It’s surely his dramatic training coming through, the way Al Burnes — a 35-year-old actor and regular fixture at comedy shows around the city — treats his share of the conversation.
“I want to get to a point where …” he puts his coffee down meaningfully, “… I want to fall in love with me.”
The sincerity of the remark lasts for about half a second before he starts laughing.
“It’s true. It’s actually true though,” Burnes says through a grin.
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It’s not that Burnes is always performing. It’s that performance is firmly woven into his character.
Seated on the sunny side of Succotash, he offers a short but nuanced explanation on the hazards of being single: “I’ve just been dating, and that’s fun, but dating’s supposed to be fun. But it’s also kind of treacherous, you know?”
So you’re going to think he’s cool, but he also might keep a cool distance.
For us, he opens up: “I’m going to stop trying to say the right thing, and I’m just going to talk.”
Burnes separated from his wife last spring and divorced in August 2015. The coupling had lasted 2 1/2 years.
“Less time than most people spend in college,” Burnes remarks with a trace of remorse.
“This idea in the beginning that marriage was going to make me a better person — I don’t know where that came from, but that was kind of my thought.”
One of his side hustles is emceeing wedding receptions. He was doing that last summer while the married chapter of his life was drawing to a close. Surely the comic in him appreciated the irony.
“At some point I realized there wasn’t any number of things that I could change about myself to make the relationship work,” he says.
Burnes rejects the connotations that come with the label “divorced.” The image of a divorced person, a close study in sadness, captures little of what Burnes is today: someone interested in becoming his best self and growing alongside someone interested in the same.
“I want to stop just letting things come my way,” he says. “I want to look at that 13-year-old version of me and tell him, ‘Hey kid, I did it.’ ”
And he wants to spend his time with someone with a good worldview.
“Someone who, you know, knows what I mean when I say ‘Benghazi,’ ” he says.
Here’s the pitch for first date: “Say it’s a whole day,” he says. “Antique shopping in the River Market, search for some deals.
“From there we’re in Westport, so we could see what’s going on at the Tivoli — no, that’s too quiet, we can’t get to know one another,” he says, reconsidering.
“No, from there I take her to my secret spot,” he says, pausing before breaking the suspense.
“It’s Union Station, but listen,” he says leaning in conspiratorially. “At night you can just walk in. The whole place is empty and beautiful, and it’s magic.
“If I really like a girl, we’re going to go to my secret spot, which I guess is really not a secret,” Burnes says with finality.
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