A Quaint Encounter
I felt guilty sitting at the bar. Here my parents thought I was studying for the AP exams with Jessy when the unfortunate truth was that Jessy was throwing up in the bathroom and I was throwing back my third shot of tequila. Emily, the mastermind of this gathering, was being unusually generous this evening. I hadn't even begun to tell her about how Tiffany Arnold was talking shit about her in math class the other day and she was already shoving drinks my way. It made me a little uneasy.
I spun the empty shot glass between my fingers and listened to Emily yell at Smitty for giving his "new play thing" free drinks. Smitty looked over his shoulder and winked at me. I winked back, as was our custom. When I had had enough of the shrill yelling I turned on my stool and observed everyone dancing and drinking. I knew all these faces and they all knew me, making the whole ordeal rather mundane. I kept telling myself that it was a normal Saturday night in Ogdensburg, New York and that my uneasiness was just the alcohol sifting awkwardly through my veins.
When the door opened I shifted to get a better look at who walked in. Whoever it was they caused a good majority of the party to scream their welcome in a chorus of "Hey!" I had kept spinning the shot glass, but as soon as the face of the new party goer entered into my line of sight my fingers ceased. Any buzz I had felt was gone as if it had been lifted from me as easily as one would remove a hat.
"Oh, that's my surprise for you!" Emily chirped from behind my head, her fight with Smitty having reached a resolve.
Smitty turned as well and with a giant sigh of discontent muttered, "You're such an evil bitch."
The harsh words that they exchanged were lost on me. He had made eye contact. Those deep green eyes were staring directly at me over the crowd. I was caught somewhere between knowing that I should leave and wanting to stay. Stuck between the nervous fire that burned underneath my skin and the cool ice that encased my expressions. His eyes told me that I had failed in my quick attempt to contain myself.
It was enough to lie to my parents about going out to a party, but to align myself with him again when I had worked so hard to put distance between us. They would be ashamed if they found out. And that was the most exciting part. They didn't have to find out.
He immediately ignored the advances of the girls around him and made a beeline for me. Emily, noting this despite her rage fest with Smitty, said, "Look at the way he looks at her! Damn girl, what did you do right?"
I stared down at the shot glass that still rested against the tips of my fingers and began to spin it again, brushing off my shock and entering into a cooler state of calm. I hadn't done anything right. It was actually quite the opposite. Everything about him…about us…had been undeniably wrong.
My friends had been shocked to find out that I had been noticed by bad boy, Zachary West, at the beginning of our junior year. For a while I chose not to believe the rumors until finally one day he asked me out to dinner outside of my locker. What had started out as a simple date morphed into a battle between relationship regulations and physical attraction over the next year. We wore the titles of "boyfriend" and "girlfriend", but couldn't seem to find a common ground to stand on. I liked romantic comedies, he liked horror flicks. I read books while he worked on his truck. I was an honors student with a bright future. He had been suspended three times that year for starting fights. We were opposites…who became bound by our attraction to the other.
After about seven months my grades began to slip. The hickeys that I had been working hard to hide away were discovered by friends. The bruises from his "tough love" which had escaped the notice of the soccer team were brought into the light by the track girls. It wasn't abuse, no, it was the collision of two people so eager to assert themselves that dressers, sharp edges, and even hardwood floors didn't serve as barrier between them and their victory.
We were competitive. We were passionate. We were aggressive.
Then came reelection season and the promise of scrutiny by the public. "The daughter of City Councilman can't walk around with hickeys!" my dad had told me one night over dinner. Then, knowing exactly how to get his desired effect, he added, "And –B students don't get into four-year private colleges!"
The relationship ended. My father was reelected back into his office. My grades shot back up. Life, as I used to know it, was back to its monotony. Zachary West slowly faded into the background of classes, college visits, friends, and family. I locked the door on any regret or hurt that could come from the split. It was easier to get over him that way.
Now the ghost that I had worked so hard to block out was standing in front of me. His hands were on either side of my bar stool and his face was so close to mine that my eyes had gone crossed. We were silent for only a few seconds before he whispered, "How have you been, Cupcake?"
"Fine," I responded quickly, "Zachary." I could feel a disobedient blush running through my cheeks like a spilled drink would run off of the bar. And like the alcoholic river that runs over the bar edge I felt my self-control slipping away. I wanted him to touch me. I wanted to be alone with him. Right. Now.
There was a dialogue, a private conversation that was whispered so quietly that it almost didn't grace our own ears. I forced Smitty to hand over my keys and in turn handed them off to Zachary. We drove off to his house, going much faster than we should have, and ripped through his garage with an urgency that we had no command over.
Fast forward. Three years passed. Yet, I sat at the same bar with a shot of tequila in my hand. The guilt was there from telling my dad that I was going to spend the night at Monica's house, but instead I was here. It wasn't that I wasn't allowed to be here, I was an adult and had the right to ruin my own life, but that I still felt the need to hide my actives from him.
Smitty and his fiancée were sitting next to me at the bar laughing at Emily who had managed to spill her beer all down the front of her. Jessy was sitting on the end of the bar examining her shoes. I was about to throw back my shot.
A hand slipped across my shoulders and a set of lips found their way to my cheek before I turned to see him standing there with that same smile on his face. He fell into the empty chair next to me and said, "Cupcake, you ladies sure know how to break a man down."
He had just gotten out of a bad relationship six months in the making. I was recovering from a catastrophic relationship end myself. And it was here, on a Saturday night in Ogdensburg, New York, that we found each other again. This had happened many times before, but in that moment I realized that somehow we helped each other heal. In an odd way.
I grabbed my jacket and keys. "We're leaving," I said quickly. He didn't hesitate.
We left. We drove. We collided once again. Urgency thickening every breath we took.