I go to the same bar nearly every weekend. Every single one. Why? Who knows. It's Irish, for one thing. The name is Irish, the signs are Irish, and they do everything except hand out IRA membership cards at the door. Another reason could be the amount of good looking women that frequent the place; it's still the only bar in my town where hotties are around every night of the week.
What I don't like about the place, however, is the propensity to run into people that I used to go to high school with. Now, I had a great time in high school running with my specific brand of degenerate that I have long described here, so don't go thinking that I got put in lockers as a kid. But the people that I like, I still see. The people that I didn't, or was just "ok" with, I don't, and truly have no desire to see again.
Of course, over the course of life I get stuck dealing with these things, and such was the case Saturday night when, as I stood trying to flag down my tall Celtic brethern behind the bar, I began to feel gentle tugs on the five dollar bill in my hand as if someone was trying to steal it. I turned to the side with fire in my eyes, and was about to launch into a stream of expletives before I realized that it was a cat that I'd gone to high school with.
He was kind of a loser back then, one of those guys stuck in the middle management level in a rich suburban school where your social standing was everything and your character didn't count for much more than a dead cat counts to a dog. I always liked him.
He was about my height, with reddish hair kept short, wearing a white collared shirt and red tie that made it look like he'd just been sprung from a board meeting with accounting.
I smiled at him, shook his hand.
"How you been bro? It's been a long time," I said.
"Eh. OK. What are you doing now?" he asked.
Such a funny question. I absolutely don't believe that this is a question in any way has anything to do with people being interested in what the fuck I really do for a living. It always seem like they're actually asking themselves, "How far did this waste, who was drunk and high all the time in high school and was famous for ditching classes, having the cops called on him, and getting banned from auto shop (forever), make it in this life? Am I better or worse?"
And I don't think that this specific guy was asking it like that, either, but a lot of others do. Maybe I'm cynical, but I doubt it.
"I'm a journalist now. I work for (insert paper's name here) as a writer," I said.
His eyes lit up. "Really? Wow, that's pretty cool man," he said, and it's clear that he means it.
"What are you up to?" I asked.
Now, let's be clear that exactly after I said this to him, I stopped listening, because I'm a jerk and that's what I do. So I'll recount the following as close as I can.
"Ahh, I'm in finance," he said. I'm not really sure if that's what he said or not, but you get the idea.
"Oh nice," I said.
"Well...not really. It sucks."
"Oh... ok. Well, at least you get paid alright for it."
Rare is the time that I'm trying to find a bright side, but this kid wouldn't recognize and appreciate it.
"No, not really. I mean, it's alright I guess, but I really fucking hate it," he said, with a half smile.
A good looking blond came over and sat down next to him, ignoring me completely, and started talking. I turned back to the bar. I didn't realize that it was his girlfriend until I heard him say, "Nah, this will be my last beer, I swear."
I cringed. Hates his job, and will probably eventually hate his wife. At one point, I think he even tells me that the only things he's got left are getting married and then dying.
See, this is probably the reason why I never talk to people from high school, and, as I said, stop listening nearly immediately after they start speaking. I wanted to smack him, tell him he needs a career change, make his own breaks, and get off the fuckin ritalin, but really, I don't care.
Unfortunately though, I think that one is lost, gone in the swirling maelestrom of mediocrity that swallows the souls of so many. You can watch them drop off, one by one, into dead end jobs, into parenthood, into alcoholism. Watching my mid-20s go by after the neverending wildness of my late teens and early 20s is like watching the rebellious, hopeful 1960's give way to the bombed out 70's.
Everything seems bleak. Earlier that same night, I had seen a girl who I'd gone to school with who was now very pregnant and very alone. She was a cunt back then, but I still don't like seeing the look on the faces of those who know that rough waters are coming. She had that look in spades the entire night, sad eyes knowing that soon enough this kind of fun was done. I've seen quite a few others lately that hang around the local bars like flocks of Al Bundy's, slowly losing their hair while talking about how many yards they ran for in their last high school football game.
It makes me wonder if I'm rising or everyone else is falling away and I'm just standing on a lonely island that no one else can seem to find. Other people are starting their lives, their real lives with families and responsibilities and bullshit, while I'm one job application away from hopefully being catapulted out of NJ and into the world of politics that I've grown to love so much.
The short answer to all this for you people I went to school with is Yes, I'm Doing Better Than You.
Now Kindly Fuck Off.