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The Lone Man. By Martin Green.


Some years ago, if I remember correctly, there was a series of books about a “Lone Man,” that is, about a young guy who had no girl friend and who didn’t seem likely to get one. The books, I think, sold pretty well. I want the author to know that long before these books came out I thought of myself as the “Lone Man.” Too bad I never wrote any books about being one.

How did I come to be the “Lone Man”? It wasn’t hard. I was in my early thirties. I was living in San Francisco, having come there from New York City five years before. My girl had gone back to the Midwest to help care for her father, who’d suffered a heart attack. When she’d left, I had the feeling she wouldn’t be coming back, and she didn’t. The couple who were probably my best friends got divorced. No more dinners and occasional parties at their place. The couple who were my next best friends had a baby. That was the end of that. I had no family in San Francisco; they were all back in New York. If I was still there, one of my numerous aunts would have fixed me up with a new girl friend, but my aunts were 3,000 miles away.

There were no girls in the office where I worked; none, at any rate that I was interested in, or who might be interested in me. On top of that, I’d moved to an apartment in Sausalito, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. This was fine as long as I had a girl friend, who usually came to spend the weekends with me. Without a girl friend, I had no one and San Francisco, the City, might as well have been, like New York, 3,000 miles away. Oh, yes, I’d always liked the wife of my best-friends couple and, after their divorce, had taken her to dinner. At the door of her apartment, I’d made my move and had been gently but firmly rejected.

* * *

So, what does a lone man do to fill in the time? After work, I’d drive back to Sausalito and make myself dinner. Ironically, my girl friend had left me half a dozen or so recipes. I alternated these with the TV dinners that were then becoming popular. Sausalito at that time didn’t have many restaurants, and, besides, one of the worst things about being a Lone Man was having to eat by yourself in a restaurant. After cleaning up, I’d read, watch my black-and-white television or, most often, look at the view I had of Alcatraz, with the City beyond it. On weekends, I’d walk from my apartment along Bridgeway into town, buy whatever I needed, stop into the little library for books, then walk back and usually do nothing for the rest of the day. Sometimes, to vary my routine, I’d drive back over the Golden Gate Bridge, although it took an effort to do this, and go to Golden Gate Park. Once a week, instead of going straight back to Sausalito after work, I’d drive to the JCC (Jewish Community Center) to play handball (I’d been a pretty good player back in New York). After playing, I’d go to a bar across the street to have a beer, then go home.

What about picking up a girl in the bar; that’s the way it’s always done in the movies. The bar was pretty much a sports bar and very few women were ever seen there. The one time I did see an attractive girl drinking by herself I moved over to the seat next to her and was cleverly saying, “Can I buy you a . . .” when her boy friend came breezing past me and they kissed enthusiastically while I slunk back to my previous spot.

The thing I remember most about this Lone Man period is that every guy except me seemed to have a girl. When I walked back and forth on Bridgeway I passed couples holding hands while they admired the view. When I went into the market everyone else shopping was one of a pair. When I went into the library guys would be showing the books they’d selected to their girls. On the rare occasions when I ate out I’d be huddled at a table by myself while at all the other tables couples talked and laughed. When I went to Golden Gate Park couples would by sitting on benches or lying on the grass with each other. Even when I was driving in my car all the cars I passed were occupied by couples sitting close together.

I was reminded of all this recently when my oldest son, who happens to live in San Francisco, was divorced and, when my wife and I visited him, was obviously lonely; he was even glad to see us, his parents. Well, I guess I’ve let the cat out of the bag---no, I didn’t stay the Lone Man forever, although at the time it appeared I would. One night after handball at the JCC another player told me of a restaurant two blocks away that had good food, cheap prices and a lot of small tables suitable for guys eating alone. So, after showering and changing I took my gym bag and, instead of going to the sports bar across the street, I found the new restaurant two blocks away. I was seated at one of the small tables, against a wall. The menu looked good. My wife says I deliberately left my gym bag out in the aisle so that she would trip over it. I deny it but this is what happened and so I met my wife-to-be and that was the end of my being The Lone Man.


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