David Antrobus wrote this story. Edward Lorn wrote this one. They asked me to play. Now I can't sleep until I write this shit. Thanks fellas. They probably make more sense if you read them in order.
There are open places inside all of us, and she was no exception. She had caverns, carved out darkness. She sat at the bar, struck a match to another bayonet, darted eyes around the room following the smoke shadows. She saw herself through their eyes. Some of the men just wanted to fuck her. Some of the men were afraid of the open places, astute enough to see the wounds. The women either pitied her or hated her…and the pity hurt worse.
She drank her vodka and tapped the bar and saw herself in a sudden flashbulb: short black hair, tight black dress, red heels. She had aimed for defiant and landed in…what? Whore? Predator? She realized it suddenly. All the fucking things she hated, she had embraced them all. She had killed the kitten so the lion could live. And the lion was predatory.
She drank the next vodka fast. It was smooth. All this time had passed. All this time and her…feeling like she was drowning and chasing her pain and her open places. But somewhere along the line, she had tried to…hell, build something. A fortress. She recognized now what she had built and felt shame. She just wanted a barrier. Some armor. She didn’t want women in bars to hate her. She certainly didn’t want their pity. She didn’t want to fuck anyone or get fucked. She just wanted.
The next drink was there, so she drank it and lit a cigarette. The bartender was wise to the whole thing. She realized that now. He was standing a little to the left of her. His back was turned and she knew it was because he was judging her. She hated his ponytail. Her eyes turned to an icy stare.
“I suppose you think I’m a whore?”
“I don’t think about it.”
“I come here all the time…you see it, you have to…don’t fuck with me.”
“I’m not fucking with you. I’m just saying I see it different than you do.”
She drank the next drink and stubbed out her cigarette.
“So, what, ‘captain fucking deep bartender guy’…?”
“So, nothing. You got your business, I got mine.”
“And I don’t think I want any part of your business aside from a smile every once in a while if you can muster it. I’ll make the drinks.”
“And where are you going that’s so fucking great…tell me.”
“Probably nowhere, but you never know. It’s that ‘you never know’ part that interests me, see. I know more about you than you think. But it’s all just sticky tape and spilt ink and things you wanted but didn’t get. Aside from that, it’s life. One thing a bartender knows, ain’t many people got easy lives.”
“Yeah, great. Thanks.”
“Look, Summer…yeah, I know your name and you don’t know mine…you aren’t the only one that got dealt the shit hand. That doesn’t make it right, but it’s life. Some people have…I don’t know…hope, some people don’t.”
“So, you think I’m hopeless?”
“No, I think you think you’re hopeless. What I think doesn’t matter. You don’t know my name and won’t remember any of this.”
She slammed her glass down and stood slowly, careful not to wobble.
“Sorry to bother you.”
“It’s no bother. No bore either. That’s surprising. We have these kinds of chats a lot. I know you don’t remember them…I do.”
She grabbed her coat and pinballed out the door into the cold night. Her breath rose like smoke into the whitening sky. Stars. So many fucking stars. There was always that. When the stars started falling it would be time to seriously rethink things. Until then... A laugh tore out of her.
She wondered if she had spoken to the barkeep before or if that was a cheap come on. It didn’t matter. She lit a cigarette and walked the empty streets towards her apartment. Flickering windows wept soft light into the alleyways. She found her building. Her apartment. It was dark, she never remembered to leave the light on. She lay on her bed and let go of her conscious brain. Her throat burned.
She was no Phoenix. She woke to a pounding headache and no memories from the night before. Just blackness. She was alone. That was a clue. She got up and found a warm handle of vodka in the kitchen. She poured a little orange juice in. She drank it while trying not to vomit. Five minutes of mouth sweat, and she knew it would be over. She could do that. She leaned, arms braced against the sink like bridge abutments. They were scarred and shaking. She waited and she could feel the vodka. Like a switch being tripped. She smiled ever so slightly and lit a cigarette. She poured a glass of straight liquor and drank it in steady sips. She wondered who she would call. What day was it? Kirk would be down to party…he would have coke, but he was an asshole.
She walked into her room and saw her dress laid across the pink fuzzy bathrobe she had owned for years. When had she worn it last? She ran her hand across the arm. She slipped it on. In an explosion of images, she knew. The years collapsed, and she knew that she was just stuck. Had been stuck. How long? This time she would do it. Unstick. She had to. She poured the vodka down the sink. She made a cup of tea and waited to get sick.
The cold seeped in through the window cracks, and she felt winter’s breath. It was getting weaker, but it was there. She shivered and knew it wasn’t the cold. It was starting. But winter was ending. And then it would be spring. And she had no idea what that meant. She shrunk into a small ball of pink and cried.
Jo-Anne Teal comes in for the kill here.
Jo-Anne Teal comes in for the kill here.