I hope you don’t mind me using an anagram of your name to write this letter. I wouldn’t want it to be purloined in transit and exploited in any way. I don’t know what I would do if I saw the contents of this letter staring up at me from a filthy gutter, or, even worse, posted on the internets for everyone to see. Being that you are a worldly, learned man yourself, and you know the myriad ways humans’ random acts of unkindness manifest themselves in this digital age, I trust you understand my concern, and that you know in my heart that I do, in fact, remember your real name.
That aside, I want to thank you for gracing me with your presence the other night. When you and your companion entered the bar, it was like a breath of fresh air. A nice breath of spicy, exotic, well-dressed, West Indian fresh air with unparalleled muscle tone and a thousand watt smile. I very rarely believe in love at first sight, but your easy, welcoming small talk and your flawless genetic material had me wishing you would father my children. Ten or eleven of them.
Your companion, an older woman, was beautiful and spunky, probably in her mid-fifties but dressed in a fun, young, classy way. Her hair was blond and spiked, and she was so full of life and love and confidence. You told me you had just flown in from Texas and were attending one of her seminars at UNC. I learned that she was your aunt and the widowed president of the S_____ Institute Her husband, T_____ S_____, had passed away in 1997, leaving his spiritual empire in the hands of this brassy, tough woman in the hopes that she would continue to teach his life-affirming dogma and keep his legacy alive by working as a motivational speaker, teaching losers how to use their goals and abilities to construct the life they want.
I’ll admit I’m glad that she was your aunt and not your lover. This meant I had a shot at a long-distance relationship with you. I barely listened to anything you said for the two hours that you sat at the bar, regaling me with stories and blinding me with your smile. Instead of paying attention to you, I was envisioning long, sleepy telephone conversations in the dead of night, hastily, passionately scrawled letters scented with my perfume and sent to you SWAK, long-awaited biannual rendezvous in some mid-western bungalow or Aspen ski lodge. I’m sorry about that. You understand.
Your aunt did not appear drunk. At one point, you remember, she asked where I would go if I could go anywhere in the world. Without hesitating, I answered, “Germany,” because I have a slight obsession with Germany. She immediately wrote down her email and said, “You send me the dates you want to go to Germany, and I will buy you a round trip ticket. Just like that.” Her air was so commanding, her tone so sincere, the look in her eyes so genuine, so focused on me and my poor, untraveled self, that I couldn’t bring myself to openly doubt her. So I just smiled a little, maybe a little smugly, and accepted the paper and promised I would, in fact, write to her with the specifics of my S_____-funded trip.
“It’s what I do,” she said, pronouncing each word as though the individual syllables were well-practiced ammunition against non-believers. I looked at you for confirmation of the validity her offer, and your face betrayed nothing; nothing in your expression led me to believe that I should not take her seriously.
“It’s what she does,” you said, and that line was enough to send my imagination traipsing through the German countryside, holding your hand, each of us tucking into a kielbasa on-the-go while we pet peddling donkeys and stopped periodically to adjust each other’s lederhosen. I decided then and there I would learn to love sauerkraut if it meant you would love me more.
What happened next was a bit blurry, but, in retrospect, I think I retained enough of it to be able to relay it to you accurately, since it all occurred while you were in the bathroom.
I was in the midst of Part XVI of my Germanic Fantasy, the part where we buy an old-style Tudor house with cash and we watch Discovery Channel in our pajamas. Only the shows are overdubbed in German, and we think this is funny, and “Who cares if the words don’t fit their mouths! Das Geschwalle,” we say as we laugh and refill our mugs of Liebfraumilsch, sauerkraut simmering on the stove. Because I love sauerkraut now, for you. For You.
I was brought back to reality when your aunt dumped her entire drink on the bar, very apropos of nothing and most certainly deliberately. Die Schwanzlutscher! She looked at me and said, “Well, WHADDYA THINK A DAT?” Wombatalie (you met her; she’s the drummer in the band I’m in, remember? Remember I told you I was in a band in a desperate attempt to make you think I was cool and worth a classic old-fashioned mesalliance?) looked at me with a mixture of shock and terror in her eyes, as if to say, “Well, Wombat, this woman is batshit ca-RAY-zy, right?”
And I told your aunt, I told her, “Well, what I think of that is I think it’s time for you to go home.”
Her response was to pick up several patrons’ drinks and slam them one by one, the defiance sparkling in her bloodshot eyes a little more with each stolen Jager shot, each drained, pilfered Old English.
And then, sweetheart, while you were in the bathroom, thinking about me I’m sure, your aunt busied herself by practicing her Ninja Batshit Vault technique. I don’t know if you’ve seen this move from her before, but I can tell she’s been practicing it for a long, long time. Maybe she tries it out on the kitchen countertop? Or maybe the picnic table in her backyard? Or perhaps she attempts it on parked Buicks, small watercraft in her neighbors’ driveways, chain link fences?
Who knows? Anyways, she placed both her hands on the bar and vaulted herself over it in one jump, landing with a small tennis grunt three inches away from me, behind the bar. Like, in MY area. She bared her teeth and said, “Do ya want me to go home NOW, missy?”
“Well, um, yeeeah,” I told her. Just because she can chug strangers’ White Russians and perform imbibed airborne stunts doesn’t mean she’s welcome in my bar.
That’s when you returned from the bathroom. I could tell by your expression, your beautiful, bored-as-hell expression, that this display was nothing you hadn’t seen from Aunt Flo before. You signed your tab, tossed forty bucks on the bar for me, and then you were out of my life forever.
Or were you? Maybe that squeeze on the shoulder I gave you, that little subtle wink and the mouthed “Thank You” I tossed out while you were struggling to remove her from the establishment, maybe that was enough to sear an imprint into your deep-thinking, well-traveled, wistful, Harvard-educated brain. Maybe one day you’ll return to me sans Aunt Jo, and you’ll let me pick out beers for you again and you’ll tell me your real name, because I did notice that you introduced yourself with five different names when addressing five different people over the course of the night. You’re so mysterious.
Maybe one day you’ll realize that I don’t care about the in-laws that will be bestowed upon me after we are united as one. We’ll laze in our tudor home and construct Kleiderschrank shrines hailing David Hasslehoff. Maybe one night, when I leave work, I’ll see you at the top of the Hell stairs, nonchalantly leaning against the low brick wall, your hands in your back pockets, much like Aunt Flo did after her Stunt that night. Only she was stalking the parking lot with beer-stained culottes and a grimace, waiting for me to leave so she could kill me. I know she was. We checked several times and I didn’t leave until it was safe.
I only have one question.
Do you think she’ll still be sending us to Germany? Or no?
Write Back Soon, Love,