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Thursday 11/30/23

Close to two o’clock in the morning in a bar and a guy has been there by himself all night, however that adjusts for context, perfectly sober, drinking water with a piece of lemon floating in the glass. Bunch of women, drunk, loud at the start, louder over the duration, loudest now, are sitting around the elbow of the bar, so the group and the guy are in easy eye-line if anyone cares to notice.

One of the women is quiet like she doesn’t want to be there. Maybe she got everyone together as the dutiful orchestrator because she’s good at that kind of thing and felt obligated for old time’s sake and then backed down from making the excuse she was going to about not really feeling all that well. Girls reunion. Or a birthday party for her sister. Another woman looks like she could be related. Same sort of bridge to the nose.

You take so few chances in life, she thinks, using the general you but she really means herself. Shitty night. She’s known these women for so long and what did she truly ever like about any of them? Their proximity? Wasn’t just the same kinds of stories—it was the same adjectives, same inflections, same spots held open for where the laughter always went and was expected to go. She decides again that it’s time for a change. Kick off the old. Move forward. Time to be bold. Brazen, if need be. For real. Go for it. Tomorrow starts now. Cute guy has been staring at her for a couple hours. He’s here on his own, but whatever. Could have gotten stood up. Poor bastard. Drinks a lot of water. Good to be hydrated, she thinks. Always can use the reminder.

She stands, remains in place for a few seconds to adjust to being on her feet again, and having determined that she possesses a sufficient semblance of steadiness, she walks around the elbow of the bar to the guy sitting on his stool and says, “I noticed you’ve been staring at me,” trying to sound harmlessly flippant and winningly flirtatious. All but winks. Maybe she did wink. Or something like that. Raised a corner of her mouth. Guy responds, “You look like someone I used to fuck really hard.” The woman is appalled. “What the fuck is wrong with you, creep?” she says, noticing that she kind of used the same word when she didn’t have to, and storms back to her group, very steady indeed, and laughs where she’s supposed to laugh as if she hadn’t missed anything at all.

That was Friday. She gets up with a headache early the next morning—which is also that same morning—and a new wave of loneliness crashes into her. Still the whole weekend. It’s really only started now. She misses that guy. Or something. Perhaps his wife just died. Angry at the world, but hey, who could blame him. No. Too young. Or a case of misplaced energy. Joke that backfired. Tourette’s.

What is wrong with you? she asks herself. Considers actually laughing aloud but wonders all the same if there is any way to see him again. Theoretically. Merely as an exercise. An experiment in feasibility. How she’d go about it. If she’d have to return to the bar on the same night week after week. Would that make for the best chance? Or did he just go there the once? Might have been a traveler on business. Night to kill like she felt she had a life to kill.

What if her life depended on getting in touch with him? That could be a movie, she thought. There’s nothing stopping you from writing it she muses, except, well, yeah. You’d have to write it.

* From "Lemon Water"/Longer on the Inside: Very Short Fictions of Infinitely Human Lives


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