Drew from Oklahoma, Part Two

“Are you in, or are you out?” I asked Drew, dramatically refilling my bottomless wine glass. For a hot minute our dinner table had transformed into a poker table. The stakes were high and eventually one of us was going to have to fold.

Watching Drew as he slammed back his wine, Valentina and I waited patiently to see what was going to happen next. There was no chance he was ever going to leave the restaurant. Not even a deep-seated fear of homosexuals could keep him away from his beloved chicken parmesan.

But was he was going to stay with us? Or return to the bar from whence we came?

I knew it was game over when he slid to the edge of his banquet seat. Standing up, I debated the logistics of separating the bill, when it appeared he had a change of mind. Sitting back down, he shuffled to the centre and refilled his wine glass to the very brim. It was official. His chips were in.

“I have a friend back at home who is gay,” whispered Drew. 

He reached over into the basket of breadsticks and, to my surprise, offered me one. As the piece of bread dangled in front of my face I could not help but question: is this an olive branch he is extending? Could it be that we are about to break bread together? I had no idea what the answer was but there was no way I was going to turn a breadstick down.

As the three of us gently treaded back into conversation, it occurred to me how drastic our relationship had changed since first meeting at the bar. Granted we were four martinis in at the time, but what a miraculous experience to meet a complete stranger without fear or judgment. Once united on the bar stools, we were now divided at the table.

Of course Drew is Baptist, why wouldn’t he be? The thought dawned on me.

I really must get better at spotting homosexuals, Drew made a mental note, taking a closer look at my outfit.

I wonder if they serve martinis at this place? Mind you the olives would be dreadful, sparkled Valentina.

The waters remained calm as the main course arrived. For the moment, our starvation had overpowered our conflicting religious beliefs and cultural attitudes. Like two servers with a full section, Valentina and I tore in our dishes. Drew, on the other hand, savoured each bite as if it was going to be his last. Peace and calm ensued until the man from Oklahoma played his next card on the table. 

“I am a sinner too, y’know?” he said.

Feeling the blood rush from my face, I dropped my fork to the floor and felt my appetite go with it. At first, it was difficult, to feel so enraged at the sight of such a boyish man licking his fingers of cheese and tomato sauce; but the word sin, triggered me.

“This is Sin City after all!” exclaimed Drew.

There it bloody was again.

 “Look at me!” he carried on proudly, as if he was finally back in the lead. “I’m drinking right now – sin!

Red Light, red light, red light.

“After this I am going to gamble – sin!”

Danger Will Robinson, Danger.

With rosy red cheeks and a smile so big it stretched two state lines, he rose his glass to cheers mine and then said it, “We’re not so different you and I.”

I exploded.

“YOU WANNA TALK SIN?” I shot up in blinding fury. Waving my arms dramatically in the air, Valentina motioned to protect our wine glasses. “Thanks to one of the best-selling books of all time, I spent ten years of my life in an abusive relationship with sin! I know everything there is to know about it! Heck I even graduated with a Bachelors in Guilt before completing a Masters in Shame. Now listen carefully to me Drew from Oklahoma, you can sit there and call me a lot of things… An exceptional drunk! A fledgling homosexual! A balding ginger! But how dare you call me a sinner! You and I? We’re nothing alike! Nothing! Shame on you! Shame!”

Of course, that didn’t actually happen. I am like a Jedi when it comes to non-confrontation.

Taking in deep breaths I waited until the anger boiling inside of me subsided. Deep down I knew there was no point getting upset, frustrated or even slightly offended. If I chose to go down that path, then I would be the one throwing his cards down on the table at the end of this story. In earnest, I had no idea what to say next or what the best way to respond to Drew was, so I prayed to Meryl Streep.

“What would Meryl do?” I asked the ceiling up above.

A moment passed and then I saw it. I saw, crystal clear, exactly how the rest of the night was going to go. I was not going to engage in any debate about sin, homosexuality, or a Bible passage that was written two-thousand years ago. I was not going to try and defend myself as a good human being worthy of love. With respect and dignity, I was going to meet Drew exactly where he was at. Surely a practicing Baptist and a homosexual out of practice could make it through one meal together and not have it be the end of the world? Why not?

And that was the precise moment I discovered there was a wild card sitting next to me.

“DO YOU KNOW HOW I KNOW YOU HAVE A SMALL MIND DREW FROM OKLAHOMA?” Valentina roared as I motioned to protect our wine glasses. “Because you think this Italian food is the best you have ever had! How dare you sit there and judge my best ginger friend for being gay. Sure, he could stand to moisturize a touch more and find a shirt that didn’t fit so tightly around his stomach; but apart from that he is perfect! PERFECT!”

“Dear Meryl,” I said. All bets were now off.

To be continued with “Steve from Georgia.”