I’ve called in sick again. My boss didn’t bother reply to my text message this time. Not even with a K.
I’ve spent the morning hours on the couch in my apartment, drinking the last of the red wine left behind after my sister’s baby shower. I sit with my computer on my lap. I check my email and then my Facebook account and then my email. Again and again, in a loop. The warm wine and the vertigo of opening and closing browsers and windows nauseate me. I don’t know what I’m looking for, really: I told Sam never to email me again and I unfriended him right after his status changed to “married”. I’m tempted to find his wife’s profile, but I summon the discipline to close my laptop before I type “Megan Alexis” into the search bar and subject myself to photos of her organic living Christmas tree or her solo vacation to Marrakech.
I take a shower, thinking it will clear my head, reset my day. But it just makes me feel heavy and sluggish. I lie down on my bed to take a nap, but the birds outside of the window are suddenly so loud, it’s like they’re in the fucking room with me. And the sun is too bright, even with my head under the pillow.
My next best move, I decide, is to go somewhere darker, less oppressively natural. I look in the hallway mirror before I put my shoes on: my lips are a morbid crimson and there’s toothpaste on the thigh of my black sweatpants. I lick my finger and try to lift the white streak from the fabric, but it only spreads the toothpaste further down my leg.
There’s a bar on the corner called Maloney’s that has no inside lighting aside from some Christmas lights set up around the cigarette machine. They play Leafs games on one old TV above the bar and to cater to middle-aged guys who work in construction supply named Brian and Doug. And one specific woman named Susan, who sits in front of one specific VLT with her purse on her lap. She has long white braids and doesn’t talk to anyone. Not even the bartender, who brings her a bottle of Kokanee once an hour when she turns around on her stool and gives him the special signal: a silent nod.
By the time I take a seat at the bar, I don’t feel drunk anymore, just thirsty and I’m starting to resent Sam for getting me into this state again: thirsty, guilty, photophobic. The bartender must remember me because he winks and tells me he’s just opened a new bottle of Beefeater.
Gin? Why not? I answer, even though there never was any question.
After four gin and tonics, I suddenly give a shit about the Leafs and have strong new opinions about Austin Matthews’ contract and whether or not it’s fair he’s getting $11.6 million per year when Connor McDavid is taking home $12.5 million and obviously, I yell, kneeling on the barstool, and slam my palms on the bar obviously this is not fucking fair and Doug and Brian give me high fives and tell me I’m pretty alright for a chick who wears sweatpants.
I lose track of the gins and inevitably the barstool starts to move and I end up on the floor. But I must’ve hit my face somewhere on the way down because Brian or maybe Doug pick me up under my armpits and say something like Oh shit, your nose. The bartender says something too and hands me a white bar towel. I can taste salt in my mouth but I can’t tell whether I’m crying or if there’s blood on my cheeks. Down my jaw. I must say something that the bartender doesn’t like because he tells me It’s time to go home. I tell him it’s not his fault. It’s Sam’s fault, to be honest, and probably my sister’s too, for making me host that bullshit baby shower even though she knows that I have social anxiety and I hate entertaining.
I walk slowly past the VLTs on the way to the door. I come to Susan’s chair and steady myself against a Sex and The City slot machine. My eyes keep crossing but if I focus hard I can see her white hair glowing under the twinkling lights of the cigarette machine.
Susan turns to me, annoyed, and sighs. Go home and drink some water, for fuck’s sake.
I laugh and accidentally drop the bloody towel on the floor. I try to touch her hair but lose my balance.
Susan, I whisper, like I’m telling a secret. I close one eye and point at her. I think you are beautiful.