There is a table free in the corner. There are two perfect rings melting on its wooden surface, the trace of glasses and people here before me. Two drinks set down across from each other, and I wonder about the drinkers, why they were sitting in the corner of a rooftop bar on this Tuesday afternoon. A long-time couple enjoying an extra long weekend in the city, perhaps? Or local students, trading their lectures on Art History and Foreign Policy for gossip and beer? Maybe two people on their first date, an afternoon catch-up, which always seems safer in the beginning. Forgetting that drinking with the sun can bring a lull to the senses. A softening of the edges, an inching open of doors sealed shut when veins and minds are clear.
That first meeting is so terrifying in its possibility. The idea of someone that precedes them, the idea of what they might become to you. I understand why people need to drink the calculation away. Sober and hopeful is its own kind of naked. There is nothing to protect you from the future you, the imagined you. That better version, beckoning, and ready to disappear with the first disappointment.
It is better to be drunk and fully clothed when life throws you a maybe this time.
I wasn’t drunk when we first met. My hand kept trembling when I picked up my wine glass; I had to keep setting it back down so you wouldn’t see the shaking. There was something happening under the skin, a quickening. I thought – after – What was that?
It took years for my question to be answered.
I order an expensive glass of Pinot Gris, ask for ice to be added, and the Barman honours my request with a frown. I need this wine to last half an hour, far too long to be a purist. The first sip tangs on my tongue, and I put the glass down reluctantly. The temptation is to drink it fast, let the sun-yellow liquid bolster my nerve. I’m not losing it, am I? That nerve? Sitting here on my own, hair damp at my neck from perspiration. In my casual, pretty dress with straps that like to slip, fall – as they both do now – from my shoulders. Exposing them, leaving them bare.
This view you could seldom resist.
This isn’t about nerve at all, I remind. The worst happened – and you survived. You don’t need courage after that.
The worst. Losing you. That resignation. Which felt more in the end like losing me.
I never did explain why I left. Or more importantly, what kept me away. I trace my initials on the condensation of my wine glass, watch their form fade, then disappear. Thinking of you. Of that time, before.
There are minutes now, not hours, to go.