We got drinks in a bombed-out bar with a red light. The walls seemed to fall in, and I thought she would hate it, but she only looked at me. She had grey eyes. We drank gin and laughed while the rest dipped their heads. We sniffed coke in a stall. Thoughts of what was waiting at home were with me. Thoughts of a dark room, a used sock. She could change these thoughts, and she did. I loved her for that.
She would fill my glass, point to a table, and the barkeep would tend to it. I put coins on the bar, and he took them.
I asked her how old she was, and she told me.
She asked me if I had found God in my glass.
I told her no.
A cab pulled up to the curb, and a man leaned out and threw up on his shoes. The room roared, but she did not. She told me she felt pity for the man, and that I should too; that man could be me. I thought if I could keep her, it wouldn’t have to be.
We went out for a smoke. She gave me a Camel and a light and watched as I drew in. I asked where she worked or if she went to school.
She told me she knew a man who lived down the road who smelled bleach to get high.
I asked if I could meet him.
She told me I had, and I shook my head.
She smiled, took me by the hand, and led me down the street. I would have liked to go on, to any place she would take me, but she stopped in front of a door.
The door frame had been kicked in. The man we were there to see was on the floor, face down. There was no blood, but there was coke on the table. There was foam on his lips, and his eyes flicked back and forth behind closed lids. He had a chair made of wood that looked like the one I had back home. I took the coke and a beer from the fridge, and she called the cops. The man sat up and screamed at us to fuck off, so we laughed and ran. We did the coke in the hall, and I said I would quit for her.
She said to tell the truth, and I tried to.
She asked if I would quit for my mom, and I said no.
I asked her to be my wife, and she said no.
We took a cab back to town and went to a junk shop with no name. I saw a watch I liked, and she found a gold chain. An old man in a red sport coat watched us. The hand of the watch was stuck at six. I thought I could fix it, give us more time together. She bit the chain and held it up to me.
She asked me if I liked it, and I said I did.
She asked if I would buy it, and I said I would.
I held up the watch and asked how much time I had left with her. She said my time had long been up.
I frowned and put the chain and the watch on the desk with some bills. The old man took them and watched us leave. There were no cabs, and I was glad. She would have to walk with me. I checked my watch to see if it was still six and it was. When I looked up, she had stopped. I went to her, and she took my hand. She showed me a pair of glass doors with a red cross.
She told me to go in, and I said no, that’s not a place for me.
I asked if she would be my wife and she said no.
I asked why not and she said she said that I did not love her.
I said I did, but she shook her head.
I asked when I could see her again and she told me.
I am home now, dark room, used sock, rough chair, all here. I think about France, about the man with the foam on his lips, the man with puke on his shoes. I fixed the watch, and now it runs. I check it now and then to see if it says six. But I can’t read it now. It’s in French.
William Walker is a writer from Memphis, TN. He currently lives in Charlotte, NC where he studies creative writing at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte.