The Osborne Inn By Jolie Mohn I remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday. Standing at the far end of the bar watching him. I had waited so long for this and finally, it had happened. He was the reason I came to the Osborne Inn week after week. The Osborne Inn was a small, almost dive bar, on Osborne Avenue in Riverhead. At the time, I was a student at Suffolk Community College and I went there ostensibly to hang out with the Literati of the school’s Eastern Campus, the so-called “Fireside Society.” They were a collection of misfits and rebels and free-thinkers. All literary minded, all fascinating people in their own rights. They went to the Osborne Inn to drink and read poetry and smoke pot in the parking lot. But I wasn’t there for any of those things. I was there to see him.
I held my breath and waited for him to notice me. When he finally did, there was a look in his eyes that said, “Stay the hell out of my life.” And that was all there was. Just one glance, one angry, bitter glance and then nothing more. I knew he had a right to feel that way. After all, I had only gone there in the desperate hope of catching a glimpse of him. I knew what he wanted. I knew he wanted me gone. But I couldn’t help myself.
I had been in love with him for so long. Years, in fact. Ever since Junior High School. I had loved and adored and worshipped him as if he were some sort of god. And yet, we had only ever been friends. One night, in the summer of our twenty-first year, after reconnecting after a long separation – after I had foolishly declared my affection – he took me for a ride down Riviera Drive in Mastic Beach. It was a long and winding road, dark and deserted and seemingly in the middle of nowhere. He parked the car on a small patch of gravel overlooking the Moriches Bay and did the unthinkable. He tried to kiss me.
And I resisted.
This man was a god to me! A creature of supreme perfection! Regardless of all my schoolgirl fantasies, it was completely beyond my comprehension that he might see me in any way as worthy of his affection. I was nervous and scared and woefully unprepared. I went home that night un-kissed and he went home frustrated. Two weeks later, he gave me another chance and he finally got what he wanted, but the damage was already done. And our relationship quickly disintegrated.
And so, desperate to keep him in my life, I followed him to college two months later, out to Riverhead, and I waited every day with baited breath to see him. I hardly ever did. And then, that night, he showed up at the Osborne Inn. I went to that bar more times than I can remember, week after week, month after month, hoping to see him. And I only saw him once. That one night when he looked at me like I was the worst thing that had ever happened to him.
He wasn’t the only young man in the bar that night. There was another man, young, attractive, trying out the group for the first time. I don’t remember his name. I do remember that he was from Westhampton and that we spent most of the night talking. We had to. Because he was there and I needed to look anything but sad and feeble and desperate. So when the boy from Westhampton asked me to go outside with him, I did. Not because I wanted to, but because I had to. We sat on the steps for a good fifteen minutes talking, only the calm evening air separating us. And then, just as quickly as he had led me outside he led me back in again.
Immediately our conversation died, and when I tried to revive it, he showed no interest. It was only later that night, after I had gotten home, that I realized why he had stopped talking to me. He had taken me outside because he was expecting something. The same thing he had expected. If I had known, I would probably have given the guy from Westhampton exactly what he had wanted. Not because I wanted to, not because it was a good idea, but because at that point in my life I would have done just about anything to get the object of my misguided affection to notice me. But I didn’t know. For some reason, at the age of twenty-one, I was so naïve that I couldn’t understand how one, much less two, attractive young men could be interested in a girl like me, awkward and shy and inexperienced. I should have realized that they were both male and I had two X chromosomes and a pulse, so of course they were interested. But I didn’t. Because I didn’t see myself as anything more than a gawky, nearly-adolescent girl. And so I was doomed to make the same mistake over and over again, until I finally grew up.
I don’t remember how that night at the Osborne Inn ended. I do know that the man I so adored never said a word to me or looked at me again. I would continue to go for months after that, hoping to catch a glimpse of him, hoping that I might say a word to him, tell him how sorry and stupid I was. But I never got the chance. He never came to the Osborne Inn again.