You stand outside a bar waiting for your friend to arrive. You choke down cigarettes as if you're trying to suck death right from the Grim Reaper's mouth. It tastes like fire and charcoal and impending doom. Your friend appears from around the corner, slowly taking her earbuds out, and smiling as she walks towards you.
You sit down at a high-top table across from the bar. In between taking off your coat and hat, you make all the right small-talk, "How was work? How have you been? I like that outfit". You take a seat across from her and order your drinks.
You continue the small talk and as you wait for what feels like forever for the drinks to come to your table, you take a quick glance around the bar. You start to feel uncomfortable and under dressed. Businessmen and well-dressed women laugh their confident laughs and when they look at you, you think they're laughing at you.
Your friend grabs your attention, reassures you that you look fine and you start smiling again.
When the waitress finally arrives with your drinks, you clink your glass with hers and make a stupid joke and she smiles anyway. As the night goes on, you share greasy bar food and sad relationship stories from your respective pasts.
You laugh about it now but you remember the feeling you had during each horrible experience. Whether it was guilt, jealousy, or resentment, it doesn't matter. Each emotion cascades over your body for a second until you remember who you are with and that she's going through the same thing.
After you're half-cut -- or not too drunk but just drunk enough to open up -- you walk to a park a couple of minutes away from the bar. You continue the conversation that started under soft lights and in between the sounds of laughing businessmen.
You talk about your fears and your commitment issues. You say you don't want to let anyone in, again. You tell her you can't go through that kind of heartbreak. You tell her you're afraid, scared, and terrified. You tell her that she doesn't need to worry about you developing feelings for her. You tell her your feelings are like ghosts. Dead. Whispers of the person you used to be. A somber and sad look envelops her face and she says,
"that doesn't mean I don't love you"
You smile, tell her you love her too, grab her hand, and take a seat on a bench and light a cigarette.
You sit in silence for a second and think about what you just said. You try to remember the last time you told someone you love them and meant it. Your brain goes blank and you smile to yourself. You feel happy that you're still capable of feeling this way about a person that isn't yourself.
She holds her phone in her hands and stares at it. She tells you about her ex-boyfriend and you feel your stomach churn and twist and you just want to punch something, you want to punch him, and she notices.
The alcohol that's still in your system makes it easier for you to be honest and you start telling her how she deserves the absolute best. You tell her that it's his loss, that he's the idiot, and if you see him on the street, you'll be sleeping in a cell that night. You apologize for getting violent but the sentiment is real. You tell her you will take care of her for the rest of her life.
She grabs your hand and you tell her you love her again, because you do. You love and care about her like you've known her your whole life or like she was a family friend or a relative. This makes you feel alive again.