I had drunk three rum and cokes and was working on a fourth. I never drank liquor in real life–I tended to nurse one beer, two tops, over the course of a party–but this was not real life. This was the City. Rum and coke was one of those drinks that I knew what it was, so that’s what I ordered. They were expensive, but I didn’t care. A soft, warm fur wrapped around the inside of my skull. My limbs felt loose, and my head nodded along with the opening band easily. With the alcohol and the dark and the crowd, I felt a strange combination of together and alone, if that makes sense. Like I wasn’t a person, but part of a cloud or a field. I sort of realized as I thought these things that I was only thinking them because I was drunk, and then I laughed at myself, and then I let the smile hang on my face and the music drift in and out of my ears and my eyes wander around the room.
Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed a short green dress with long sleeves. Something about the way it sparkled drew my attention, and I turned to look at it more fully, and then the woman in the dress raised her arm and her face to greet a friend somewhere in the crowd, and I fell down.
A girl next to me reached her hand down to help me back up, saying, “Careful, kid. Take it easy.” I ducked my head and slunk around to a corner on the other side of the bar, where my mother would not be able to see me. Nine years gone, and then I just stumble my drunk ass into her at a bar? That’s not the way this should happen, right? It’s got to be bigger, more special, more important. It’s got to be some other way. It can’t be like this. This can’t happen.
The opening band finished their last song, the lights raised slightly, and the next band started hauling their gear onto the stage. I watched from my corner as that green dress almost floated through the crowd, to the side of the stage, up the stairs, and started adjusting itself behind the mike. Her face was thinner than I remembered, but younger-seeming somehow. Maybe it was the stage lights. I had never seen her wear a dress like that, but I felt like, the way she moved in it, it suited her. She seemed natural, happy. She knelt down to talk to someone standing in the front row, and then walked back to talk with the guitarist, then kiss him, an easy, glowing kiss like people in love have in movies. All of a sudden I felt awkward and wrong and out of place, like I had no business being here. I couldn’t stay.
I couldn’t leave.
I finished my drink and pushed my way up to order another as the lights dropped again and my mother began to sing.