I went to bars by myself at Midsummers

A 21-year-old birthday boy’s pilgrimage from Boylan to Trin 3

Two things started July 6 —

1.) Midsummers

2.) Me being 21

Naturally, two things occurred that night —

1.) I read a book I got from Alderman Library that afternoon.

2.) I had three sips of white wine with my housemates before losing all hope of being a “wine-guy.”

I had to do something to justify coming down to Charlottesville though, and so, lacking the social skills to go with friends but having enough to feel confident it would work out, I walked alone to the Corner for my first night out.

ACT ONE — BOYLAN HEIGHTS

I was in and out of that box in two minutes. I was too sober for the dance floor, and I didn’t see anyone I knew even with my glasses on. I’ve seen so many Instagram photos from Boylan, how could I possibly not see a single familiar soul? I stood at acquaintance-level distance from two guys as I improvised a new strategy. Buy a drink? No. I couldn’t just approach the bar by myself. If I sat next to someone, that might be strange, but if I sat flanked by empty chairs that might be sad-looking. So, I slid out trying to avoid the bouncer who wished me happy birthday on my way in.

I wasn’t defeated yet though. I had mentally prepared for this. Before I left the house, I had turned to my stack of library books and said, “Tonight, I’m making my own stories,” which felt really badass at the time. I had gazed into the bathroom mirror until I convinced myself my sunburn was a tan. I had even listened to my first-year pre-test playlist*.

“I’m wearing my glasses tonight,” I had declared to my host Paco in the same tone as a pre-teen telling her mom she’s getting her belly button pierced no matter what she thinks.

Only mildly doubting my decisions, I drifted with the flow of people to Elliewood Avenue.

ACT TWO — CROZET BUDDHIST BIKER BAR

I walked straight to the bar and stood there staring at it. “Do I need to go to one end to order then the other to pick up my drink? One end looks more crowded than the other. The two bartenders aren’t interacting though, which would imply they’re taking their own orders, but are we patrons really supposed to just surround the bar like suckling pigs around their mom? Maybe I should — ”

“YOU NEED TO BE MORE AGGRESSIVE,” A girl’s voice cut in.

I turned around to see that she was, indeed, talking to me.

“I’M ANNA! HOW ARE YOU?”

I had prepared alibis in case of an interrogation like this. “I’m trying to meet up with my friends but they left for a different bar,” I’d say. Or, “My bro just left me for some girl,” I’d explain, exasperated.

“Anna I just turned 21 I went out by myself I’ve never been to bars before except for date functions but I don’t know how the actual bar works how are you?” I blurted.

We had a delightful chat. Anna** was visiting our University, and was drunk for the first time. Her friends recommended she get a drink of water, which she explained could be done at either end of the bar.

“That’s a good idea! You can go ahead of me if you want,” I said.

“JOHN, YOU’RE A GEM. A REAL GEM.”

I’ll tell you, the strings of fate are weaved in mysterious ways. I needed someone to talk to, and I think out of all the loner men at a bar I was the best option for Anna to strike up a conversation with.

Anyway, Anna and I were just running out of things to talk about when my other friend showed up.

“I noticed the glasses, and was like, ‘Oh snap! It’s John Patterson!’” she said.

So the two of us parked Anna with her friends and approached the bar. Once the bartender finally pointed at me, I looked into this man’s eyes, nay, I peered into the windows of this man’s soul as I said —

“I’ll take one Dirty Shirley please.”

After two of the dirtiest of Shirleys, I was loose enough to divulge my ultimate mission with my friend.

“There’s somewhere I need to go,” I told her, “I just need to see it.”

I told her. She conferred with her girlfriends.

“It’ll be gross, but we’ll go with you,” she said.

And so Frodo and the Fellowship ventured to Mt. Doom.

ACT THREE — TRINITY IRISH PUB

Trin 3 is where all the progress we make at our University literally grinds to a halt.

What I witnessed that night was a different dimension than the Trinity I had visited the afternoon before. That day, our waitress came over after seeing me grimace at the taste of beer and, like Prometheus gifting fire to humanity, said —

“The other waitresses and I have been talking, and we think you’d like the Dirty Shirley. We’ll put extra grenadine in it.”

But now at 1:15 a.m., Caroline, the greatest waitress of all time, was gone. In her place were at least four of the seven deadly sins.

There were things I didn’t have time to process as we ascended to the third floor. For example, I think the second floor is, like, next to the third floor instead of beneath it? I only got to glance at it from the stairwell.

I, also, got to observe a Trin mating call. A guy slinked behind one of the girls I came with, and she, you know, noticed. She had a conversation through eye contact with our friend, who got her away from him.

“That was an invitation to hook up,” she explained to me by shouting in my ear.

“But they didn’t even make eye contact!”

I guess I’m just Mr. Modest with my archaic assumptions restricting people’s sexuality. Maybe Trinity’s third floor wasn’t my ideal setting after all.

To close, all I have to say about Trin is that it was a time. Probably the last time.

*‘X Gon’ Give it To Ya’ at least three times.

**Name swapped, by the way. Anna is my friend at Virginia Tech!

related stories