I sank deep into a worn out couch that had felt the weight of more bodies on it than the world’s shoulders. I glanced around the room whilst taking a sip of my drink. Saturday nights always drew large crowds into the city. The stresses of paid slavery seemed to drive the people crazy and they loved to pound them to dust against the punch bag of the weekend.
As I looked over towards the entrance, I saw her walk in hand in hand with my replacement.
“Jesus, shit,” I whispered, “shit!”
I pulled the drink away from my face and sank further into the couch. I turned left then right, hoping to find a hole to jump into with my beer and hide until she left. There has always been an eternal judgement that hangs over the lone drinker and I didn’t really want her to pass my final sentence. I felt my heart race with panic as my eyes twitched from looking at the floor and seeing a three year memory walk over towards the bar.
As they both ordered their drinks, she linked his arm and smiled with pure delight. She always had a beautiful smile. A smile that lifted the most saddened hearts up from the gutter. But something was different. It seemed genuine. They grabbed their drinks and started to look around the room for a table. I turned my back slightly towards them and picked up a lunch menu to look at. As I stared at an image of a sausage sandwich, I carefully tracked them with my peripheral vision. They sat down in the centre of the room, took off their jackets and began talking.
I tried to act casual, but I could feel the prickling of awkwardness inside my skin. I couldn’t help noticing their hands softly entwined next to a small table candle which flickered little shadows over their faces. The way she stared into his eyes, laughed at his jokes and kissed his lips was alien to me. Happiness irradiated out of her like solar flares that washed over my mind. The sight left me with the realisation that true happiness only exists in the hands of others and not mine. Clearly I wasn’t right for her and this man could offer something I couldn’t.
She lifted up her drink, took a sip and then glanced at my direction. I cowardly looked away but noticed that they were both now looking at me. I reluctantly turned back around with a smile. Playing the ignorant game would be stupid, I thought, and I felt my hand beginning to wave at her. I decided to cement the smile on my face and walk over to them.
“Hi, Sarah,” I said, as I approached the table, “how are you doing?”
She looked surprised and thrown off by the fact I decided to approach them. Perhaps it was a mistake to show myself. She glanced at her partner, then back at my direction and greeted me with a familiar smile.
“Hi,” she said. “What are you doing here? Are you here by yourself?”
I took a sip from my drink.
“Well, I was with some friends…you know Vincent, right?”
“Well, he was here for a bit with some other friends but they all had to leave like 10 minutes ago.”
She nodded again and smiled, before abruptly turning to her partner and introducing him.
“This is Scott,” she said.
I turned to face him.
“Hi, Scott, how are you doing?” I asked.
Scott smirked and said “Hi.”
We firmly shook hands, but it was apparent that an introduction wasn’t necessary. He knew who I was and I knew who he was. They turned to each other with cringing smiles and took a few short sips of their drinks.
“Sooo, what are you guys doing tonight?” I asked.
“Well,” Sarah said, “we are just about to head off to York for a few days”.
I looked down and noticed two travel bags under the table. Squinting my eyes, I enthusiastically smiled and said “Ah, that’s really great. Are you doing anything in particular there?”
“No, not really,” she replied, whilst looking over at Scott, “we are just going for a few days away, to relax and check things out”.
York was one of her favourite places to visit. We had been there numerous times before to “relax” as well.
“That’s great,” I said, “I hope you have a nice time. Well, I guess I’ll leave you to it”.
I smiled, she smiled and he smiled. We all smiled to each other as I walked away, leaving behind a smog of awkwardness for them to choke on. I decided not to go back to my original seat, but instead to walk over to the bar and finish my drink there, comfortably shielded by the other customers.
The scene stayed with me long after they had left. I always feared having chance meetings with the shadows of my past. The conversations were always ugly and full of underlying negativity and loathing. But it is hard to avoid them. I sat looking at myself in the mirror behind the bar. I dreamed of buying a one way ticket and watch from the beaches of the unknown, as the shadows disintegrated. I drank the rest of my drink and looked at my watch. Shit, only 10 minutes before the last train home leaves, I thought I better get a move on.