“I didn’t think you were coming back,” says the tall, lanky man behind the bar.
I laugh, and we have a momentary stare down. I playfully order a Ramus Gin Fizz. He pretends to grimace, and soon enough, he’s shaking that big silver cup, in an expertly sexy way only bartenders can do.
It’s a Wednesday night in downtown Savannah.
Brittany, my friend and a bartender at Alivia’s, and I have just arrived at Hotel Indigo. I met the previously mentioned bartender, who I’ll omit the name of for now, earlier that afternoon. He had told me about a complicated, twenty minute drink he loves and simultaneously hates making.
I like this guy. He’s already elegantly slipped the “my girlfriend and I” into conversation, so I keep my affection towards him on a tight leash. Instead, I decide to befriend him. Brittany and I sit for the next hour or so chatting with him, talking about our lives.
I was in Savannah for a job interview, one that I’m still not sure if I got. It was at a local magazine, I spent the day editing and following up with interviewees, colorful, wonderful characters living lives of creativity and freedom in Southern Georgia. It was bliss. I love who I am here.
Here, I’m a writer and an editor. I’m Melissa from XXXX Magazine (not the actual name, don’t Google that). It’s my job to be curious. It’s my job to ask questions.
It’s never been my job to be those things before, at least not in that way.
Something that I’m not very transparent about is that I struggle with authenticity. As a writer and generally, a people-pleaser, I’ve always fumbled with what dials to turn up when it comes to personality traits. I’ve actively tried to decide who I should be.
I was made fun of a lot as a kid. I didn’t know how to wear makeup, boys never really liked me, I didn’t have the charisma or the ability to flirt that seemed to come so naturally for my friends. I had a strange, unrequited love for a boy named Mark Burkhardt who constantly teased me and wore too much hair gel. My favorite movie was Grease. I played in a fort in the woods and read a lot of Nancy Drew.
I was quiet and kind of weird.
Some of that has changed, but a lot of it hasn’t. My default state is still kind of quiet, still kind of weird. Recently, I’ve kind of lived in that quiet weirdness, because I realized no one really cares.
I painted the walls of weird, hung up the artwork, stocked the fridge and gave the cat a name.
Because now that I’m okay with being weird, I can focus on being curious. I can stop at South of the Border with Brittany during our Savannah adventure, even though I think it’s kind of a murder town.
I can sloppily (hey guys, did you know that sloppily isn’t a word – oh wait, I had an extra ‘P’ in there, nevermind) eat an oversized ice cream cone, half cookies and cream, half lemon. I can gawk at the young guy dressed like early 00’s Justin Bieber argue about the price of cotton candy. I can browse the old fashioned arcade games. I can ride up the elevator of the Tower of Terror – esque 200 foot high Sombrero, even though I’m fucking terrified it will topple over and squash us both.
Because after you’re curious, you stumble out of the metaphoric elevator, and in this case, very real and sketchy one, hands clasped with someone else that’s just as weird. After you’re curious, and you recover from a brief spell of vertigo, you can look at this friend, who you realize you don’t really know very well, and grin as she she says:
“This my favorite thing that we will ever do.”
When I was in Savannah, I rolled in curiosity like a pig in shit.
I ate peanut butter and jelly chicken wings a kooky hipster restaurant called Traylor Park, watched little green frogs hop across a slick highway, (before they were unfortunately squished by passing cars). I ate pasta at an Italian place where I suspected the waiters were all pretending to be Italian because they wouldn’t stop saying “Prego”. I walked down the tree lined streets in my little black Oxford shoes, listening as they tapped melodically against the cobblestones.
It didn’t matter if Savannah embraced me; if I got this job, or if the bartender had a girlfriend. I’m Melissa, I’m a writer and editor anyway, and curiosity is my business.
I can take that curiosity, weirdness, and identify as a writer as far as it goes.