hree people walk into a bar, I am one of them. I decide to hide out at a corner table, swallowed by the shadows around me. The other two grab the table next to the door, chatting, smiling. I order a whisky. Like liquid amber, it sits in my glass, waiting for me. For the tingling sensation, the smokey aftertaste and that burning sensation in my stomach. The other two strangers are talking. He seems uncomfortable. She doesn’t seem to notice.
Her facial expression drops. Her eyes are turning watery. He is apologizing furiously.
While I watch her misery unfold, I remember your words. I let them flow through me, through every vein, every artery, crawling under every square centimeter of skin. Every nerve, every cell is in alert mode. Your words are rushing by; my inner workings try hard to hold onto every piece of substance. Your words are bashing in walls: hearts, lungs, stomachs. Everything hurts.
She gets up, screaming. His face is blank. She storms out the door.
The amber is rushing down my throat. It feels nothing like relief. Your words seem to break down my body. Slowly, but steady, having been trying for years. The way you looked at me, full of pity and self-righteousness. More amber. More amber. My thoughts get blurry, like headlights in time exposure. Your words flow over my eyes, holy scriptures in a language I wouldn’t understand.
He gets up, pays, sighs and walks out into the night.
I wrap myself up in my coat. I suppose everybody needs to defend themselves somehow. I trace the wet tracks the amber has left on my table. Your words have become silent. Satisfied, I get up. I pay the bill for a short night’s peace, I turn up the collar of my coat, brace myself for the cold, harsh air outside, give the good old table by the door a tap, and leave.
For the third time this year I’m vowing to never walk into this bar again.
I told someone today that nights are worse, because that’s when the memories of you are strongest: you slipping off your bed, brain and veins full of that terrible poison, you alone while I was off playing pool with some other guy and your dad was writing an email and your mom was baking challah and your brother was adjusting his mic for his first radio broadcast. But it’s also you when you turned away from me at that cafe last January, tears in your eyes, my chest caving in as you told me you were more emotionally involved than you realized. It’s you when we started crossing that intersection a second too late and got caught between three honking cars, and your hand was in my pocket for cigarettes, and we were both laughing hysterically as you pulled me into you and kissed me, those big teeth scraping mine and your “sorry” erased by my hungry lips. It’s you when we snuck into that hotel lobby and ate a chocolate bar from either end til our lips met in the middle, and we washed it down with the beer I was supposed to give to your roommate as an apology for drinking all his liquor the night before. It’s you when we stared into each other’s eyes on those abandoned train tracks over the canal and repeated as somberly as we could, “I love you, I love you” until you started laughing and I pulled you to me and you buried your face in my curls, just behind my ear, and continued to whisper ”I love you.”
So you see, it doesn’t make it any better that my days are numb but okay, that mostly I’m only tortured when I don’t sleep at night. Because as long as I’m alive, every day is filled with the knowledge that night is coming.