Steaks, Cigars, and Soul Mates

When I was in law school, my friends and I went out every Thursday.  The school trained us to do this by providing a school-sponsored keg party every other Thursday on campus called “Arbitration.”  After Arbitration, we’d go looking for more trouble, and one of our usual spots was the Village Brewery.  The Brewery had half-price burgers on Thursdays, and a regular band whose lead singer was an African-American gentleman in his 50s named Elmo, who had hair like James Brown and wore a pink, satin cape.  It was dark and smoky and loud and cheap – irresistible for poor, partially drunk law students.

So it was a Thursday night, and we were at the Brewery, and we’d screamed for Elmo to sing “Mustang Sally,” like always, which he did, like almost always.  On one of my circuits around chatting with people, I noticed two guys sitting at the bar.  Both were smoking cigars, and one had a steak.  I don’t know what possessed me, but I walked up to the man with the steak, and I asked for a bite.  He looked at me for three seconds, then cut a generous piece of steak, and handed me his fork.  In retrospect, that might have been the best bite of steak I’ve ever had.  I thanked him and went on my merry way.

Ten minutes later, I was back.  He saw me standing next to him, and he didn’t say a word or hesitate; he picked up his knife and cut into his steak, holding out his fork again.  I informed him that I was actually back for a puff of his cigar.  He looked at me for another few seconds, then handed it over.  I took a puff, thanked him, and then disappeared.  I never saw him again. 

Looking back, I realize now – of all the men I’ve ever dated, the stranger who offered up his steak and his cigar without protesting or demanding some sort of quid pro quo is without doubt the one who got away.  I met my soul mate, and I never asked him his name.

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