I got caught cheating on a Sunday.
It was one of those sunny June days in Brooklyn, that ebbing time of T-shirts and jeans before the humidity hits, when you can still walk comfortably down the street without drowning in your own sweat. We’d staked out a Smith Street bar with front window walls that opened outward onto the sidewalk, giving our seats that breezy, front-porch feeling. Our first beers were nearing their ends when she appeared out of the passing crowds on the sidewalk. She saw us before we saw her—which is how it always happens when you get caught.
“Hey guys,” she said calmly. “Enjoying yourselves?”
Her face betrayed no surprise at seeing us, no anger. But that didn’t stop me from blurting out: “I’m cheating on you.”
Relationships with bartenders are a nuanced affair. On the one hand,
nothing more is required than attentive service and a nice tip. Between the
pour and the last sip, there is ample time to be filled with quiet or a
head in a book or a good story or a heartfelt question. It depends on the
patron, the bartender and the mood of the day.
But even in the friendliest of relations, there’s always a small divide between the role of bartender and that of friend. Not to say that you aren’t friendly with your bartender or that they can’t one day become your friend, but as long as the sole interaction of your relationship exists at that long wooden bar separating tap from stool, you are not true friends.