The bottles in the bar shine like carved gemstones. The wooden stool creaks underneath me as I wait, shifting noticeably from one leg to another. My drink is served by a blonde waitress whose gift, I soon understand, is dispensing gin with a generous touch.
Nights in winter have a lonely, magical quality to them. Bodies passing in the dark. Shuffling home, head low, under blurry yellow lights. The sparkle of an eye disappearing beneath a chunky wool hat. Plumes of breath vanishing into the beryl-blue air. Every year, we are put under the same collective spell and it feels like the cold may last forever.
My buzz is like being deep underwater. Every thought is submerged. Every movement takes twice as long to execute. 24% alcohol hits on the fifth minute like a chorus reaching its climax, and I topple out of my life, out of my body, into a haze colored like fossilized amber, like dusty, veined silver. A sappy love song that I recall from my adolescence bleeds out of the speakers, reactivating an old wound that has scarred over so many times I register the pain not as pain, but as familiar warmth. Between bites flavored like rosemary, I sing along, noticing now the knife-twist of lyrics I failed to understand ten years ago, to devasting, fatal effect.
I know I have changed since then, but not in a way that I can neatly slot into a story of growth. No—I have not always changed for the better, not necessarily. Too often I have changed the way a bone breaks: abruptly, painfully, with no immediate sense of what happened and why. Very few lessons available in the aftermath. The shock of the impact is all that has managed to mark my memories.
I press my glass against my cheek and flutter my eyelashes at nothing in particular, the way I’ve seen the brokenhearted do in the movies.
Walking home, the night sky is like a party held in a stranger’s apartment, five floors above me. I stand and watch its lights flicker above me, listening to the faint, distant music of the stars and the wind. I take a deep breath of cool air, feeling like a drop of water buried deep in the brine pools of the ocean, feeling like a part of something that doesn’t know I exist. I am sober when I reach my front door. I drag my fingers across the metal frame, feeling its chill. I imagine my hand is a butterfly, the kind with dark brown spots that simulate a parade of open eyes. Its wings open and close in time with my heart.