Here I am, one of nine men sitting on nine bar stools, all of us without wedding rings. The others look a little older than me but it’s an unfair comparison; in my mind’s eye I’m still 30, the age when I met my wife. But here we are, nonetheless, peers, or at least men of similar relationship status – lonely.
Every guy on every stool is sitting on a story, each probably just as sad. Some, no doubt, are worse than mine: cheating spouses, abusive ex-girlfriends, .... (hmmm… I seem to be all out of “worse.”) Others are here because they’ve never found love at all (which is definitely worse.) Regardless of the specifics, we are united on our stools as society’s misfits, the ones for whom the fairytale has failed. We missed our chance. So now we sit together in a crowd of nine, at a bar eating hot wings, alone. Camaraderie, I suppose, sad, wing-sauce flavored camaraderie.
It seems so unfair to me that I’m on this bar stool, with my partners in single life. I didn’t screw up and choose an incompatible mate. I didn’t not make her happy so she had some (albeit arguably shallow) reason to cheat. I didn’t not tell her I loved her every day. I didn’t fail to be a good husband and a good friend. I didn’t fail to support her in her dreams. I didn’t cheat. I didn’t abuse. I didn’t do anything wrong… other than fail keep her alive. Thus, my butt is stuck on this bar stool alongside my new friends eating hot wings in a sports bar wondering if I’ll ever be where I was again – in love and loving being there.
I feel like I should have some sad theme song playing, maybe with piano and saxophone, as I sit here on my stoop, lonely and a little pissed off (that my friends think I should be “over this” by now) and craving even the simplest of human touch. I can’t talk about how I feel to my friends because they don’t understand the depth of my loss. The very thing that strengthened the cement in my relationship with my sweet wife is the very same thing that scares people away now - I cared too much. Why is that a negative? Why can’t that be a badge of honor? Why do I have to go through all this 'being single' crap again? Why can’t there be a t-shirt that says “Hey, it is ok! I’m a great guy. A beautiful girl loved me and I loved her, too. Let’s talk.” Just something to break through all the bullshit. But no. I’m just some older guy with a sad story sitting on a bar stool at the bar with all the other single guys, eating hot wings.
Coming Friday (just days from now) I saddle up to a different bar. This one’s in California and is filled with other folks who understand what it means to not be “over this.” Every person there also speaks the language of death and loss and heartbreak. I’m hoping that a few might even understand and appreciate raw but appropriate dead spouse humor (Maggie and I can’t possibly be the only ones that find humor in this ridiculous tragedy.) I’m anxious about my trip but as a good friend of mine suggested “It’ll be good for you to be around people who have shared the same type of loss as you have.” I hope my friend is right. If she is, maybe for the first time in years, I won’t feel like such a stranger.
See you soon. I know we haven't met but to help you recognize me when you see me, I'll be the guy with the broken heart (and possibly some hot wing stains on my shirt.)