I saw the love of my life—or at least one of the finalists for the love of my life—in the pickup line at the Guapo Burger. Ordinary people do not encounter former lovers at a restaurant with a name like “Guapo Burger,” but I guess I am an exception.
“Patrick?” I asked. Before I even uttered a word, I knew it had to be him, as I recognized his shaved head, broad shoulders, and wide grin immediately.
“Clancy!” he shouted. He stepped out of the line and moved toward me immediately. It had been almost a year since I last saw him. He brought his face close to mine, out of instinct, almost kissing me, but we both thought better of it. After a long pause, we just wrapped our arms around each other.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, automatically leaning my head toward his cheek.
“New Pilgrim!” he said, referring to the Massachusetts rock festival we were going to play in a few days. “You didn’t see the list? The Modocs are on the bill.”
I smiled. I had seen the bill, and I had hoped that I would see him, but I didn’t expect to see him so early, nor did I expect to see him in my favorite restaurant in my old neighborhood.
“We’re supposed to play Einstein’s tonight,” he added. “A sneak peek of the new album.” Then his face darkened, just a bit. “We’ll see how the material goes over.”
“We’re doing New Pilgrim, too!” I said. I realized I hadn’t let him go, so I finally loosened my hold on him and took a step back. “We’re on the second stage, in the afternoon.” In fact, my band, the Marquee Idols, had driven Wayne’s ever-reliable white 1973 VW Westfalia, aka “Westy,” all the way out to the East Coast from San Francisco to launch a tour with New Pilgrim as the first date, and we’d only arrived that morning.
“A Señor Whitey!” the guy behind the counter yelled. “And a Summer Ale!”
Patrick nodded and grabbed his burger. Guapo burgers paid tribute to various Boston legends by adding a “Señor” in front of the last name. The Señor Whitey was served on toasted white bread in honor of Whitey Bulger, the local crime boss who was on the lam for years and finally got busted in Southern California.
A few minutes later, I received my “Señor Schilling,” which was drenched in ketchup to represent Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s bloody sock during Game 6 in the 2004 American League Championship Series.
The guy behind the counter looked at me. “That show! You! You were on that show—and that’s the dude on the show!” He waved at Patrick, who waved back. Then he pointed at me. “I was rooting for you! The other girls had nothing on you.”
“Thanks!” I said.
“Are you guys together?” he asked.
I winked. “Stay tuned.”
Then I took my tray of food toward where Patrick stood. He said, “Well played, my dear. Well played.”
“Mind if I join you?” I asked.
“Of course not,” he replied.
Although we were having the cheapest of dates in a bar that was blasting the Dropkick Murphys at a painful volume, I couldn’t have been happier. I led Patrick to a table in front of a picture window that had been opened to the summer air.
“You have no idea how glad I am to see you. I was hoping to run into you at the festival. It’s been a long time.” Patrick sank his perfect teeth into his Guapo burger.
I took a gulp of my Hefeweizen. It was delicious. I hadn’t realized how much I missed New England beer after spending a decade on the West Coast. I hadn’t realized that I missed New England, period. I was already thinking about showing Patrick around my old hangouts, and Guapo’s was just the beginning.
“I missed you,” I blurted out. I hadn’t realized I missed him, either. I had been hired to be his bodyguard when he was starring in a dating reality show. We “dated,” if anyone could call it that, and he liked me. I liked him back, but insane people on reality shows tend to get in the way of actual romance. When I last saw him in person, we had said that we might try again, without cameras. Aside from a few playful phone calls and texts, we left it there. I rationalized that it was a dating reality show after all, and no one actually dated on those shows. Besides, we were both in bands. We were busy. And yet my thoughts kept turning to him. Maybe we were finally going to connect.
He smiled. “I missed you, too. How’s the rest of the band?”
“They’re wondering what day jobs they’ll have after the tour’s done.” I explained that Wayne, the singer, was dreaming about applying for a job at one of San Francisco’s medical marijuana dispensaries, Muriel was contemplating a career selling sex toys, and Shane wanted to start to take classes as a baker. Since my day job was as a private investigator, I was just hoping I didn’t need to investigate any of them for some crime related to pot-laced erotic pastries.
