Alexander Barry '12
Then, as now, I was running dangerously low on cigarettes and the will to live. The cigarettes felt like the more pressing matter. Castler gave me one of his, I had a light, and we both lay back and looked up through the trees. The wind sent through them a pleasant thrill, and I watched as the loose leaves waved in response. It seemed to me that they were waving goodbye.
“You’re goddamn depressing.”
Castler laughed that ironic laugh of his and shut his eyes against the wind.
We left to hit the town, more out of some sense of obligation than out of any real desire. At the first bar I ordered whisky. Do not think that this was depressive drinking; on the contrary, I was determined to enjoy myself. I have found that the true key to an awful night is not whisky, but tequila. Beware: despite its bright and shiny moniker, and any fiesta related imagery that this may inspire, I have never experienced more universally dreadful evenings than those sponsored by that devilish drink. Then again, sometimes tequila is just what you’re looking for.
Castler ordered tequila.
I will admit that I had a great amusement watching Castler drink that night. It was like watching an elbow gradually cast a glass over the edge of a table, and doing nothing to stop it. Strange tidings, given how composed Castler normally was. But I am not one to talk. If anything, I appreciated the company.
It was a dimly lit and dreary affair, this bar. The kind of place where kings met, or so I imagined. Duct-taped booths and dartboards, and an unleveled pool table you could only use to some degree of success when drunk.
But we were well gone by the time the blonde in the corner pulled out her cigarettes. Of course, they wouldn’t let her smoke inside, which got right to me. No one is more persecuted than the modern day smoker. Even when permitted inside, he’s segregated to a separate and lonely section in the back, outcast. He can’t advertise on television. In film, he is the villain. I viewed No Smoking signs as merely a polite way of saying No Smokers. But the activist in me had long been dead.
Castler nudged me – it was, after all, our cue - and we followed the blonde and her friends outside. She placed a cigarette between two perfect lips and made a show of searching her purse for a lighter. I offered her mine. Pretty girls don’t light their own cigarettes.
I held the flame close and let her dip her head ever so slightly forward, the proper way. It was all in their eyes, and in ours, or at least in Castler’s, but subtlety is hard to achieve in that condition, and unnecessary. I left Castler to the blonde and moved on to a raven, and I saw right away that she was smoking cowboy killers and couldn’t help but think of Mel.
“And how are you?” with a tilt of her head.
How was I? I was seeing nooses in shoe laces.
But you can’t see stars in the city. There’s light grey and dark grey and darker grey and not much else at night, and I was preparing an excuse to leave when Castler hailed a cab and entered with the blonde, with her slipping over the curb as they went. The taxi pulled away and the raven, whose name was Charlotte, looked at me expectantly; Castler, thou hast forsaken me.
I watched Castler’s cab reach the light and stop. Charlotte and I walked that way and rounded the corner, but I paused to look back, another cigarette my excuse for the halt. There were no cars to be found in any direction, save for the lone taxi. It was close to four.
And yet the cab waited. No right on red in the city. But it could’ve crept forward and challenged the intersection. It could’ve gunned through the light at sixty. There was no chance of… anything. And yet the cab waited, the driver unobstructed by anything but propriety.
It struck me then that this cab was everything that was wrong with the world. That the damage had been long done, and irrevocably… That we were ruined.
“I don’t think I’m any good tonight,” on the next block.
She seemed to understand, and wrote out her number on my hand, “just in case.” We parted at the subway. The Charlottes of the world were doomed to find guys like me… Fuck me…
Blurred vision and staggered breaths down the stairs and through the turnstile. An expected development, though. I could feel the whisky turning on me and sought out the men’s room. No, it was not the kind of men’s room in which you wanted to get sick, but in a dirty, dingy way, it was also perfectly suited for that purpose.
And I always felt better afterwards. Maybe even spiritually, I don’t know. My eyes cleared enough to examine the stall, and there was something about the plastic dividers, the cracked tile and industrial toilet that brought me right back to middle school. Even the writing on the walls, although cruder, achieved a similar effect. Why people felt that this was the appropriate way to mark their existence, to leave some form of legacy: this, I would never understand. Why bother…
I got on the train with the numbered route that no one needs to know, going uptown or downtown, it doesn’t matter. I’ve never been one for street names, either, and the only thing at all remarkable about this street was that it was where our apartment could be found. On the pavement, I stood, exiled by uncertainty.
If it all went well, we would snuggle on the sofa, and put on a movie. No… First I’d enter the apartment and she would run up to me in that way she does and rub against my arm in that way she does. She’d insist on making the selection and then fall asleep, her head resting on my shoulder; I would ignore the movie and watch her breathe. I’d realize that it had ended some time ago and wake her up, and if she were cold enough or lonely enough, she would ask to stay in my room, so that the scene on the sofa would be repeated in my bed, and I would die two deaths that night in the wonderful sadness of it all.
But maybe I would enter and find Mel painfully absent. Or painfully with company.
About the Author: Alex is in the middle of the ocean, hasn't left his room in four days, has never been more lonely in his life, and thinks he's in love with Margot.