• Anne Royse

Two Muslims & a Catholic Walk into a Bar (excerpt)

The only random bar pic I had on short notice.

A few years back, I went to meet a friend at a bar with live music. The place was bustling; and I’ll be honest, it had the tiniest bit of a meat market vibe. Nice and upscale . . . more filet mignon than, you know, a chuck eye . . . but meat market nonetheless. I had never been, and found it made for great people watching. I leaned into the bar to flag down a glass of wine, and a man quite a bit older than me started talking with me. Almost immediately, he said, “You have really soulful eyes.”

Oh, brother. I’m sure he could read my face, because he quickly followed it up with, “No, really! Not like that! I’m not trying to hit on you . . . you just have the eyes of a wise soul. Do you practice some type of faith? Do you go to church?” Now, that’s one I hadn’t heard before.

His sidekick was a slim balding man, who reminded me a little of my Great-Grandpa Crahan. A Persian version of the Irishman I knew. I think it was a combination of the thin halo of gray hair and the healthy dose of Old Spice aftershave. He was probably around eighty years old or so. These two stood out in a sea of middle-aged successful businessmen, as well . . . an older Muslim version of the Odd Couple. Remember that show, from way back when, with the two divorced men who lived together? Well, these two didn’t live together, but they were divorced and had developed quite a friendship and, apparently, went out to enjoy live music on a regular basis. They introduced themselves as Jay and Seyyed. And somehow—in the middle of dudes buying ladies drinks, flirting up a storm, and talking about their accumulated wealth—we were talking about things that mattered. Friendship. Faith.

Fellow music enthusiasts, they’d met at that very bar a little over a year before as they were both seeking live music. Jay, who was probably in his early sixties, had been on crutches at the time. Seyyed, who was probably in early eighties, had asked him what happened. Jay explained his injury and said he’d need to have surgery soon.

Seyyed then shared his story. He was an orthopedic surgeon from Iran. His family had fled to the USA just before his son’s eighteenth birthday so his son would not have to serve in the military. Seyyed was having a tough time getting his medical licenses to transfer to the USA, so he took up a number of odd jobs, but ultimately, it was tough to make ends meet. He went back to Iran for a time to continue his medical practice and send money to his family in the USA. He made great sacrifices to keep his son safe. Over time, the distance did damage to his relationship with his wife, so he made his way back to the United States once again. He made some suggestions to Jay for exercises and, ultimately, saved Jay from a costly surgery with a long recovery. They had formed a bond.

So there were Jay and Seyyed, two older, now divorced Muslim men, who’d formed a friendship in a bar of all places. Seyyed always ordered a Coke with six lemon wedges. Jay had one bottle of beer and lots of water. I know this to be their regular order because they invited this Catholic to join them on other live music outings. And let me tell you something, that slim balding eighty-year-old Muslim guy sure knew how to dance! He’d dance with anyone who would let him, and the ladies loved it because he was fantastic! I would introduce them to my friends, who would ask how we met. The three of us would always respond in unison: “Two Muslims and a Catholic walked into a bar . . .”

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