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Men I Understand

I understand the stout yet gentle man across the bar, Sir Carlo, perhaps in his early 40s, who speaks perfect English, has a strong handshake and even remembers my name; he comes in every now and then for his favored Pale Pilsen, downing the bottles faster than I do and as if in a hurry, though he is just killing time before he picks up his overworked wife from the office, but sometimes, like last night, he was taking out some food for her though he let the package cool on the bar top because he was still silently enjoying his beer in a frosted mug and nibbling on potato chips. Him I understand.

I understand the successful and young fellow to my right, Sir Mark, a regular like me, though I haven't seen him as much as when both of us would meet almost every night, him in his usual spot across the flat screen television watching a Ginebra game (we're fans) and me in my own in front of the beer tap (we're fans), and again, him with his own set of problems and me with my fabled anxieties. He could be alone, and I like him better that way; he now usually comes in with his friends, a fun bunch, a group that can only be formed in high school, a group which crowds the exclusive front seats of the bar in Manny Pacquiao fights, leaving me to the same corner with a friend or two, but still feeling part of them because we are all drinking by 10 a.m. and because I like them: I see my friends in them. Over beer some years ago, Sir Mark had told me that he started going regularly to our watering hole because his wife started working in Singapore and he dreaded the nights without her. Him I understand.

I understand old Sir Dan, the expat who usually comes in with a smile and cheer around 8 p.m., courteously greeting the lady bartender, but hiding the weariness of working yet another day in a foreign land, where he probably does not have a family but tonight he has a new hardcover book which he starts reading after he's done with today's papers and well on his way to his second gin and tonic. Him I understand best.


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