Five minutes. I look up from the counter, at the soda jerk, then my watch. The numbers all run together in my blurry vision. So it's that late. I glance at the couple next to me. The soda jerk fixes another drink- the last one- slides it to the girl. The girl with the fiery hair. The thick red lips. The eyes you could fall into forever. She takes her drink, downs it in between chugs of that stick between her fingers. Cigarette smoke and strawberries fill the bar.

Four minutes. Outside, the world is dead. Here is the last light on in the city. The last oasis of life until dawn. I look back to the couple. The man gives the girl another cigarette. Lights it for her. Meets eyes with her. Every night, they're there. This same routine. Over and over again. She turns away, sneaking a look back at him. I watch. She turns back. He looks in her eyes again. She moves her hand closer. He moves his. Over and over again. Every night, I watch.

Three minutes. She finishes her second cigarette, and her drink. She slides it back to the soda jerk. He nods, puts it away. He knows the routine. He looks back at me, and nods. He understands. I nurse my own drink. I want to savor it, take as long as I can, but there's nothing left. Nothing left there for me.

Two minutes. They stand up. He puts on her coat. She gives him his. Their eyes meet again. She looks back at me. I can feel that spotlight, burning down on me. I don't have to even look to know she's looking at me. I hand my glass to the soda jerk- I took everything I could from it. She looks at me, faintly remembers me. I remember her- too well.

One minute. They head out the door. She takes one final longing look at me. I never look back. He puts her hand on her hip. She does the same for him. They leave, a thick cold chill entering the room. The soda jerk polishes the counter, all the while keeping track of the time.

The clock rings. Midnight. I wave a hand goodbye. I put on my coat, head out the door. The soda jerk calls out suddenly. "Hey, Mel! You gonna be here tomorrow night?" I say, "Sure." I got no better place to be.