I look down at my glass. Bourbon and other ingredients perfectly fashioned, its dark amber surrounding a large square cube. I am waiting for you. After twenty minutes I check my phone. You are running behind. I put my phone back into my black purse. It sits on the deep brown of the bar. I lean back slightly in my stool and look at the dark lettering on the wooden wall, bottles of liquor stand erect on shelving, glowing with light, the brick wall seeping out from behind. Outside, night has fallen but it’s still early. I’m the only one at the bar, a few other patrons sit in booths and tables.
I should’ve known I’d be waiting for you. You aren’t one to show up when you say you will. I’ve known you for a decade, but I always feel like we’re meeting for the first time.
“It’s me, it’s Sebastian. I’m in the city,” you had said. I had listened to your voice in stunned disbelief. It was as if I had willed you to call me, as if I had willed you into existence. You told me you were in the city for a few weeks, on a work project. You are a videographer and a writer. It makes sense. You told me once that you wanted to be famous. We were 21 years old at the time and it made me cringe even back then. But what I think you meant was that you wanted to be someone known and loved, you wanted to be cherished.
When I first met you, you were just a boy, not much of a boy. You sat across from me in the university’s main lounge. You were wiping the sleep from your eyes. It was well past noon. I barely noticed your existence. But I was the only one. Many girls fell down at your feet. You had this charm, this ability to make someone feel like they were the centre of the spinning world. Everything we said when we were together mattered. It was if we were on stage, you and I, on stage in front of an empty audience. It was only me and it was only you.
It wasn’t long before I found myself falling down at your feet. It happened so gradually like the first leaves falling. Slowly, barely perceptible, the leaves, they were falling. Suddenly, I was surrounded by them, a mountain of leaves. I was suffocating beneath the leaves and I swam up and there you were at the very top. You reached your hand out to me, your palm turned skyward.
But once I hadn’t known you. You were no one to me. You used to have curly hair but now you keep it close cropped. You loved to tell stories, you were a storyteller. One day I heard your thoughts on paper and on that day I fell down at your feet.
“I don’t really exist,” you said to me when I told you how I felt. “You’ve created me in your mind.” That’s something only you would say.
I hear the door open. I can feel you before I see you.
“Hey,” you say. “I think you dropped this.”
I turn to look at you. You stand there, a tall man. In your hand is a slim book with a simple cover. I take it from you. It is a book of poetry. I flip it on its back and pretend to read the jacket cover.
“No,” I say. “I don’t think it’s mine. You must be mistaken.”
I look up as you begin to smile. It is the sliver of the sun before it breaks the surface of the world. I try to hand the book back to you but you place your hand on top of mine and your other hand below the book, like a literary sandwich.
“I’m never wrong about these things,” you say. I am electric currents spinning along a wire, short-circuiting at its source.
I place the book down on the bar and you lift me up into the sky. Your arms are below my arms, my feet dangle above the ground. I try to breathe but I am a thousand stars exploding in the sky. It is me and it is you on a stage with no one around us. My eyes begin to water. I don’t know why. I try to blink them back but one tear slides down my cheek and hits you on the temple. You place me down on the ground, a group of wrinkles have sprouted near your eyes.
“Is everything okay?” you ask.
“No,” I say. “Everything is shit.” I’ve known you for almost a decade but this is the first time I’ve cried in front of you. I’ve never seen one tear leave your eye in all this time.
“I think you need another drink,” you say.
We sit down.
“What are you drinking?”
You motion for the bartender. I introduce you to James. I come here a lot I suddenly realize.
“Could I have what she’s having?”
“That’s The Bizness.” James has an easy smile but I think he reserves this smile for patrons. He doesn’t seem like someone who smiles outside of the bar unless prompted.
“Great, that’s what I’ll have.”
It’s strange to be sitting beside you at my favourite bar.
“What’s this place called?”
“Little Sister,” I reply. James places the drinks in front of us. I look at him briefly. I try to read him but I can’t. He turns his back to us.
“Cheers,” you say. “To everything being shit.” We clink our glasses together. I laugh at you over the brim of my drink.
. . .
I squint into the afternoon light. The sheets are white around you. You are asleep beside me. “Fuck …” I whisper. My mouth is dry ashes, my head a vice. I stretch out my body slowly. It is a sore body. I realize the lights are still on in my bedroom. We are lying horizontally along the bed. Your feet dangle over its edge.
I get up slowly and tip toe across the wreckage of fallen clothing and overturned shoes and into the kitchen. I open the fridge and take out a jug of water. I pour the water into two glass mason jars.
“Can I have a glass of water?” you ask. I nearly drop the jug. You have snuck out of bed as quiet as a mouse. I turn to you and you are standing in the late afternoon light and behind the sun is bright, filtered light. I hold up my hand to my face, to block the sun. Your face is in shadow, your hair bright in my eyes.
“Yes,” I say, “yes you may.”
You don’t take the glass. My arm stretches out, the glass between us. You are disastrously beautiful.
You reach out and take the water. You hold it in your hand and place it on the counter, you don’t take a drink. I’ve never seen a creature like you before. You pierce the heart, right at its apex. I think, I’m in love with a ruin.