by lauren atkinson

When she called me and told me to meet her there, I didn’t know the place was a bar. we had been talking about meeting up for weeks now. It was originally my suggestion, but I only wanted to see if she’d carry it through.

I got there a little earlier than expected and the place was packed. College freshman filled the place after the game, rowdy and inconsiderate of their surroundings. I tried to act smug about the fact that the way they bustled about was only a few short years ago for me but instead I laughed aloud, to myself.

The bartender looked at me, “saving that seat for someone special?”

No, just an old friend.

I ordered a bourbon and continued to crouch over the bar, as frat boys shoved past on their way to the restroom or on their way to get a number.

When she came in, I stood. It was automatic. Her hair sat right at the nape of her neck—she looked older. Her winter coat was cinched up perfect around her waist, flattering her tiny frame. She approached me, not saying anything, smiling and immediately embracing me. It had been too long, or maybe just long enough. 
In the moment, I started to think back on all that had passed between us. Before that night, I thought that when all those memories came back, I’d immediately be remorseful of what never happened.

It wasn’t so. Instead, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of relief. 

She didn’t say much in the hours that passed; At least, nothing of importance that I care to share. The only remarkable piece of evidence that I am officially moved on: when she sat there twirling her right pointer finger through her hair like she always had, I didn’t want to be that finger. The big rock on her left hand, it made me somewhat guilty for bringing her out, but as I watched her slide it up her finger with the thumb of her left hand, and then glide it back down with a pinch of her right hand’s fingers—I felt sorry for her.
All she is now is someone’s trophy wife. The things she does in my presence make me uncomfortable. Her body screams for all to watch it and say something about it, instead I just pretend she’s anyone else. Just one tiny grain of sand in a beach of other tiny grains of sand.

She was probably about three glasses of wine in at this point. She started telling some story about a tragic breakup she was hearing through the wall of her apartment building. How she was thinking of convincing Brian to buy a house this summer. 

She always had these ideas in her head of places that she would go. She didn’t see any of them. 
She had dreams of making it on television. She barely left the view of the one in her living room.

I let her talk over me like she did when we were together. But now I wasn’t listening. Now is the point where I look at her, while she’s mid-sentence. I interrupt.

I’m going home. It was nice seeing you. Tell Brian I said hi.

“That’s it? What did you call me out here for? I thought you wanted me.”

I never responded. She knew. 

I wasn’t being vindictive, intentionally.