I rolled away from the arms of the stranger beside me.
I scanned the face I last saw before I blacked out last night.
“Not bad,” I thought.
I took the half-empty glass on the table and gargled my mouth with the contents. Whiskey, I discovered.
The stranger moved as I got dressed.
“Good morning,” it said.
I hate when they wake up and find me still there.
“Morning,” I half-smiled and walked towards the exit.
“See you around?” I heard it ask as I closed the door behind me.
“I hope not,” I mumbled.
The damp winter morning pricked my skin.
I checked my phone as I shivered my way to the main street.
6:30am. Sunday. November 24.
My screen reminded me.
Another Sunday I had to spend at work.
I wondered if there was a tangible entity to be bitch-slapped for making Sundays work days here.
Back home, Sunday mornings are when my friends and I philosophize everything in the world.
Wasted and tired from the night we just had, we would be huddling on the nearest Starbucks table.
We didn’t care that we had to wait 2 more hours before it opened, the 2-hour wait gave birth to our best conversations.
Whoever said alcohol makes you dumb should meet my friends.
For whoever was watching us, we would appear like dreamers and realists debating over the various issues of the world.
They wouldn’t have guessed we just had one or nine glasses too many.
My facebook newsfeed suggests that so far, the debate between them hasn’t ended.
I, on the other hand, am still not sure about which side I’m on.
I always figured I was somewhere in between.
The wimp who wouldn’t make up his mind.
The coward who didn’t want to offend anyone with his opinions.
I spent the next few minutes debating if I should go to work or not.
I decided I would call in sick and catch up with a friend.
I dialed her number, only to be reminded by my phone company to pay my bill to continue using their service.
Work it is!
“Yay,” I cheered wryly.
I was in no mood to work. Not even close.
But the mental picture of the growing pile of unpaid bills on my coffee table made sure I had no choice over the matter.
I snuck inside the first cab I saw.
“Where to?” the driver asked cheerily.
There was something about the old man’s voice that assured me everything would be ok.
“The nearest Starbucks please.”
I figured I had 45 minutes before my work started anyway and it would be impossible to function without my morning dose of caffeine and nicotine.
It was practically a requirement.
Two hours, a skinny vanilla latte and half a pack of lights later, I found myself at my desk, staring at a blank screen, thinking of an excuse I haven’t already used to give to my manager so I can go home.
“Hi sir,” I said on his barely-opened office door.
“Come in,” he replied.
“I was wondering if…” I started.
“Not today,” He cut me off.
“Not today,” he reiterated.
All I could think of was choking him to death with his disgustingly purple necktie.
I hate him.
I know he is a nice guy in general but I am a brat and I hate him on days like these.
I went outside and sat on the stairs of our office building.
Well, not really a building. More like one huge trailer stacked on top of another.
Not exactly the high-flying city job I hoped for.
I lit a cigarette and stared at the equipment and metal pipes across me.
I wondered how I got there.
I wondered which of my many wrong decisions led me this far away from my dreams.
I exhaled and watched the smoke disappear in the horizon.
I took another drag and blew really hard, wishing I could blow all the nicotine out. All the bad choices. All the mistakes.
“There’s at least one person who wishes he’s on your shoes,” my mom used to tell me.
Days like these, I honestly doubt that.
“Good morning,” an all-too-familiar voice brought me back to reality.
“Morning,” I said as I shook the hand he reached out.
“Rough night?” He asked.
“Just the way I like it,” I winked.
I mentally patted myself on the back for being capable of friendly banter with him.
He chuckled and handed me an envelope.
“My baby girl’s first,” he answered my inquiring eyes.
I opened the envelope and found a card with a picture of a little girl in a purple tutu, grinning with all the joy in the world. Not caring that a lot of her teeth are yet to arrive.
“She’s precious,” I smiled and excused myself.
I ran to the bathroom and locked myself inside.
I fell to the ground and clutched my chest. I felt like a dozen boxers sparred with my heart.
It’s been 3 years.
I thought I’ve trained myself to be impenetrable by anything about him that I loved.
Didn’t I just coolly answer his inquiry?
Surely it didn’t mean I still had feelings for him?
That’s just preposterous!
I’ve worked with the guy for years after the “break-up”.
“You could’ve fought for us!” I remembered screaming at him that fateful night.
“What was I supposed to say? We do not live in a place where this is ok!” he exclaimed.
“Do not make it harder than it is,” he continued.
“Oh! I’M making things hard for you?.. I’M making this hard?…Let me make it easy” I retorted and turned to leave.
He pulled my arm and he fell to his knees.
“Do not hate me. Know that if I had a choice, I will always choose you,” he pleaded.
I swallowed my tears.
“Stand up. You’re not proposing…you’ve already done that.” I said and walked out.
How we reached to the point where he thinks he can invite me to his daughter’s birthday is beyond me.
Sure we had to be civil. We worked in the same company, same department. My contract made sure leaving was not an option.
3 years have passed.
3 years is a long time.
But surely he had to know that 3 years does not make it ok to invite me to a celebration of how everything worked out for him after us.
I stared at the purple envelope and felt queasy.
“Nice shirt,” I recalled him telling me.
I laughed when I saw we had identical purple button-up shirts on.
He introduced himself and offered me a cigarette.
“I only smoke when I drink,” I explained.
“That can be arranged,” he chuckled.
My eyes must have expressed more joy about the alcohol than I intended because he laughed again and said, “I have a feeling we will be good friends.”
I knew we would be so much more.
I was sure I wouldn’t go to the party, nevertheless I couldn’t help but imagine what will happen if I actually came.
I imagined him on his purple shirt beside his lovely wife on a purple dress, carrying their ballerina princess in a purple tutu.
With him, introducing me to his wife like I’m just one of his work friends and I, sneakily adding, “You wouldn’t be here if I had ovaries.”
I snickered at the thought.
But as I lingered on the statement, I was disheartened by how much truth was in it.
I never really wished I were anything other than what I actually am.
And for a long time, he didn’t either.
He loved me.
He just couldn’t be with me.
He had an obligation to his family.
He had needs I can never meet.
And although I was sure I could rock a tutu, his daughter was the better choice.
3 years helped me understand that.
Alcohol and strangers helped me accept it.
To be continued..