Recap: It’s Friday night, and Lyle and Shep are out on the town. On their way to a nightclub, Lyle decided to detour to the Silver Tavern, his old hangout and the bar he and his ex-girlfriend broke up in. When Shep went to use the bathroom, another man claimed the urinal beside him … and both suffered from an extreme case of Shy Bladder Syndrome.
Shep returned to find Lyle slumped in a booth, staring into space. Two glasses of scotch stood on the table. Lyle’s was already half-finished.
“We’re sitting here?” Shep asked, sliding into the booth across from Lyle.
Lyle shrugged. “The people here left, and there was nowhere else to sit.”
“But you said this was the booth you and Annabelle were sitting at the day you broke up.”
“Then doesn’t sitting here bring back bad memories?”
“It does. I’m trying to ward them off with the scotch.”
Shep shuffled in his seat, trying to get comfortable in the tight space. “Is it working?”
“Kinda-sorta. You’re sitting in Annabelle’s seat, so every time I look at you, I imagine seeing her.”
“I’m guessing Annabelle was easier on the eyes.”
Lyle shrugged. “I’m not one to judge. I’m seeing two of everything right now, and both of you are blurry.”
Shep took a sip of his scotch, then set his glass atop the table, twirling it slowly with his fingertips.
“I knew this was a bad idea,” he said after a moment, his voice soft.
“What’s that?” Lyle asked.
“Us coming here tonight. I knew it was a bad idea.”
“It was your idea to go out.”
“Yeah — to a nightclub, remember? The whole idea was to go somewhere new, to meet new people and to forget about the past. Instead, you took a detour to this dump, and now here we are, back at square one where you started.”
“Everyone’s got to start somewhere.”
“Yeah, but the idea is to end up in a better place. You always seem to end up back where you started. Your whole life’s a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle – like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.”
“That would explain the déjà-vu. This misery feels so familiar.”
“I’m going through the same thing you are,” Shep said. “My girlfriend left me, but instead of clinging to her memory, I’m looking for someone new. It’s all about moving forward and embracing change. Change can be a good thing. Change is how we grow.”
“It’s more than just Annabelle. It’s my whole life.”
“You mean your job? It’s the same principle: you move on. Find something new. Who knows – you might stumble into a career you like even better than journalism.”
“If I’m going to stumble into anything, it’s going to be a bar. There’s less work involved.”
“Lyle, why did we really come here tonight?”
“Why do you think — for the Friday-night karaoke. Now the old lady’s singing Dylan. And come to think of it, she sounds a lot better than Dylan ever did.”
“I’m serious. What did you hope to accomplish by coming here?”
“I was hoping to drink myself to oblivion. And truth be told, I’m off to a pretty good start.”
“You know why you came here: You wanted to replay in your mind your breakup with Annabelle. You wanted to mull over every possible alternative to what you could have said that might have kept you two together.”
“It’s amazing how clearly you can read my mind when both your faces look so blurry to me.”
“I can read you like a book. And it’s not a good book, either. It’s more like one of those pathetic fiction blogs written by a nobody who couldn’t get a book deal.”
Lyle drained his glass. He stared at the far wall, his eyes glassy.
After a moment, he said, “I just don’t know what to do anymore.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just what I said: I don’t know what to do anymore. I can’t get a job doing anything – let alone a job in my field. Did you know journalism is the No. 1 most-useless college degree you can get these days? It even beat out philosophy and basket-weaving.”
“Where did you hear that?”
“In the news, of all places.”
“Well, consider the source. There’s nothing but morons working in the media these days.”
“Yeah – they’re morons because they all have journalism degrees.”
Shep shrugged. “What can I say? Newspapers aren’t coming back. I’ve been telling you for a while now, you might have to switch careers.”
“I’m 30 years old. I can’t start over.”
“Are you frickin’ kidding me? You sound like an idiot.”
“That’s because I have a journalism degree.”
“I’m not kidding. Thirty’s young. You’ve got the rest of your life to start over.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You’re only twenty-eight.”
“Do you know how many people started businesses in their fifties and sixties? Heck, Rodney Dangerfield was practically an old man when he became famous. And I think Agatha Christie was middle-aged when she started publishing mysteries.”
“Yeah, and now look at them. They’re both dead.”
“You know what you are?” Shep asked. “You’re afraid. You’re too scared to take a leap into the unknown, so you cling to what you have. And unfortunately, that’s not much … except for maybe a failed relationship and a series of dead-end jobs.”
“And a journalism degree. Let’s not forget to add that to my extensive list of assets.”
“What are you so scared of, Lyle? The idea that you might get hurt? Because that’s the risk you take, living life. Sure, you got laid off, and sure, you lost your girlfriend. So does that mean you’re just going to give up?”
“Not at all. I don’t need a reason to give up. I’m just doing it on principle.”
Shep sighed, leaning back. “If you can’t take your own life seriously, then why should I?”
“Because you’re the one paying for the roof over my head … as well as this scotch. Speaking of which, I need another. Scotch, I mean. Not roof.”
“Let’s slow down for a while. You’re turning into Depressed-Drunk Lyle. I was hoping you’d be Happy-Drunk Lyle tonight.”
“Depressed-Drunk Lyle’s mood might improve if you buy him another drink.”
“What we need to do is beat this joint and go somewhere new and exciting, so we can meet women. That was the original plan.”
“Well, sometimes things don’t pan out. By thirty, I was supposed to have a stellar career and a wife with two children. That was the original plan.”
“If that was your plan, then why didn’t you go for a business-administration degree or something useful?”
“I noticed I have a problem with thinking my plans through.”
Shep drained his scotch and set down his glass. “C’mon, man – let’s get out of here. I think you’ve done what you needed to do.”
“I did. I made short order of that scotch.”
“Not that. I meant that you relived your breakup with Annabelle, and you realized there was nothing you could have said that would have changed anything. It was meant to be. Am I right?”
Lyle shrugged. “I could have gone after her when she went out the door.”
“It wouldn’t have changed anything. There’s nothing you could have said that would have made her come back — no magical one-liner or passionate embrace, like they do in the movies. The truth was, she had fallen out of love with you and cheated on you with your best friend. What happened that day was meant to happen. It was to bring you here, to this moment, so you could face your future.”
“Really? Because right now, the future looks blurry with two heads. Unless that’s you I’m looking at; I can’t tell at this point.”
“Let’s beat it,” Shep said, sliding from the booth and standing. “We don’t belong here.”
Lyle joined him. Together, they walked toward the door.
“I just don’t know what’s next,” Lyle said, looking at Shep.
Shep shrugged. “You’re in good company, then. Nobody knows. That’s life.”
When they reached the door, Lyle paused. He turned for a moment and surveyed the bar.
“C’mon,” Shep said, propping the door open with his foot.
Lyle took a deep breath. His eyes were cloudy and dim.
“I’ll never stop missing her,” he said, his voice soft.
“C’mon.” Shep took Lyle’s arm and guided him out.
Lyle stumbled outside with Shep into the cool night. He made it as far as the sidewalk before he doubled over, retching into the gutter.