This restaurant is a dump. Why did it get such good reviews online? This is what I get for trusting a phone to make my decisions for me. But if this is the worst thing I complain about tonight, life isn’t so bad.
Oh wait, Diane and Mr. Pringle.
Never mind; my life sucks.
Okay, I suppose I should see if the inside of this restaurant is as sketchy as the outside.
“Good evening, monsieur.”
Did a Korean maitre d’ just greet me with a French accent?
“Uh, hi… sir? Table for one… uh, por favor?”
God, I suck.
The maitre d’ chuckles and says, “We will prep a table for you. Because it will take about ten minutes, please enjoy a complimentary drink at our bar.”
The interior of this place is, dare I say, gorgeous. No, seriously. I was prepping myself to defend myself from a good, old-fashioned, Rikers Island-style shanking, but there wasn’t a single sharpened plastic toothbrush to be found. The bar is super sleek also. I can’t help but be somewhat awestruck by everything from the leather barstools to the navy velvet backdrop behind the liquor shelf.
“Have a seat. The bartender will be with you in a second.”
Now that I think about it, this place is a ghost town. In fact, I’m the only one here. I wonder why they need ten minutes just to prep a table.
Probably so they can sharpen their shanks.
“Hey, how’s it going, buddy?” It was like the bartender appeared out of thin air. Thin, hipster air, in fact. No man should have such well-coifed hair and an expertly waxed mustache unless he somehow traveled from the 1930’s.
He also has a bowtie.
“I’m good. It’s been a long day, dude. You mind if get a small bottle of soju?”
“Sure thing. Doug told me it’s on the house.”
“The maitre d’.”
“Doug. The Korean dude with a French accent is named Doug. Of course.”
The bartender places a glass in front of me and asks, “What’s your name?”
“John. How about you?”
“Jun-seo. Jun for short,” he says while filling the shot glass and then placing the bottle on a coaster in front of me.
“Nice meeting you, Jun. Slow night for you guys, huh?”
“Ah, it’s been worse I suppose. Not a lot of people venture in here.”
“Well, maybe the owner should spend some time making the exterior look less like crap. No offense.”
Jun laughs and says, “Yeah, I should probably get to that.”
“Oh man, I’m sorry. I totally didn’t mean to insult your place.”
Although I’m only sorry because I was caught talking trash.
“Don’t sweat it; you’re right. So what made you come in?”
“I wanted a drink and my phone told me you could make that happen for me. Everything’s coming up John.”
“Is it now?”
I can see right through his game. “Wait a sec. Are you doing that whole psychiatrist-bartender thing?”
“Not at all. It just sounded like you were being sarcastic.”
H-he understands my sarcasm! I shall call this man ‘friend.’
“I was, yeah,” I say after downing my shot, “It’s my girlfriend. And her shitty father. I don’t know, man; I just needed to get a drink or twelve.”
“That bad, eh. Why do you stay together?”
Shit. I’ve never had someone ask me something like that so directly. I’m also not this easily thrown off. Quite the night of firsts.
“Boundaries, Jun. I just met you.”
“I just like conversation. How about I pour you another?”
“Sure. And, uh, whatever. I mean, Diane and I have been together for a little over six years. She’s a good woman, but, y’know, she has her issues. Everyone does, I suppose.”
“She can be kind of cool sometimes. She’s super caring. Great cook too. She’s the kind of woman you marry.”
“Alright. If she’s so great, why are you here getting drunk instead of marrying her?”
“Want my honest opinion?”
“No,” I say before swigging shot number two, “lie to me and continue getting me drunk.”
“Your relationship will eventually fail if you’re not in a place where you can just talk to her. Get out of it while you can instead of letting it die a slow death. Otherwise, stop drinking and work it out.”
“You son of a bitch… you might be right. But I can’t do that.”
“What do you mean, ‘why’? Because I can’t.”
“Are you physically unable to leave her?”
“Well, leaving is tough. We’ve been together six years; I can’t just give up on something like that. Then again, speaking to her is tough too.”
“You can do anything you want. Who’s stopping you?”
“Right.” This time I pour my own shot.
“Look, I don’t blame you for resisting this idea; you’re trapped in the illusion.”
“The illusion of what?”
“The illusion that any of this really matters, friend. And if none of it matters, why cling to something that hinders your happiness or your girlfriend’s happiness? I’m not trying to convince you one way or another. I’m just curious why you and other people like you do this to yourselves.”
Who is this guy?
These are the worst kind of questions – the kind to which I have no answer. Not a logical answer, anyway.
“Alright, you got me, prosecutor. I am guilty of being in a soon-to-be loveless relationship. It may even be there already. So what do you propose I do? Also, I’ll order another bottle.”
“Consider it on the house too.”
“Now, for your question: I’m not proposing you do anything. Simply live the life you want to lead and not the one you think you want to lead. Does that make sense?”
“It will. You’re a smart guy, John Doe.”
“I never told you my last name.”
“I just had a feeling. I get those sometimes.”
“Creepy. I should probably get going. Mostly because you just freaked me out. All the same, it was nice meeting you, I suppose. Please don’t kill me while my back is turned.”
“John, before you go, I just want to leave you with something.”
“And that is?”
“First, here’s that bottle of soju. Just take it with you. Secondly, be who you are. This world can shape your perception to a point where society’s expectations become the person you think you are. You’re not that person. You can do anything you want. It was great meeting you, John Doe.”
“It was… interesting meeting you, Jun.”