“Sure, I read what you wrote about me,” he said over the phone. “You made me sound more impressive than I am.”
When I first wrote about the Alabama-born bartender, it was before Thanksgiving. I met him in a Pensacola sports bar. He’s a widower, father of two boys, built like a defensive tackle.
Heart bigger than a residential king bed.
A month ago, he was leaving for Texas to meet his girlfriend’s Mexican family. She’s the first woman he’s dated since his young wife died suddenly.
He and his boys planned to ask her to marry him. He packed neckties, khakis, the whole dog-and-pony show. He was nervous.
After I wrote about him, I tried tracking him down for a follow-up. I stopped by the bar where I first met him. He wasn’t working. I tried a few days later. Someone said he’d moved to Texas.
A cook told me, “Hey man, I got his number. Let’s call him.”
So that’s what’s happened.
I sat in an empty bar before business hours, holding a cook’s cellphone. The giant television was broadcasting I Love Lucy reruns, a waitress was pushing a vacuum.
A voice answered. I reintroduced myself.
“‘Course I remember you,” he said. “My mom printed out your story and passed it around to her bridge club.”
We small-talked. I asked how his marriage proposal went.
“Well, um,” he said. “Not at all like planned.”
Say it ain’t so.
“I was nervous, man, I screwed it up. I guess I was just sick of wondering if she’d say yes or no. So I went for it.”
On the way to Texas, they pulled over in Louisiana for the night. They all stayed at a cheap motel. The next morning, she went to the lobby for a complimentary, room-temperature breakfast. He was already there, eating with his boys.
When he saw her, he knelt in the dining room. His boys did too.
He said she almost choked on her breath. He showed her the ring. She covered her mouth and cried. Motel guests and staff applauded.
I understand the couple embraced for so long, they almost forgot about breakfast.
He tells me the last month has gone by fast. “It’s a blur, man,” he says. “Life keeps changing the rules.”
He’s already found work in a local bar, and his broken Spanish is improving. He says he’s happy. So are his boys.
When he finished speaking, I congratulated him on his new engagement.
He laughed. “Engaged? Dude, I’m not engaged. We got married four days after she said yes. My boys and I love her so much. It’s an awesome Christmas.”
I just bet it is.