I’m having a beer in a bar when a guy about my age two stools down looks up from the cellphone into which he’s been intensely gazing and says to no one in particular, “This ever happen to you?”
No one else in the vicinity seems to have noticed or heard, so I reply, “What’s that?”
“This is so messed up.” The guy wipes a hand over his face, shakes his head, collects his thoughts. “So, a few days ago, I’m looking in my closet for something, and I find this leather jacket—”
“It’s not mine. It’s not my jacket. It’s not even a man’s jacket. It’s a woman’s leather jacket, and I have no idea how it got there—”
“—Or how long it’s been there. So I start to go through in my head who’s it might be—you know, what women have I been seeing—she might have left it at my place by accident.”
“And I even ask this friend of mine who helps me shop—I’m really color-blind, and she buys shit for me, shirts and pants and stuff that match, and so I ask her, ‘Did you see that leather jacket in my closet?’ And she says, ‘Yeah, it’s been there for at least two months.’”
“Two months?” I say.
“Yeah, I know—two months! But at least that helps me narrow it down. So I figure it’s gotta be one of either two girls. That’s my theory. I text one and ask her if she maybe left her leather jacket.Haven’t heard back from her—not surprised, really; that didn’t end well. And then the other girl, I just texted her, and she texted right back, but kind of snotty—like, ‘Oh, you can’t even keep track of all the women in your bed?’”
The guy pauses, thinking this through, and adds, “I mean, she added a smiley face, so I don’t think she was too pissed off. But anyway—”
“—It wasn’t her jacket either,” I fill in.
“Exactly. And I don’t know who the fuck’s it is.”
“Okay, hold on, let’s pause for a second,” I say. “First, let me compliment you on being a gentleman and at least trying to return the jacket. Most guys would just toss it or whatever. I left a blue sweater at a guy’s apartment a couple weeks ago, and I still haven’t gotten it back….”
The bartender, Lily, has been half-listening and gotten the entire gist of the story in a few seconds. “So, Tom—“ evidently, his name is Tom— “you should make it a Cinderella story—now you set out to find a girl who fits into the leather jacket—”
“And then what? Happy ending?”
“Never know,” Lily says.
“I was thinking of selling it, actually,” he replies, sotto voce. “Hey, Lily! Here, take a look—” he finds a picture of the jacket on his phone, zooms in on it, shows it to her, “twenty-five dollars, I’ll give it to you for twenty-five dollars.”
She laughs and walks away to make someone a drink.
“Let me see,” I say, and the guy—Tom—hands me his phone. I wish I could show you the picture: a mid-length, nice leather jacket with lots of zippers hanging forlornly from a hanger, half on, half off, in an otherwise pretty bare closet. I hand the phone back to him with a smile. “It took you two months before you realized it was there? That part is hilarious.”
He shrugs like, What can I say?
“Women,” he mutters.
“Men,” I mutter, chuckling, in return.
There’s a long pause, and then I tell him I want to buy him a drink.
He looks back at me like he doesn’t understand what I have just said.
“Can I buy you a drink?” I say, putting it more directly.
“A drink? Um, sure, why not,” though he doesn’t look at all sure this is a good idea.
Lily pours him a glass of wine, and refills mine.
“Cheers,” I say, “thank you for that story.”
Tom and I clink glasses.
“Happy New Year,” he says.