The horror. The horror...

Maybe it is June. There you sit, alone and surrounded by the cavernous echo of too many empty voices all yelling in unison. This was supposed to be a peaceful time. A transition from one life into another. They won't let you rest.

"I would like to buy you a drink."

You're not even sure at first where the question came from. You were so engrossed in your thoughts, trying to shut out the noise, that your only reaction is to lift your head, look away from the pattern you were drawing on the cocktail napkin with your index finger and stare directly forward.

"Excuse me. I would like to buy you a drink."

So persistent. Can't they tell you are busy? Just because you are sitting alone doesn't mean you are lonely. What could be the reason behind this sudden and absurd offer? You still have three quarters of a drink in the glass in front of you, so unless this person has faulty depth perception, they should realize you don't exactly need a drink at this point.

"My name is Karl. I work for the water department."

Whoa! You haven't even made eye contact with this curious stranger yet and he is relaying information about his identity. You begin to dissect the reasons behind his offer. Highest probability is that if he buys you a drink he feels assured that you will be willing to listen to him drone on for the next half an hour about his job, his dog and why he feels he is not at fault for the dissolution of his last relationship. You wonder if you are really prepared to digest the motherlode of his water department anecdotes.

"Is this seat taken?"

It is getting worse. You look over and notice the stool next to you has been vacated. The pleasantly quiet young Asian man who had been sitting there has gone home to his Pomeranian. The magic shield he provided has been usurped. You look up at the stranger and shrug. Your facial expression allows him admission to the park, but lets him know the carnival is out of town tonight.

"I haven't see you around before. Are you new in town?"

"Not really, no."

He now fails your first strategic test. Did he listen to what you said in response to his question? Did he note the tone of voice or the way it was presented? Your disinterest means nothing to him. He is marvelously interesting and finds it hard to believe anyone would disagree. You seem a little down. He is Mr. Bojangles.

"I know how difficult it can be to meet people in a new town."

And you still haven't figured it out.

You offer a tired smile and sip your drink. You can't seem to remember if this is your second cocktail or your seventh. Until now it didn't matter. Now your comfort zone has disintegrated and you have to play tennis with human heads.

"You seem upset about something. Let me buy you a drink and we can talk about it."

"That's okay. I'm leaving after this one."

Your reply does not satiate his desire. He summons the bartender and announces that your next drink is on him. His voice is just loud enough that everyone at the bar can hear him. He sits back in his chair proudly, as if he has just purchased a block of your time. In his own mind, he has. You roll your eyes and shake your head sadly as the bartender puts an empty shot glass upside down in front of you.

"I tell you, my ex-wife was a lot like you. Sometimes she'd just sit there and stare at her drink when I talked to her. Probably part of the reason it didn't work out. She wasn't very good at listening. You have to have communication in a relationship for it to work."

Now you know the world is spiralling out of control. He is reading advice to you he memorized from the advice column next to the crossword puzzle in the daily newspaper. At any moment now he will begin relaying information about his job that he feels is essential information to know. The only reason you pay attention at all is that there is a curious nagging voice in the back of your mind that tells you there may be a quiz on this later in life.

"You know, a lot of people think working for the water department isn't all that interesting, but I have a few stories that will change your mind about that..."

You finish your drink. The one you bought for yourself. The new drink, which will not appear on your bar tab, arrives. You push back on your stool and get up from the bar.

"Where you going, baby?"

"Home. Big day tomorrow."

"Awww, could be a big night tonight if you stick around."

"I'm sure."

A woman wearing a lime green pants suit and a leather jacket appears behind you. She is looking for a place to sit down, so you politely offer your abandoned stool. You pause for a moment, stare at the untouched drink sitting on the bar. You look to Karl for a moment and then back at the lime green clad newcomer.

"This seat comes with a complimentary drink."

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