Volume 2, Number 3 -- March, 1997
To Thine Own Self Be True

by Dean Shutt

 "I knew this girl once," he said as he slumped further into his drink. "She was a wonderful girl, a lady really."
 So began the tale of that poor little man. A story that has I have kept with me these last ten years. Until now that is, now I give this story to you for your inspection and approval. Times are hard, I could use the cash, and what the hell it's just a story.
 I was in a bar, as I often am, brooding on the inequity of life. You see I'm a writer by trade, a fairly talented one by some accounts. Unfortunately talent requires quite a bit of work in order to take you anywhere and somehow I had never really managed the work part. At any rate, I was in the bar, drinking my last few dollars before I went home to play "duck-the-landlord." I was nearly to the point where you realize you are low as you are ever going to be when I noticed him. He was dirty, unkempt, generally disheveled and muttering something unintelligible into his whiskey.
 I don't know to this day why I went over there. I suppose it was because I'm always on the lookout for new material. In my line of work a guy weeping in his drink is definite gold mine possibility. Call me callous, but give most people a choice between a feel good tale and a weeper and ninety percent will take depression every time. So I guess I figured I might get a few bucks of his misery and away I went. He told me this story, his story and now it's your story.
 "We met at the shop where she worked," he began, "I was in there for something, I don't remember what it was now...anyway, she helped me and we talked and smiled and flirted I guess. I remember visiting that shop quite a bit those next few weeks." He took another hit from his drink and continued, "I remember going in there almost every day. I would buy any little thing I could think of just to see her. Hell, I took up smoking just to have an excuse to go in there every day."
 He stopped there for a moment. His eyes glistened a bit and he was fighting back the tears. You can't mine for gold without a little digging so I bought him a drink and prodded him to continue. "Anyway, we finally went out. Then we went out again and the next thing you know we're what I guess you would call an item." He went on about their dating years for awhile, but I won't bother you with the details.
 "As time went on, I decided I couldn't be without her. That might sound simple enough to solve to you, but for me, at the time, it was a dilemma. I was unemployed, out of shape, not what you'd call a snappy dresser. She was amazing though, gorgeous, witty, charming and her eyes were a shade I'd never seen before or since. The day didn't go by that I didn't wonder what in the world she saw in me."
 He was crying now, no doubt about it, and the other patrons were beginning to notice us (and not in the most friendly way). So I suggested we adjourn to a more quiet spot so he might continue his story.
 "I asked her to marry me," he said over our forth cup of coffee, "Bravest, most courageous thing I've ever done. I did it though, and you know what? She said yes, it took awhile, but I kept after her. For the first time in my life I didn't quit."
 The hour was late and my wallet was empty. I needed to put myself and this story to bed. I asked him how he had arrived here with me? Had she died? Run off with another man? What had happened?
 "Nothing so dramatic as that," he said through the tears. "I did everything possible to make myself into the man she wanted. I got an honest job, stopped going out all the time, I even got myself a whole new wardrobe." He was blubbering now, " She left me a year or so after we were married. I asked her why, hell I begged her to tell me what I could do to make her stay."
 He got sort of quiet then, and I thought for moment that he wouldn't be able to go on (and that I would be out all that money for nothing). I wasn't to be disappointed though, he bucked up and continued, "Funniest thing, along the way to becoming her perfect man, I stopped being the man she fell in love with in the first place."
 I was dumbfounded, this was the tragic tale? I looked at him and he got a wild look in his eyes. "How was I supposed to know," He screamed, "She never said a word, how was I to know she could actually fall in love with a loser like me, I couldn't have known that, could I, well could I?!?"
 With that he stumbled out of the coffee shop, still raving about his long lost love. I emptied my wallet onto the counter for the bill and went home expecting never to think of that strange little man ever again.
 I was wrong though, that very night I lay awake unable to get him out of my mind. Perhaps she would have left him anyway? Maybe he would have become bored and left her? I suppose the most disturbing part is that I couldn't relate to him. You see I've never loved anyone enough to try and be perfect for them, and no one ever loved me enough to keep me from trying.
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