Suddenly, here I am. Back in this little city that my friends abroad call, “hipster”. I guess it is. It has a charm that I didn’t fully appreciate until I left. The kids smoke pot and drink on the weekend as the semester reaches it’s middle… midterms.
I can’t stop thinking about the past. My time across the world. The city lights. The rainy season. The noodles. The anxiety. The loneliness. And how much I want all of it back again. And I still wonder about Alex.
Since that day at the beach… I saw him once; as I was leaving my flight back to Michigan. Somehow, life really can be strange that way. I was waiting patiently as the line flowed out of the plane after landing, I happened to glance up the row. There in the first class area stood Alex. Pulling what must have been the last of his luggage from the cabinet and taking his place behind the steady flow of bodies.
With a new sense of eagerness to leave my seat, I tried to grab my own things, but the crowd of people wouldn’t budge just for me. When I finally emerged from the steal bird I was surrounded by even more unfamiliar faces. I moved as quickly as I could without alerting security as I made way for luggage claim. Surely he’d be there. But as I stepped off the escalator I was met by my family. A year had gone by since the last time we met in person, so my chances of finding Alex were quickly vanished. As I gave hugs and vaguely described the flight, my eyes scanned desperately across the tile floor.
Though months have gone by, I’m still living in the past. Tonight a roommate and I decided to drink away our sorrows as college kids do. Will there be a time I feel too old for this? I slip on an outfit of all black. Tights, high waisted shorts, long sleeved blouse, boots. I wrap my hair into the side pony I’ve been wearing lately. It makes me remember who I was in Japan. Even in America, I want to be strong.
My little blonde roommate, Kora, is wearing an adorable dress as always. No matter where we go or what we do, it’s always a dress and cardigan for her. She smiles at me cutely with a hint of mischief in her eyes so I return with a coy smile of my own. It’s strange to think that we hardly saw or spoke over the past year, but we are so much alike these days.
I grab my keys and give Kora a nod, implying that it’s time to set out. Our city is a hot spot for bars. Downtown, our end of town, side streets; everywhere there are bars. Lately we’ve been making weekly trips to one in particular.
As we walk in, the bar is packed. We squeeze our way to the front of the counter; “Two gin and tonics, please.” We plan to take it easy tonight. We push our way through drunken students; fighting their way to place an order; to the back of the bar and take our seats. Both of us are sullen. The weeks are busy. The weekends show no relief. All we have is each other and alcohol. Suddenly across the bar at the pool table I notice a familiar face; Alex? I choke on the sip I’d just taken. “Kora, that’s the guy!” Kora looks up, interested. “The one with that girl?” She says disgustingly. I return my gaze across the room and see a long haired, pale skinned, blonde has wrapped her arms around him as he gives her a quick smile and kiss. I feel my heart sinking.
It’s not like I knew anything about him. It’s not as if we had sparked some kind of romantic interest in Cali. It was simply that… he intrigued me. It had been so long since another human being genuinely intrigued me. Since I had returned to the states all I had been met with was shallow conversations. “Do you have a boyfriend.” “I want to get to know you.” But no one really wants to know me. They just want to know what I’m like in bed. I take a long drink and stifle a sigh. More friends approach our table. I turn to whisper to Kora, “Let’s just avoid him and get drunk. I want to dance.” Kora knows I don’t want to talk about this strange situation, and raises her glass in a toast.
The next hour we drank. Probably mostly I drank. But suddenly, I’m feeling pretty good. I grab Kora by the hand as the boys declare they are moving the party downstairs. With each descending step the music grows louder and my mind becomes blank. I smile and hug Kora. All we need in life are our friends, I think to myself. Our group sticks together tightly in the mass of moving bodies. We help the boys pick out cute girls and laugh wildly at nothing. But when nature calls, does it call. I slip away to use the restroom.
As I reach the top floor and my eyes struggle to adjust to the changing light and I bump into a firm, yet soft something. I glance up. “Holy shit! Holly! What’s up?” A drunk Alex puts his hand on my shoulder. Gross. “Look… I need you to help me. I gotta get out of this place for a second.” His hand moves towards my elbow and before I know it he’s pulling me out the door.
“It’s so busy in there!” He stumbles slightly. “Let’s walk!” He grabs my hand and pulls me down the side walk. I could easily pull away. And I know I should go back inside with Kora.. But I find myself following him. We head off into the darker parts of the streets as he mutters on about needing to piss and how crazy it was to bump into me, until abruptly he stops and his face is only inches from mine.
His eyes are brown like coffee, almost black in this pale street lit corner of the world. For a moment, he looks sad, and I feel sad, and then his lips are on mine. Why am I kissing this stranger? His hands wrap around my waist and pull me tighter to him. I feel warmth touch the skin on my stomach so I instinctively pull away.
“Why are you so cute?” He looks at me with a troubled gaze. “You’ve been causing me so many problems since I met you.” I gawk at him as fire begins to over throw my shock.
“Excuse me?” I hiss, but then his lips are on mine again as my back hits a brick wall. My mind reels. Alright, sketchy situation, girl. You’re in some dim lit side street with some boy you hardly know. His mouth is on yours. He’s a fucking great kisser. Okay. But you don’t know him. But wow, he’s a really amazing kisser. No. You’re drunk. Oh my god. He’s drunk.
I push him away again. “You’re ruining everything.” He sighs, pushing his hair back the same way he had before when we parted ways at the beach, but this time his eyes were bleak with what appeared to be pain. He’s beautiful still. And my heart is beating in a way that it hasn’t in a long time. Although I feel insulted, I can’t help but want to hug him and ask what’s wrong. Who the fuck is this guy?
I hear a soft vibration as he reaches into his pocket to retrieve a glowing cell phone. He looks at the screen and gives a face of dissatisfaction. “I’m sorry, Holly.” He kisses my forehead and walks quickly back in the direction of the bar.
Somehow, my heart aches. I stare after him, dumbfounded. This person… why are they in my life suddenly? Why there.. and why here? Why am I thinking about this stranger constantly? And why the fuck is he suddenly kissing me in a random street alley? And how the fuck am I ruining everything?
The bar is the last place I want to be anymore. I grab my phone from it’s pocket and scroll through the mass amounts of texts and missed calls. “Where are you”s from friends. Are they even friends? Kora is the only one I message to assure my safety.
In this stupid, depressing reality that I’m stuck in day to day, this dark haired stranger is the only thing that makes me feel any type of magic. And this really, whole heartedly, distresses me. I return home in silence, lock my bedroom door, and let drunk depression punch me to sleep.