I woke up from dreaming and found myself in an empty bed. The sheets still smelled of her Burberry perfume and there were a few strands of her long brown hair left lingering. I looked around my room to see where she had gone, but the emptiness she left behind was excruciating. On my bedside drawer she left a note next to a glass of water and an extra-strength Tylenol:
I’ll be blunt, you still don’t get it.
I’ll be seeing you.
I kept running the weekend’s events through my head, looking for where I went wrong; what don’t I get? Everything seemed right this time. I would have done anything to make it last. That girl brings out the life in me, but God help me, she’ll be the end of me.
I called it day from work, on the account of the fact I was having the shittiest of days where everything and everyone seemed to piss me off. I just needed a drink to silence the chaos. It was a whiskey kind of day – neat.
I like to think of myself as an alcohol connoisseur, I always know what sort of alcohol is suited best for any mood, moment, meal; you name it. I take pride in the fact that I’ve figured it all out. My dad had it figured out. He was the definition of a man. He left me a bottle of forty-year-old scotch with a note tied to the neck to open the day he died:
Turn the bad days around
and make the best moments better.
He always told me he thought that writing lets your conscience free, and then demonstrated that alcohol does too. He was a man who knew how do handle everything.
I approached my beamer in the parking garage to find a dent on the rear driver’s side door with some left-over black paint from the car beside me. Just one more reason to drink. I grabbed a scrap piece of paper and a pen from my leather briefcase and wrote a passive-aggressive note for when they return to their piece-of-shit Honda Civic:
Eat Shit, Asshole.
I felt much better once I stuck it on his windshield with the duck tape I happened to have in my glove compartment.
Traffic was a nightmare on the way home. It was as if every stupid driver had decided to take the highway today. Three people cut me off and two people took turns riding my ass on my ten-minute drive. I just couldn’t seem to catch a break today.
I dropped my car off at home to ensure I wouldn’t drink and drive, and then took flight by foot to Griffin's Pub. When I walked through the oak wood door, all sense of angst left my mind as my gaze caught Holly's. I’m not sure why she was there, but I’m happy she was. It was the first good thing to happen to me all day.
I hadn’t seen her in what it seemed to be forever. However, it had only been four months. Any time without her seems like a lifetime. I remembered the last time I saw her for the first time. It always feels the same. I think that’s what love is supposed to be -- always there. I’ve fucked up a lot, but that’s because I’m stupid, not because I didn’t love her.
I don’t know what seems to happen to me when I’m with her. We have been in an on-and-off relationship for seven years now. Every time we get back together, I’m on top of the world, and I like to think she is too. I’ve done some things that I can’t remember, and she does. We love each other and there's nothing in this world that can deny the chemistry and passion between us. Maybe that's why she keeps coming back to me.
“James Porter, what a surprise,” she said, eyes sparkling as bright as her smile.
“Is it really?”
This had always been the only pub I go to. Doubles are only six dollars and there's always something about the darkness inside Griffin's that’s allowed me to hide from everything that bares itself in the light outside. Paul, the bartender, doesn’t ask what I want to drink anymore, he knows and the jukebox in the back corner, opposite to the bathrooms, holds my three favourite albums, which I spend at least ten dollars to keep on repeat while I’m drinking. This was my spot; it was no surprise.
“Sarcasm has never been your strong suit, James.”
“You know me, darling.” I winked at her then pulled up a stool beside her. Paul slid a glass full of whiskey neat.
“You look good,” she said as she took a sip of her dry martini with three olives.
“I never know when I’ll run into you. What are you doing here, Holly?” I had already finished my first drink. Paul had a second ready to follow.
“It’s been a while.”
“Are you here alone?”
“You’re here aren’t you?” She pushed her long wavy hair to one side, her eyes continuing to devour my soul.
“As always.” We sat in silence and drank, our eyes moved from the Lakers game then back to each other’s. I already forgot how shitty my day had been. “You staying long?” I asked.
“Long enough for another,” she nodded at Paul.
“For you, my dear,” Paul said as he replaced her empty glass with a full one and winked at me.
“What’s the occasion?” I asked. Paul was already pouring my third drink.
“Curiosity, I guess…” She trailed off into a train of thought that I couldn’t seem to penetrate. She was always stuck in her head, but I’ve always been pretty good at pulling her out of it without asking any more questions.
I reached over the bar and grabbed a napkin and a pen. I wrote the words:
Stay with me, tonight.
