I met him in a bar
(but it wasn’t like that).
I was hired as a barista
because there was more coffee than booze
It was a dirty old place with
graffiti on the walls
and shelves of books
you’d never actually want to read.
The place was dark
with a band of regulars who
never asked my name
but let me have the crossword
in the daily newspaper
and would help kick out the
people who drank too much.
I was new in town
with a dayjob that paid
about $5 an hour
so I took the gig for extra cash
and free nachos and beer.
I worked the night shift.
I met him in a bar when I was 23
and nursing my broken heart
by pretending I had no heart at all.
He was cute
and I wasn’t afraid.
That was how it started.
In those days, he had a uniform
(like I’m told all brilliant people do)
of black on black with jeans
and he sat in the back of the bar
with a cup of soup
and a couple books,
talking to a regular customer
who thought he could teach the guy with the Bible
a thing or two about just about everything.
I asked him if he was a student,
which I assumed he was
since he was holding the same book I’d used
way back when.
No, he said.
I’m a pastor.
Which was not what I was expecting.
I met him in a bar
ten years ago
when the kind of man who
stays and helps put up the chairs
but never tries the beer
was not what I was looking for.
So our first conversation was shared
with deep skepticism
over the copper-top bar
while I smoked my cigarettes and
tossed in a few curse words
just to see if he would flinch.
And I know for certain that it was more
the peculiarity of
the girl behind the bar
who was better at discussing theology than
she was at pouring a drink
and not some cosmic connection to me
that kept the conversation going
because he was not looking for a girl
and an ideological predisposition against
lipstick and shaved legs.
You don’t meet nice girls at a bar.
I met him at a bar
and it has always seemed to me
the best place I could have ever met
Because ten years ago,
I would have never trusted a man
with a Bible in his hand
who was anywhere other than
a dark table
with a coffee cup
at the bar on the wrong side of town.