We're all at the bar again for the third time this week, because Betsy isn't done celebrating her birthday yet.  It's a good thing I'm not Betsy because I would never get done celebrating being gorgeous.  I'd be insufferable.  Betsy has messy auburn hair and naturally smoky-lidded eyes and has been known to stretch out on a couch with her feet in my lap and say, Let's live like this every day from now on, Let's be reborn.   Any time Betsy wants me to show up and raise a glass, I will.

It's a good bar.  Roomy, with massive wooden tables, a stone floor and a fireplace, it would feel a little like a drafty castle's royal hall if it weren't for the Budweiser nonsense all over the place and the enormous tv screen covering one wall.  It's busy but not too loud. Our waitress knows us and always gets a little creatively minimalistic with our tab.  I like everybody sitting at this table.  It's a good night.  Sometimes it's easy.



Into the middle of all this ease suddenly percolates the long-gone laugh of McGill.  Oh, no.  I look up and there he is.   Wow.   In the last few months before he moved away, McGill was somehow pulling this trick where every time I saw him, he was just slightly more handsome.  Some of this had to do with losing a little weight and quitting the weirder drugs.  In general he just seemed to be settling into his life.   Getting good at being himself made him handsome.  Maybe you wouldn't think so.  Most people might not.   It's a strange face he has, an odd collection of features, but that is always what I like best.  He's a grinner and he uses big funny gestures: both these things spell visible optimism, this may be why I've always found him so damn good to look at.

In any event, he's four months worse now.  Better.  Worse for me. I hadn't expected to see him at all, much less looking like this.  He sits down across from me and it's all just too beautiful: his face is backlit up by the wild bright flicker of the enormous tv.  It's all green and rushing, alive - what is this, a gardening show?  It's unfair, it's cinematic.  The set design of this room is too good, this can't be real.  Someone is toying with me.  This feeling is not unfamiliar - this is how it always is with McGill, though usually delivered in smaller doses.   That face.  He is framed by trees and lush grasses and he looks happy to be there.  Africa?   Where am I?  I'm dizzy, he is happy to see me and full of fun things to say and I've gone stupidly silent, all I can think of is something about how cold Chicago must be this time of year, dumb, so dumb, I knock over my glass, mop up most of the spill and retreat to the bathroom, fast.

In the bathroom I do a quick recon of my nervous system to see what's going on, and I discover that I am experiencing shock, but, surprisingly, no pain.   I test this, of course, like poking a wound to see if it might still hurt.  Can I think about him being with another girl?  Sure - make it five.  What about this, what if he never comes back, what if I never see him again?  A shame, but no cause for mourning.   McGill is no longer The One Who Got Away;   he is The One Who Really, Really Missed Out.   And, as it turns out,  I am The Girl Who Could Do Better.   Huh, look at that.  I do look at that, I look at it in the mirror for a good long time.

I go back to the table with a big grin, which makes them ask, and I say that I simply had the most marvellous time in the bathroom, and I'm going to have an even better time now that I'm out, and I order another drink and I tell Betsy for the millzillionth time how lovely she is, because I am determined to make her believe it is true. One of these days.

I sit and chat with McGill, it is not difficult at all.  He is a good man and none of this difficulty was ever his fault.  I find myself full of funny and brilliant things to say.  I am cute with the blush of alcohol, I can feel it.   In the spirit of enjoying things which not everybody might appreciate, I eat a slice of lemon, slowly.  There's no mistaking a lemon for anything else; you have to respect that.



It's funny.  It doesn't hurt until he touches me.  We're all going home and McGill shakes my hand and wishes me well.  I stand in the wind, clutching my coat around me, clutching his hand in mine for just slightly too long.  I do it because it hurts, and then even that is over, and we all drive home alone.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.