Field Studies: The Beginnings of Heartache Harry

In The Floozies of Fate, my protagonist, Marty, falls for a guy named Heartache Harry. People often ask me where my ideas come from. Here’s one example:

When I was in college my roommate and I hung out at a bar near campus.  We were pals with the guys that worked there and spent a lot of time with them.  Pretty much all one summer the bunch of us played endless games of spades either at the bar or at one of our apartments. The guys, Rick, the two Dougs, the two Tims, and a rotating assortment of their friends were all either bartenders or “bouncers” at the bar.

There was one bartender, though, who hardly ever spent time with our gang: Heartache Harry.

The first time I saw him, I looked at my roommates and said, “That boy is a heartache waiting to happen!”

The nickname stuck and, much to Harry’s dismay, sort of spread among our group. It didn’t help that the Eagle’s song “Heartache Tonight” was pretty popular that year. The other guys, having gained control of the sound system, played it often. And we all sang it loudly and proudly.

Poor Harry.

Harry was WAY out of my league and I knew it.

Despite this, or maybe because of it, Harry was fascinating to me. I spent endless hours parked front and center at the bar, observing him like I was Dian Fossey and he was a wild gorilla.  I particularly enjoyed watching him interact with whichever gorgeous girl he was interested in or in the process of dumping.

Not surprisingly, Harry dumping someone happened a lot. He was quite the player and often juggled more than one girl at a time.  A lot of Harry’s interactions with his women happened while he was working.

He was a master at multitasking, never missing a beat with pulling a beer or taking an order, all the while giving back as good as he got whenever one of his conquests caught on to his doggish ways and decided to confront him at the bar.

He never stopped smiling, either, even when in the midst of one of these epic battles. And let me assure you, Harry’s smile could light up a room. Whatever “it” is – I guess it’s charisma or star power – Harry oozed it from every pore.

One day, I was trudging across campus heading to my next class or to meet up with a friend or something like that and I heard a guy holler at me.  I looked up and there, on a bike across the street was a guy that, well, I really didn’t recognize.  I smiled, waved, and kept going, wondering how he knew me.

He had been pretty cute, and he sort of looked vaguely familiar, but I just couldn’t place him. Later that night, one of the Tims (who I happened to be sort of “dating”) and I decided that, rather than hang out with the rest of the gang, we would spend some time alone. My roommate and the boys spent a couple of hours playing cards at the bar, then decided to move the game to – get this – Harry’s apartment!

It seems that things had been slow and Harry was between girls and had invited them over to his place.  My one shot at observing the subject in his natural habitat, and I was sitting in a movie theater watching some forgettable film with a guy who I just wasn’t that into! (Okay – Tim, if you ever come across this blog and recognize yourself, I hereby apologize for what I just wrote. But, you have to admit you sort of have it coming for what you did later in the summer.)

Later, when I got home, my roommate just couldn’t WAIT to spill the news: the cute boy I had seen earlier in the day had been Harry.

To this day I’m still not sure why I hadn’t recognized him. Maybe the Brave’s hat he had on over his sandy blonde hair and the Ray-Bans that covered half his face had been an effective disguise.

Anyway, when they got to his apartment, Harry had cornered my roommate and questioned her, apparently relentlessly, about why I had been so aloof when he’d seen me that afternoon.

Didn’t I like him anymore?

Wasn’t I the one who was always mooning around, watching every move he made?

He had been shocked that I hadn’t taken the opportunity to spend some quality one on one time with him. He had planned to buy me an ice cream cone or a beer or something.

And I had just brushed him off.

Me, brushing him off!


Oh, and where was I? Out with Tim?

Tim? What on earth was I doing with Tim?

Then, evidently, according to my roommate, he spent the rest of the night alternating between trashing Tim and sulking.

Is there a point to this long-winded story?

Sort of.

You see, I was right and I was wrong when I gave Harry the nickname.

Because that night, while I was sitting in a movie theater, holding hands with a guy that wasn’t Harry, a heartache did happen.

Just not to me.



That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. 😉