I could decompose in the bottom of this vacant beer bottle if I wanted. I could disappear in the dusty windows of this bar if I needed to. Glancing over just quickly enough to catch her alleged friend’s hand on her leg, I jumped out of my seat and ventured over to the bar to buy beers faster than I could guzzle them down. I’m not sure why I expected anything different.
On the train on the way into the city, we had passed a flask of whiskey between us and talked like time didn’t exist. I’m convinced that on trains, it doesn’t. Maker definitely made his mark on me, and my legs were wobbly as we stood up. Specifics of that evening evade me at this point, because I waited too long to write about it. Memories like water, frantically running out of my cupped hands. Feelings, well those stay seared on the surface of my brain like brightly lit signs over lonely motels.
It was a nice feeling, knowing that she thought to invite me to an open mic, spoken word night. I suppose I shouldn’t have read too much into it because most people who know me know that writing is both my greatest passion and most persistent demon. There is no angel to be found when my synapses collide with my fingertips and dance across the paper. Nevertheless, while walking through the streets of the city whose secrets I’ll never know, I had a warm feeling that was completely unrelated to the alcohol swimming through my veins. I think it had something to do with the way her smile crept across her face, like the universe could wait. That warmth was replaced with an arctic tundra when another girl showed up. She’s just a friend that she invited along, right? Shit, she’s pretty attractive. I don’t look at my friends with a gleam in my eye like that. Maybe I’m imagining it. She played soccer at Duke?! I can’t compete with that. Can they tell that I’m dying inside? I begin to sweat despite the ice in my blood.
We entered the venue and sat on either side of the one that owns my heart. I did my best to pretend that it was just she and I, owners of the night, and lovers of beautiful words. Nonetheless, the fucking little blue pills I take are no match for the anxiety I felt when I saw how close they were sitting. My face went numb and I pretended to be overly engrossed in the mediocre performance going on at the time. By the time my legs carried me down the stairs to grab a few more beers, I was certain I was going to fall off the planet if I didn’t focus on something else, anything else. Should I not have left them alone? A lot could happen in five minutes.
Maybe they got married. Lucky for me, she’s one of the smart ones. Like a knight gallivanting on a white horse, she came down the stairs, and made sure to convince me that there wasn’t anything going on between them. How absurd I am that she would even need to assure of me of anything. We’ve been on exactly one date and I had known since the moment the night ended, that it would be the last. You can’t make everyone you meet fall in love with you. She owes me nothing but the kindness in her soul. Leave it to me to ruin a night for myself. Marisa’s mark. So often a scar.
I felt better inside the next bar we went to, which was called “The Library.” It was as if I was surrounded by a bunch of writers whispering words of encouragement in my ear. I think she had enough alcohol in her that she allowed herself to touch me in ways that she didn’t want me. Duke sat across the table from her and I, and I felt a juvenile sense of accomplishment. I win. For now, anyway. How confused the competitor must have been to witness my neuroses that were sure to be painted across my face. We guzzled our drinks down, all for different reasons, and eventually the evening tripped and fell into the night. When just the two of us got back to the train station, we went for a drive, holding hands while Beautiful played on repeat in the background. It made me happy that she wanted to listen to it again. It’s the little things like that that turn into big things for me.
She told me things I didn’t think she would tell just anyone. Her dad. Alcohol on the breath. These things swirled through my brain like a broken kaleidoscope and in the darkness, they managed to escape my brain onto a scrap piece of paper. To this day, I can’t remember the damn poem that I wrote, but I’m sure it was a load of shit. Regardless, we ended up making out on her floor like the aftermath of a high school party. I know it meant nothing to her so I tried to pretend the same. My acting skills have always been far from polished though, and I think she knew that I desperately wanted to save her. The hardest thing for me was accepting that she didn’t want me to.
I woke up with an emotional hangover and I think she woke up with a real one. In my mind, there’s no competition as to which one is more debilitating. I’ll choose the stomach acid and throbbing temples over picking my pathetic heart up and dragging it across the booze-streaked floor any day.
—story by MARISA B. CRANE