The thing is that the best stories to tell are the ones that people are telling you right at this moment. They’re leaning over the bar, they’re stopping between bites of whatever bar snack they’ve chosen – it’s oysters when we need to feel good about our lives, it’s fried pickles when we have nothing to prove – and they’re grinning as they swallow and take a sip of their drink and start to speak. There is a certain amount of mischief every human being gets into, and if your penchant for this is low, then there is little chance that we are even acquaintances.
These are the better moments; the worst ones tend to come from farther away. The older I get, the more time I spend in hotel rooms, and the more time I spend in hotel rooms, the more focused I can be about anyone else’s sense of falling apart. This is how we are capable of measurement at all: through the less-than-subtle motions of others. I can tell exactly how much I have loved any one person by the number of words I have expended on them; I can tell exactly how different friendships are by knowing that the end of one relationship is signified by as many words as the beginning of another.
(The trick to beginnings is that they rarely work unless one has the foresight to not speak of them.)
It is summer now, and we are summering. This means we are proving our strengths and flashing our smiles and not ever really needing to prove much of anything. This means we are free, in some sense of the word, even if we express that freedom through the selection of bar snacks and the calculated ordering of the next drink. “it is fine,” you say, because you are listening to the story, and any feelings that get carried over into the next day are eventually carefully absorbed in the sand of the beach on the weekend, which comes faster this season than you deserve it to. We all have earned this, because five months from now we’ll be carefully selecting sweaters with our mouths drawn and our decisions unmade, and the only thing we will regret then is not writing down those stories when we first heard them because in the summer stories feel far too important to spoil with words.