Patrick laughed. “I would be happy to invest in pot-laced erotic pastries. It sounds a hell of a lot more fun than what anyone in my band is up to.”
“What are they up to?” I asked.
Patrick rolled his eyes. He was once guitarist for one of the biggest grunge bands, the Nuclear Kings. Now he was in the Modocs, a power trio composed of rock icons who had survived the ’90s. Patrick had played lead guitar, Richie Ramos from the Tomboys was on drums, and Justin Hollander, the Modocs’ singer and bassist, had been the front man of Inverted Jenny, a group so notorious and so beloved that teenagers still wore their T-shirts. “Let’s just say your bandmates are probably much easier to deal with,” he said. “I’d rather talk about you, anyway.”
A breeze swept through the window. I wondered if we should linger at the Guapo Burger, enjoying the warm weather and watching the endlessly amusing passersby of Central Square. I also considered making a break for our tour van on the off chance that my bandmates were out exploring Cambridge and I could get Patrick alone.
Patrick put down his burger, wiped his hands, and put them under the table. I felt his palm on my bare knee. I was glad I went with a skirt instead of my usual jeans. Surely none of the Marquee Idols would be in the Westy in the middle of the day, I hoped. Wayne would be looking for a dime bag, Muriel would be browsing at the local Boutique Erotique, and Shane would be snacking on a cupcake at whatever bakery was nearby.
“I’m really hoping we’ll see more of each other at the festival,” Patrick said. He didn’t move his hand, and that was fine by me. It seemed as if he were on the verge of saying something else.
I was about ready to bring up getting the check and heading for the van, when I realized that his eyes flickered away right when he said “see.” He’d been focused on either me, the burger, or the beer for much of the conversation, but he suddenly started concentrating on something else.
He leaned in. “Is it just me, or are there a lot of cops around?” His hand moved away.
I nibbled on one of Guapo’s sweet potato fries, disappointed at the change in subject. “Why? You holding?”
“Never mind. Don’t answer that. And don’t worry. The cops who pass through Central Square have a lot more to worry about than a joint or two.”
A police officer jogged past Guapo’s front window.
“That’s odd,” I said.
“You’re telling me.” Patrick laughed. “I’ve never seen a cop move that fast. Is there a donut shop around here?” Then Patrick froze. “I hope it’s not—”
At that moment, Shane climbed through the window we were sitting in front of, nearly knocking over our table.
“Whaaa? Hey, jackass!” the guy behind the counter yelled. “That’s not an entrance!”
Shane waved him off. Then he looked at my Guapo burger, and his eyes got bigger. Recently, Shane had turned into a foodie. After eating one too many meals at gas stations, he had taken to preparing home-cooked meals whenever we were back in San Francisco. He was probably already reverse engineering the burger’s recipe. “That looks amazing,” he said. “Is it good?”
I sighed. “Yes, it’s good. And maybe I’ll let you have some if you tell me why you just interrupted our lunch.” I put the burger down and gave up on eating it.
“Dude, don’t get mad! You’ve been talking about getting a Guapo burger all week! It was easy to find you.” Then he looked at Patrick. “Hey, man! What’s up? Good to see you!” They began to engage in the male ritual of complicated handshakes.
“Is this somehow related to all the cops we just saw?” I asked.
“Yes! Yes! Uh, Patrick, are you still touring with Justin Hollander?” Shane asked, disengaging from a final fist bump.
Patrick just put his head in his hands, and I heard a muffled “yes” come out.
“Well, if that’s your tour bus behind Einstein’s, you’d better get over there, because your boy is strangling your drummer.”
Patrick stood up, slowly and reluctantly. He pulled out a wallet and slapped a hundred-dollar bill on the table. He didn’t even bother to glance at the denomination, but he said to me, “That’s what I didn’t want to discuss.” Then he turned to Shane, who was raring to go, as anyone would be if they enjoyed watching fistfights. “Take me to my band.”