finds it hilarious that Dave missed the obvious idea of dating Tracy. Dave laughs too, but explains that he redeemed himself when he finally realized he loved Tracy. They were with a group of friends at a week-long beach getaway, and on the last day he and Tracy talked out on the beach and he told her he liked her and that he thought they should date. She said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Brian and I are again in stitches at his horrible story. “BUT the joke’s on her!” Dave added in, “she married me!”
Now it’s my turn because that’s just too perfect of a segue into my painful memory. I say, “Lis. ten. to. this,” which of course is the most intriguing way to start a story. I tell about the time I worked up all my courage to tell a boy I liked him, asked him how he felt, and then told him I thought we should kiss. The guys are meanwhile the most encouraging audience ever chiming in with their approbation at every pause. “Oh that’s rare.” “Girls don’t do usually that. No girl has ever said anything like that to me.” “That’s going out on a limb… that’s the only way to live.” For some reason I’m still staying on the verge of laughter as I rehash this heartbreak. I continued towards the story’s climax, “and he said…” They cut me off. “He said??” “If he did anything but grab you and kiss you, he’s an idiot. Did he kiss you?” “He said something? Was he gay?” Now I’m actually laughing and can hardly get out the next line. “He said,” I paused for effect as I looked at Dave, “I don’t think that’s a good idea!” The guys scoff at my conclusion, disapproving of the whole thing.
Next Brian is up again, and one after another, we recount these awful stories of our horrible experiences. We’re enthusiastically chiming in with our worst heart-wrenching stories that should be difficult to relive. We can’t wait to tell them. We’re so happy to hear them. We’re laughing heartily at what were probably some of each other’s most trying times. By the end of it, we are wiping away tears from laughter where before, we likely had tears of pain and sadness upon thinking of the same things.
When we finally leave the brewery, chatting and joking about more pressing matters now, I walk to my car with wings on my feet. I think, what funny things we get worked up over. How strange that those things that I got so worried about are so small in the scheme of my life and what matters now. I leave feeling like those heart breaks, some I know I still think about, are the silliest things in the world, and it seems rather ridiculous caring for those who don’t see something irresistible in me. The guys and I have a sort of inside understanding that each of us are catches, and when someone else doesn’t quite realize how great we are, the jokes on them.