Stories Lost

It is not one of the tragedies of Covid-19, but it does irritate me that because of the virus I will not learn how some stories are unfolding. For example, M was a bartender at my local biergarten. He was unlike the other bartenders in having been born in New York City, but he was like them in having been raised elsewhere—in M’s case in the Miami area. M, however, was less talkative than others who pulled the beer. He did say that his parents immigrated to the United States from Colombia and that he still had relatives there. He clearly liked his Colombian aunts, uncles, and cousins and looked forward to trips to see them. Most of the other bartenders talked about avocations or hoped-for careers outside of bartending. M did not, even though, according to others in the bar, he and friends did audio work for videos. (My ignorance of much of the technical world barred me from understanding what M actually did.)

  A year after I met M, however, he became livelier, and the cause was clear. He had a girlfriend; he was in love. He was proud of her and excited. L was a Cuban American raised in the Miami, Florida, area. Even though M came from nearby, they had met in Brooklyn and had known each other only a short while. She was working in New York for a Canadian-based nonprofit, and it was not clear to me how they had met. She was attractive and charming. I could see why M had fallen, and she seemed to return the feeling. She would regularly come into the bar when M bartended and hang out with him. Sitting at the bar, my back would be to the door, but I could always tell when she entered because M would light up.

I saw from an observer’s chair (i.e., a barstool) this love affair beginning to unfold, but Covid-19 closed the bar and has prevented me from seeing ensuing chapters. M had met L’s mother who had come to New York for a convention. M was clearly proud that his girlfriend’s mother was, as he put it, “high up in the administration of southeast Florida’s most important hospital organization.” On the other hand, M had never mentioned what any of his relatives did, but I was confident none held such a high-achieving position. M and L talked about going to Colombia to visit M’s relations. I would have been curious about her reactions to them.

L, as with other Cuban Americans I have met, had some strong political views. Some of her forebears had important positions in Cuba that were lost under communism, and to put it mildly, she was not a fan of Castro. On the other hand, she worked for a do-gooder organization trying to improve aspects of this world, and she was not a Trumpista. In contrast, I had never heard M express any political or social opinion. I didn’t see her views changing, but as M and L went on, I wondered whether he would become more politically and socially engaged.

 They were clearly smitten with each other, but there were reasons to wonder if they were well matched. L, for example, said that she came to New York to enroll at Fordham University and that she said that she picked a New York school because she wanted “to expand my horizons beyond Florida.” I realized then that I had never heard M mention college or education of any sort and that I had never heard him express any curiosity about the world except how to make a fortune in bitcoins.

I, however, will probably never know how the story has progressed. The bar still survives but with only a few outside tables and no beer at the bar. I have been told that most of the staff have long gone to other jobs and opportunities. If I ever go to the bar again, I doubt that I will see M. I will not learn how his story, admittedly not the most compelling or interesting I have encountered but which did have some interest for me, has continued. His story will just have disappeared from me, and in this small way, the coronavirus will have made my life just a little less interesting.