When I worked at a restaurant, one of my regulars was O. O was around 50 years old and came in regularly for a drink at our bar. O was definitely gay, and definitely thought I was cute—so, naturally, I maintained a professional level of flirting to keep him coming in and spending his money with us.
One day, he asked me to get a drink. I hesitated, so he gave me his card. After thinking about it, I thought: What could one drink hurt?
I asked him where he wanted to meet, thinking this middle-aged doctor would take me somewhere elegant, some speakeasy or piano bar. Instead, he messaged back for me to meet him at G-Lounge in Chelsea.
I have nothing against G-Lounge—it’s a great place to gather and get drink specials. But it wasn’t the fancy fantasy extravaganza I’d imagined in my head. All the same, I threw on a pair of leather pants and met him at 6:30.
We sat at a small table in the back, behind the bar. I sat across from him, not too intimate, not giving the wrong impression. He smiled and told me he was happy to see me, and that he was worried he’d be late. “My wife just kept talking my ear off. I wasn’t sure I was ever going to get out of the house.”
A bartender came by to take our drink order before I could say “What the fuck?” so I ordered a margarita on the rocks and, once the waiter left, politely said, “What the fuck?”
“She’s bedridden, so it’s never an issue going out. But our daughter called today, so she filled me in.”
So O had a wife. A sick wife. And a daughter. “You’re married?”
“To a woman?
“Don’t worry, she has no idea where I spend my evenings.” He explained that she had a spinal injury that left her immobilized from the neck down; a live-in nurse took care of her. The waiter brought our drinks, which I drank quickly.
“Yes, it’s been hard, but when you’re with someone for almost 40 years, you don’t just leave them.”
I choked on my drink. “Forty years? …How old are you?”
“Sixty-four.” I finished the rest of my drink in one swift gulp. “Do you want to leave?” he continued. “I know of a great hotel in the area.”
“To be honest, O, you’re about 15 years older than I thought—and a lot more married than I thought. Also, I guarantee your wife knows more than you let on.” I stood up. “Would you like to walk me out?”
“I think I’ll stay,” he said, eyeing the room. I nodded and left as quickly as I could, abandoning my buy-one-get-one margarita.
O came back to the restaurant a year later, slipping me another business card with the note, “Left my wife—grab a drink?” Of course I didn’t—but, to be honest, I do still want that bogo margarita.