The Grill This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I'm sitting at the bar of a seedy, all-night grill somewhere in the San Francisco Bay area at 11: 30 at night. Next to me a friend groans and clutches her stuffed belly that's filled with an enormous portion of steak, potatoes, and gravy. I place my elbows on the counter and lean forward, hunching my shoulders and turning my face down. My friend laughs and comments that it feels like we just spent our last five dollars on that massive dinner. I smile distantly.

My mind isn't here; I'm thinking of a girl I met in July, at summer school in Switzerland. She lives in Istanbul. We came close to something, but neither of us felt comfortable then. By the time we knew each other's feelings we had only a few days left before she had to go home. Nothing happened. I try not to regret that decision. I try very hard. It hasn't been working. My bag is lying against the bar, on the grimy floor. There is a letter in it from her, unopened. I need to read it.

I push myself from the counter into a sitting position and turn to my friend. "I've got a letter in my bag from an old acquaintance," I say to her, casually. "Do you mind if I read it?"

My friend smiles beautifully. "Go right ahead," she says. I know she understands.

I reach down and take out the precious envelope that came from across the world in only eleven days, holding it like an exotic gold sculpture in my hand. I can do nothing but look at it for a few moments. I'm being too melodramatic.

I tear the envelope at the top and reach into it. I pull out the letter, holding it between my thumb and index finger, and carefully unfold it. Neat, penciled words in flawless English cover half the page. I read the letter. My eyes fall to the floor and I am silent. I raise them and read the letter again, top to bottom. I close my eyes and swear softly under my breath. I sit there.

My eyes open and I fold the letter back into its original position, put it back in its envelope, and toss it back into my bag.

"Are you ready to go?" my friend asks, lightly. I slowly swing my gaze around the grill, looking at the old pool table, the green hanging lamps, the hunched figure of a middle-aged woman, clutching a half-empty glass of beer - squinting bitterly at something behind the bar.

"Yup, let's go."

"All right," she says, sliding gracefully off her seat, "Where to next?"

I push myself off the bar stool and place my booted feet on the floor. I look around again. "I don't know," I answer with a smile. She smiles back. I snatch up my bag and swing it over my shoulder. The letter from Istanbul is still inside. Together, my friend and I walk out of the grill and into the warm October night air of

California. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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