It’s a Tuesday. I’m sitting in Fullsteam, carefully sipping a plastic cup of water.
I check my phone. She’s on her way.
An older man wearing a grey blazer, salt and pepper hair and beard – probably in his 50s – walks by.
“Great hair,” he says gruffly. “Great skirt.”
No other words are exchanged.
I’m wearing my long, gold Anthropologie skirt – one I rescued off a clearance rack a year or so ago. It was way too big, but I immediately fell in love with it. After a quick trip to the tailors, it was perfect.
I don’t have many occasions to wear it. But tonight, a warm, but breezy night in May, the skirt seemed appropriate. I paired it with my favorite black crop top and wedges (to get a couple inches), finishing off the look with a deep, burgundy red lipstick.
That lipstick is rubbing off on the cup.
I carefully and meticulously wipe it off with my thumb. I think about all of the lipstick stains I’ve washed off cups at the restaurant (my second job), and I decide lipstick wearers should always drink out of plastic cups.
My mind wanders to how much lipstick women accidentally ingest (find the stats, Annabel), when there she is.
A petite, raven haired girl with big sunglasses.
It’s my co-worker Gwynne.
She apologies for being late, and we decide to head over to Parts and Labor.
In appearance, (and to anyone who knows us), Gwynne and I are very different. Me; the brash, occasionally absentminded, sort of hipster blonde pixie, and Gwynne; the detailed oriented, hyper observant sophisticated long-haired brunette. I’m musing about that as Gwynne orders a beer – a Miller Lite.
We chat for awhile, watching the line outside of Motorco grow. We decide not to stand it in, and instead, to people watch. We discuss work for awhile – something that Gwynne puts a stop to, and after we move into Motorco, the conversation evolves to less predictable subjects.
Pauly Shore, Carrboro and beer.
This is the point of the post where Gwynne – a connoisseur of details* – would chime in and say, “Well, we didn’t really talk about beer, Melissa.”
She’d be right. I don’t actually recall talking to her about beer. But I was thinking about it.
Throughout the evening, I took notice of what Gwynne was drinking.
The Miller Lite, and then, a switch to a local beer. This was a recommendation from the bartender, one Gwynne solicited as she leaned over the bar, trying to hear him over the music.
The sounds of Wild Belle were wonderful. A new band to me, a favorite of hers. The upbeat, somewhat whimsically country sound paired with a saxophone.
I can’t quite articulate what kind of genre it falls into, but whatever it is – it’s perfectly that. Authentically wonderful, which brings me back to Gwynne and beer.
What I realized that night was how incredibly genuine Gwynne is. I told her that. After I asked her if she thought I was a hipster (the answer was yes, but not as much as I once was), she asked if I considered her to be one.
“No, Gwynne, never.”
Then I explained – I’m not sure if I ever realized it, but the idea of Gwynne being a hipster is so ludicrous because she’s never decided to like or dislike something because of how another person felt about it. Gwynne likes what Gwynne likes – whether it’s a Miller Lite or a local brew.
It doesn’t matter.
I thought about all the times I had turned down beers – beers like Miller Lite, Budweiser, etc. because they were low-brow. I felt really dumb when I admitted that to myself – it was because I thought I was above drinking beer like that.
And there was Gwynne, well-traveled, whip-smart foodie Gwynne, drinking a fucking Miller Lite and not caring about it.
It also reminded me of someone I had just started dating – a bartender in downtown Durham. He’s similar to Gwynne. He’ll order the most intricate and interesting cocktail on the menu, drink it, then get a Bud.
Also not caring about it.
It embarrassed me the first time he did it – not because he drank a Budweiser, but because I had always been so snobby about drinking Budweiser. I’m snobby about a lot of things. But people like Gwynne and Mike (new bartender Mike), have made me realize that I’m not “above” anything.
That my search for authenticity should have no constraints, and should know no bounds.
That realization, this night, was paired to the perfect soundtrack of Natalie Bergman and Elliot Bergman. Deep, melodious sweeps and sudden blasts of music. Incredibly unique, and extremely genuine. Gwynne and I danced – again, so very differently.
Me, kind of teetering like a newborn baby deer, and Gwynne, expertly waving her arms around and shaking her hips.
After the show, I went to see bartender Mike. It had just rained – I remember the look of slick downtown Durham – the streets, the sidewalks, and the rain-splattered windows of the bar. I walked in, gold skirt rustling, lipstick still intact.
I sat at a barstool, warmly smiled at him and said:
“I’ll have a Miller Lite.”
*At the time of publication, Gwynne informed me that some Miller beers, specifically High Life, are brewed from a recipe that was made for the princes of Germany. Direct quote: “it is not low brow.”
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