You sit in a small booth at the back of the Mid Bar, downing your second bourbon. Although you aren’t an avid drinker, each sip makes you forget. You begin to forget about the 2 a.m. call. You forget the crushing feelings of guilt for letting him go on a skiing trip alone. You forget what it felt like to see his broken body in a casket, expecting him to jump up and laugh his buttery laugh. But two drinks aren’t enough.
You call the waiter over and pretend to be fascinated with a tear in the vintage flower wallpaper. It reminds you of the bathroom wallpaper you and your husband picked out for your first apartment.
“I’ll take another bourbon, please.”
“Of course, ma’am.” He pauses. “Are you doing alright?”
The sincerity of his question causes you to turn away from the wall and meet the waiter’s eyes. Your breath catches in your throat as you stare straight into the hazel eyes you fell in love with. The ones that haunt your dreams, your nightmares.
“I-I’m fine, thanks.”
You hope the lie was convincing enough. The last thing you wanted to do was explain. Explain the unexpected feeling of relief when you knew your husband was going to be gone for the weekend. Explain how you felt completely at ease for the first time in three years. Explain how, even though you loved him, you felt like you learned to love yourself when he was gone.
Luckily, servers were never the ones to push for answers.
“Okay ma’am, just let me know if you need anything else.”
As the waiter walks away, you find yourself wondering what might have been. But you were never the one to put yourself out there, take risks. It was something George constantly reprimanded you for. He’d be the first one, when given the chance, to go out and “socialize”. You knew he did it for the booze, not the company. He’d get back from a night out with his friends, completely wasted, and spend most of the next day passed out on the living room couch. The cycle would always continue. Go out, get drunk, pass out repeat, go out, get drunk, pass out repeat.
Now, as you watch the waiter make rounds to his other tables, you hear your husband’s voice in your head, yelling, “Just talk to him Connie! He seems like a nice young man, just call him over and talk to him.”
Hearing this from your husband confuses you. He was always known to be the jealous type. You remember when you used to meet an old friend from high school at a café every Wednesday. You wouldn’t tell George about your meetings. Not because you were doing anything suspicious, but because he might make it out to be that way. You also wanted to protect your friend. Anyway, one Wednesday you were at the café with - what was his name? - Henry, when you saw George from one of the many pane windows of the store. Your heart dropped as a look of anger washed over him. This look of anger morphed into something calm, something sinister. George nodded his head knowingly and stumbled in the direction towards home. You remember wishing he had just barged into the café and yelled at you, forbidding you from ever seeing Henry again. But this was worse. He’d express his anger with clenched fists and broken glass when you arrived back home. It was one of your worse nights together.
“Here’s your bourbon, miss.”
You’re so lost in thought that you didn’t even notice the young man make his way up to you. Suddenly ripped from deep thought, you jump in your seat, and your elbow knocks over the glass filled to the brim with bourbon.
“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry.”
You work frantically to try and clean up the spill, but your hands are so shaky that all you do is create a bigger mess.
The waiter lets out a small laugh. His laugh reminds you of your husband’s. Smooth, soft, quiet. Not something you’d expect from George. But it was one of your favorite things about him. You find yourself trying to suppress your own laughter.
You allow yourself to give into the temptation, and you begin to laugh hysterically, probably looking like a maniac to the few people left in the bar.
Memories flash through your mind like a slideshow.
Coy smiles, white dress, nights alone, shattered glass, forgiving eyes, tender hands, wet face, flashing lights, empty bottles. You let them all go.
In the utterly ridiculousness of the moment, you almost don’t notice that the waiter’s eyes aren’t hazel, but a bright, electric blue.