Portrait of a Lonely Man

by: Genevieve Palmieri

He sits at the bar, a third full globe of pinot noir in front of him. It is only 12:30 pm. Everything about him suggests a cosmopolitan mystery. He dons a bowler hat, jacket, and tie. His French accent exposes him as a stranger; and plays the part of his wingman. He speaks loudly about his finances and deals to an unknown French cohort on the phone – spinning words lyrically into a new language…Frenglish, maybe. Immediately I give him a haberdasher’s appraisal. The shoes are expensive and Italian. The blazer, a subdued plaid, the lonesome half of what is undoubtedly a statement suit. His tie hangs loosely askew at his neck, revealing a small tuft of hair that waves the flag of machismo high above his bar stool.

He looks around, gesturing wildly and excitedly. He is alone. He is looking for an audience, an ear, a love—something. I take care to stay out of his eye-line while observing his every move. I am entranced. It feels as though I have stepped into a Goddard film and not into my local brunch haunt. I have never seen him before and I am certain I never will again. A young Persian woman catches his eye and he makes sure that this opportunity is not wasted.

“Bonjour, mon ami—come, please join me?”

Maybe it’s the bloody marys or maybe the public gauntlet thrown but, whatever the potion or the purpose, she rises from her seat among three imposing Persian men and goes to him. One of the men follows her closely. A lover, perhaps, with as open a curiosity as his mate. The lonely man extends his arms open around the couple and leans them in closely. He imparts a bit of his charisma or possibly an invitation to his bed. Despite my attempts to stretch and crane my ear closer I cannot hear. The three laugh and smile nervously. The woman, once brazen and filled with liquid courage, coquettishly distances herself. Her glance has shifted from curious and wild to cautious and guarded. The lonely man is no fool. He senses this change in weather and bids them good cheer and another round of drinks. As quickly as they came together, they are apart. He is alone again.

He does not weep. He is not sad. He spins elegantly on his stool to directly face the young Persian woman. He raises his glass in a toast to her beauty. With one swallow the glass is empty. He gathers himself and gives his bowler a tap to the front. I am waiting for the music to swell, for the dance to begin. There is no music. He makes a phone call and starts to go, as ordinary people do…no consequence about him. This is not the end. There must be one more thing before he goes, one grand gesture to end the performance. He calls to her:

“Au Revoir!”

Arm extended, almost choreographed, the lonely man walks to the door, taking everyone’s breath with him. I stare at his seat for a long while before returning to the conversation.

Somehow, I can’t help but feel alone.

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