I watched her eyes try to figure out what I was writing, then follow the napkin as I slid it in front of her. Her mind was struggling with the idea, but I knew she wanted to. She chugged the last half of her martini, took a twenty-dollar bill from her wallet, handed it to Paul and told him to keep the change. I did the same. It was all so familiar, but this time it felt different.
I woke up in a naked haze and smelled the intoxicating aroma of pancakes. There was an extra-strength Tylenol on my bedside table beside a tall glass of ice water. Holly must have had just woken up. I laid in bed a bit longer; everything had fallen into place so perfectly. Nothing had seemed to change. My stomach fluttered, but I wasn’t sure if I was lovesick or just really hung over.
“Making yourself at home,” I said when walking into the kitchen. I stood behind her and kissed her neck as she flipped the last pancake.
“Trying to,” she smirked. I smiled back at her.
The light was coming through the window like a spotlight was on her, but even better than a spotlight because it was so naturally drawn to her. Her hair was dark and shined in the light. Every freckle on her face was individual kisses from the sun. My stomach fluttered again. "Mimosas!" I said as I leaped to the fridge for orange juice and champagne.
“It’s only ten thirty, babe.” Holly lifted the pancake from the pan and topped off her pile, looking at me.
"We are celebrating!" I nudged her and flashed her a face she never says no to. She didn't say much after that, but seemed at ease while we sat for breakfast.
By one in the afternoon, we had finished the bottle of champagne. Time didn’t seem to exist. We fooled around in bed all day and reminisced about our past. We laughed about the time she snuck me into her room in our senior year of high school. Joked about how many memories we can’t even remember because we would always end up drunk somewhere. We even slept in a park one night because we thought we were locked out of her apartment.
“That was my favourite night,” I said.
“Seven years of memories, and that’s your favourite?” she laughed.
“It was just as dysfunctional as we’ve ever been,” I justified, “It’s just so typically ironic that that would happen to us. You know?”
“I think you’ve had too much champagne,” she said with her head buried in the pillow.
“Maybe so, but not enough alcohol.” While we were still on the topic, I ran to the kitchen to get some red wine; her favourite, Fratelli’s Merlot. I came back with two glasses in my hand. “I always keep a bottle of your favourite for when you come back to me.”
A look grew on her face that I couldn’t recognize. She went back into her mind again, so I tried to pull her out. “I’ll be good this time,” I said as I brought my hand to her thigh and handed her a glass.
“I’m not sure anything has changed,” she confessed. How could she predict that? I knew how I felt, she didn’t.
“How can you say that?” Things were going so well, I needed to save this conversation before it got any deeper. I kissed her, softly, so she didn't think I was deflecting the subject, despite the fact that I was. This conversation had never led to anywhere pleasant in the past. "I love you, Holly. There's nothing to worry about, I'm always going to be yours," I pleaded.
She retreated from the conversation. “I love you too, James. Will you play with my hair?”
“I thought you’d never ask.” She rolled away from me onto her side. I laid down behind her and began running my fingers through her long strands of hair while making small talk to keep her awake. It smelled of fresh apples; it’s smelled the same since we met. It inebriates me. Her goose bumps rose. When my fingers would reach the end of her hair, it would fall gently down on her back and I would start again from the top. It had me in a trance, my stomach fluttered again – definitely lovesick. I finished off the bottle of wine to ease the anxiety it brought me, and that’s the last thing I remember.
My two-day bender came to a sudden stop; I felt painfully sober. The silence she left behind was deafening. The rest of the house smelled of stale booze, so I stayed in bed and buried my face into her pillow, covering myself completely with the sheets. It still smelled like her. The remnants of her existence in the last two days haunted my apartment. I could vividly picture every step she took. I can see her standing in front of my bathroom mirror, looking through her own soul. The bed wasn’t warm anymore; the silence was deafening. My heart felt as if I were drowning my stomach. I remerged from the sheets to grab my extra strength Tylenol and then washed it back with the full glass of water. I laid back down and wondered why she left me this time. My eyes started to flood with water. We never left the house… did I say something in my drunken stupor?
Photo Credit: Zsuzsa N.K.
Olivia Vanderwal is a wanderlust enthusiast, a writer of delicate words, a player of all things acoustic, and a singer in and out of the shower, determined to follow a career in the writing industry. She hopes to dive into scriptwriting for television, while dipping her toes in the songwriting business and also juggling a novel of her own one day. Keep her in your prayers.