He was from Australia, he said. He missed beaches.
He and his friends used to cut class to head to the beaches of New South Wales. They would cut class, then head to the store, buy fresh bread and some meat. They would make sandwiches to eat as they swam and sunned themselves.
He’s a chef now. He works at a downtown fancy place, one so fancy the name’s not a real English word. He makes his living among the highest end of cuisine, but the only food he waxed poetic about when we talked were the sandwiches he and friends a world and lifetime away made on hooky days at the beach.
Oh, and he loves fucking bitches.
“I love fucking bitches!” he yelled as the bar dog whined at a newcomer and the bartender pretended not to see that the Aussie was flagging for shots.
The bar itself was a wonderful dive, a semi-Simpson-themed Avondale spot where old Latinos and Poles gather to watch hockey and play blues. The “semi-Simpson” means the place was decorated with characters just recognizable enough to be the Springfield family, but not enough to summon Fox copyright attorneys.
“Homer” had a full black pompadour. Bart, Lisa and Marge were redheads, with cartoon locks just a skosh more realistic than yellow spikes or a giant blue pussy willow.
I was there to see a friend I hadn’t seen in months, to catch up, touch base and get back in each other’s lives. We gabbed and gossiped, talked about Ralph Steadman and Hunter Thompson with the bartender, a nice hippie kid who goes tightrope walking in Joshua Tree.
The Aussie sidled up while my friend was in the bathroom. Soon we somehow had a trio.
The Aussie was tall, lanky, admittedly handsome. He had a well-coiffed hip beard and fashionable clothes. His name was Brendan or Brandon, something like that. He never asked me my name.
He was very drunk, a semi-regular occurrence, the bartender told us later.
Brendan or Brandon wanted my friend and me to join him, to head down to Logan Square and hit a bar where the music goes “oonce oonce oonce” and the place is wall-to-wall women.
“Bitches will fuck me because of the accent,” he said. “But then I want to get rid of them.”
I said I had to work in the morning. He called me a name, asked if I had “an old lady” and said I should take photographs of sex on my phone to show my boss in the morning explaining why I’m late.
He acted this out for about 40 seconds, which doesn’t seem like a long period of time until you have to spend it watching someone give hypothetical commentary on hypothetical sex acts to a hypothetical boss while pantomiming swiping through homemade porno on a hypothetical iPhone 6.
“Uhh… yeah… look at this one, boss… yeah… I was on that… and he’ll be like, ‘All right then.’”
He pestered the bartender for his number so he could send over vegetarian recipes. The bartender kept pretending to see drink orders on the other side of the room, but eventually couldn’t keep the lie up and punched numbers in the Aussie’s phone.
“Did you give him a fake number?” I asked the bartender once Brendan or Brandon left.
“Of course,” the hippie kid said.
People say truth is stranger than fiction, but that’s just because no one would have the guts to put a guy like this in fiction. Too unrealistic, critics would say. Too broad and stereotypical. No points for effort, a straw man for jackasses amid the semi-Simpsons scenery.
But he was real. And he wanted two strangers to think him cool.
I wonder if the Australian chef with the fashion beard and wild stories has any friends here at all.
He mentioned a Chicago woman he used to date and a boss who would let him slide on work duty if he had a great story about the night before, but as Brendan or Brandon fist bumped us and called us “mate,” it occurred to me he mentioned no other mates.
The bartender said he comes in alone.
I think of the man wandering alone into the cold Chicago night in pursuit of dance clubs and “bitches.”
And I think of his thoughts turning to a New South Wales beach and perfect sandwiches split with the last real friends he had.
A few more immigrant stories:
- A Romanian man sees his mother for the first time in 13 years
- A Korean cabbie talks persistence and ping pong
- An Armenian country music singer sells magic
- Ulan from Kyrgyzstan handles the International Cluster of Dogs
- A suspicious Chinese egg