Eve sits at a table, waiting for Mack, watching the pot lights shed a holy golden glow across the bar. Ever since she met him, she’s always been the one who waits. Booze-saggy shelves line the back wall, a haven for near-empty bottles with a little bit left to give. The blotchy yellowed ceiling reminds her of a Rorschach Test done up in sepia and old smoke. She sees why he picked this throwback bar. Cigarettes were still allowed indoors.
When Mack arrives, his face is backlit in white-washed sunlight, but she knows it’s him. He still opens the door with a sleeve-covered hand, still wears that black leather jacket.
She waves him over and they attempt to mimic the patterns of old friends catching up, a handshake that leans into a hug, the loud awkward sound of a chair being pulled out. Conversations begin, filled with words and topics that belong in a pamphlet for middle age. Mid-sized sedans. Half-bath renos. Disneyland vacations.
He has a beard now. It lies across his face, shaggy and Brazil-shaped, with a bristle of white whiskers that zigzag through like a snowy mountain range. His thinning hair is combed back in scalp-revealing streaks. And he laughs differently. A short spasm. Hot blown air kicked out the throat. Although, she shouldn’t judge. Eve looks down at her white shirt, stomach pooching over her belt like a half sack of flour, expanding beyond the trim margins of her youth.
She can still see the old Mack if she squints hard, blurring the man across the table into a technicolor silhouette, still see the soft brown eyes that lit up right before the inevitable kisses, or the times when she smoked and he said she looked like the cover of a Joni Mitchell album. Eve quit smoking after he left. That was ten years ago.
The conversation slows into uncomfortable stares and twitching fingers. Mack excuses himself to go to the bathroom, leaving his cigarette smoldering in the table’s grungy plastic ashtray. Eve sighs and stares overhead. The water stains on the ceiling linger like rusty old ghosts, silent witnesses to the countless sputterings of two old flames reuniting without any chance of rekindling. How long before the cost of a strike wasn’t worth the chance of a spark?
Eve throws a few bills on the table and heads out the door. She blinks in the sudden daylight, breathing in the smell of new sunlight on warm pavement, leaving behind the dingy lace curtains to waft in the windows like empty old nightgowns with no more stories to tell.
Jenny Wong is a writer, traveler, and occasional business analyst. She resides in the foothills of Alberta, Canada and tweets @jenwithwords. She is currently attempting to create a poetry collection about locations and regularly visit her local boxing studio. Recent publications include Claw & Blossom, Atlas & Alice, Whale Road Review, Lost Balloon, and FlashFlood on the 2020 International Flash Fiction Day UK.
Image via Pixabay