In my line of work, my hands are my essential tools. I have to keep them steady and sure while operating because my patients and their families depend on that. Never had my hands strayed from their task. That made me one of the most well-known men in all of Chicago. And probably one of the most well-paid to go along with it.
My weekend began like any other. Riding down the elevator, strolling past the front desk, starting up the car, and rolling out of the parking space. The traffic is as thick as fog on Lake Michigan and progresses as time goes on. In another hour, I could be pulling into the parking complex next to my apartment building. I’d get a shower, pour a glass of wine or two, and collapse on my bed. That was the schedule I had set for myself every weekend. But I have something of a high still going on from successfully completing a heart transplant, and I could feel the vanity going to my head.
So instead of turning left at the familiar stop lights, I turn right at the alien Pedestrian Crossing sign. I can still remember when the car lights passed over the bright yellow surface warning me to slow down like some omen to heed.
The neon lights grab for my attention jumping out one by one like Jack-in-the-boxes. Each bar is more exciting than the last, but finally I choose one that promises good drinks and great service. I throw my jacket and tie in the backseat and lock the door behind me.
The inside is decent enough. Booths line the walls, the windows are tinted to block out most of the outside night light, the floor looks recently mopped, a bar runs along the farthest wall, and the air hardly smells like booze. A few groups fill the booths, empty shot or margarita glasses sit half full or tipped over or, in the case of the shot glasses, stacked up neatly into little glass pyramids. Loud laughter rings out, and dizzy adults struggle to walk around me to the door without tripping.
I stroll over to the bar where fewer sit drowning their thoughts in alcohol. The closest to me has his face flat on the bar snoring as loud as a church bell. The bartender doesn't yet notice his newest client as he cleans more glasses. His long sandy colored hair hangs into his eyes. Most likely he’s in his mid-twenties, only a few years younger than me. Finally he looks up at me none too shocked to see me.
“What would you have tonight, sir?” he asks quickly before putting the glass and his dish towel on the counter behind him.
Without hesitation, I say, “Cuervo,” and in a flash, he pours the spirit into a shining shot glass. I down it fast enough to not notice the small burning in my throat. Within the next half hour, I have four shot glasses precariously rolling about the service of the bar and a shimmering red margarita loosely grasped in my hand. Already the effects of the alcohol make my head swim.
I steadily set my margarita down as a stranger sits herself next to me, and I can’t help but stare. She is obviously beautiful. Bright, long black hair over her shoulders, even tanned skin, enchanting eyes watching me from the side. “It’s rude to stare, you know.”
Her voice is so smooth that it takes me a moment to realize she’s talking to me. In my head, I mean to tell her I’m sorry. In real life, I fail to even get the first syllable out. Her lips turn up at the sides as she orders her drink. I know I should feel like an idiot, but the way she smiles at me is a rush the drinks won’t give me. “What’s your name?” she asks, turning to look at me.
“Abram,” I say, “Abram Winslow.”
“That’s quite a name you've made for yourself, doctor,” she says between taking sips.
I take a gulp of my own drink. “Thank you. It’s always a pleasure to serve those who need my help.”
“That and the big paycheck that goes with it, am I right?”
I smirk. “I suppose that part does help very much. But enough of me. What is your name?”
From the sudden glint in her eyes, I can see she’s interested if only slightly. “Chloe,” is all she says.
We spend the next few hours chatting and ordering drinks. I’ve never been so drunk before. Now my head is pounding to the beat of a base drum. Chloe moves closer to where here hand rests on my lower thigh. Her eyes continue to retain their wondrous glimmer and the way she whispers in my ear isn’t helping my vertigo.
When the last hour is up, she murmurs into my ear, “Let’s get out of here.” And that’s how we leave; stumbling out to my car and giggling like preschoolers. Drunk as I am though, my hands are steady on the wheel all the way to my apartment. Even past the bright Pedestrian Crossing sign.
Sunlight pours in through the wall length windows. It’s early Saturday morning, and light reflects off the glass skyscrapers of Chicago. The sheets of the bed are tangled, clothes are strewn about the room, and pillows knocked off the bed. There’s not much I can remember of the night before except the beautiful stranger lying next to me. I sit up to wake her up and see the shimmer of her eyes, but I stop short. What I had mistaken for peaceful sleep was in fact eerie silence and stillness.
Her chest doesn't rise and fall and I don’t hear her breathing. I pull back her eyelids, but the familiar luminescence is . . .
Chloe. I remember her name and latch onto the fleeting remnant. The woman from the bar lies dead in my apartment. And it’s obvious how: the bruises on her neck shaped like hands. I don’t need to put mine there to know they are mine. Minutes or hours pass while I look at the dark indentions on Chloe’s neck.
My hands, I think, these forsaken hands of mine.