We sit side by side in a dingy little bar with dollar bills pinned to the walls and the ceiling. Whenever I’m here, I wonder how they stick so long. There’s one near the back with my name on it.
He gets there first. I don’t plan my lateness. It’s just a funny reversal of roles, because I’ve always been the supremely punctual one. He’s there at the bar when I arrive and toss my expensive bag on the stool as I strip off my coat. I have worn my long cashmere coat because it feels like the thing you wear when you begin a torrid affair, even though that’s not what we’re doing. I like to play pretend sometimes – it’s just what you do when your normal life is kind of boring.
After the chaos of the fall, I kept wishing for a normal, boring relationship. The predictable kind. The simple kind. The reliable kind. Then, when that fell into my lap, I regretted it. “It was fine,” I would always say. “It’s all fine.” You always get what you wish for in a roundabout way. It ended in February and I thought to myself, “Well, I’ll never think about that again.” And I really don’t. He never crosses my mind at all. Some boys are easier to leave behind than others.
But this boy and I are sitting at the bar and he is admitting things I already knew. If I were a more abrasively blunt person – which I am not and have never, ever been – I would shriek “I TOLD YOU SO” even though I didn’t. I just kept those thoughts to myself. I try not to be an asshole in public spaces. After all, I’m the one who told him to fuck off and never speak to me again. We’ve seen each other twice since then and it feels okay. I know he’s not coming home with me tonight but I still want him to touch me very badly. He doesn’t. We don’t.
We sit there for a few hours and then stand outside, smoking cigarettes. I never smoke cigarettes and I always regret it the next morning. The smell catches in my hair and clings. The rain around us is light and misty and I am thinking about the day I picked him up from the airport and he paced around his porch smoking cigarettes in this same kind of rain. Everything ended a few days after that. I stub out my cigarette and I drive him back to a house that used to be mine. I don’t miss it. He kisses my cheek and tells me he loves me and I don’t say anything. I listen to the sound of my wipers instead of the radio.
I only wake up once that night.
The next day, I sit with my brother at a different bar and we eat dinner and neither of us really talk to one another. Both of us feel sick. When I go home, I look around my apartment and feel very dissatisfied. The bathroom sink is dusted with makeup. There are dishes to wash and cobwebs to clean. I’m glad to be alone that night. My bed feels welcoming, not lonely.
I guess when the dust settles, things will be normal again.