Trade In

When I walked into the bar with you, it was a normal night. We’d made ourselves pasta with peppers and onions and a brownish sauce that you invented and eaten it in front of the TV with the latest episode of that crime show you like so much. The funny one. We took showers, separately, and I cleaned your hair out of the drain and didn’t say anything to you about it. I wasn’t being passive aggressive, I was just loving you. It was one of the ways I loved you, without you knowing about it. When Nick called us and asked us to come to the bar he liked picking up women at, we looked at our watches and said sure, why not, it wasn’t even nine and we hadn’t gone out all week.
When we walked into the bar, Nick was already in full swing, a brunette with a great shirt – it was open in the back, and her spine was the kind that sinks in rather than puckers out, which I’ve always found attractive. I pulled on your arm, and asked if we should sit elsewhere. You looked down at me, and I loved you for being tall, and you laughed and said no, we can join.
Nick introduced us to the woman, Gen, with a G, like Gen-X or Y. She said this first thing, and you and I squeezed hands, each of us knowing that the other was thinking about the conversation we’d had sometime recently about how hilarious we thought it was when people insisted, upon first meeting anyone, on explaining how unique their name was because it was spelled differently.
Gen and Nick already seemed like old friends. For all I know they were. I haven’t seen either of them since that night, so I never got a chance to ask. She kept looking at you though, and then at Nick, and then at you. Whenever I tried to ask her anything, she gave me monosyllabic answers.
We drank a lot. Two beers each, and then we got to doing shots because Gen kept ordering them from the waitress. After three rounds, I noticed that only three shots were appearing. None for me, apparently. I didn’t say anything because I wanted to be sober enough to take you home.
The music got louder as the night approached eleven. I was bored. I could barely hear what anyone was saying, and the lights were getting dimmer. I was sleepy. I heard Nick yell, enunciating as if to someone who didn’t hear him the first time, that you and I were “cool.” I didn’t know what he meant, until I did. Gen started being nicer to me, touching my hand across the table and meeting my eyes and then flicking her own towards you. She started buying me shots again too.
Around midnight, I finally dragged you out, Nick and Gen trailing us, and we all got into the same cab. Nick gave the driver his address first, which pissed me off, but when you got off there too, and I sat in the cab, one foot out on the street, and one in, I began to know something was off. Your hand was on Gen’s hip. Had that been happening in the cab? I was in the back with you and her, Nick was in the front. You held your hand out to me and gave me that smile, the one you give me when I come out of the shower wrapped in a towel, and I shook my head.
You beckoned, with your head, with your whole body, and I said no. Gen put her hand in your pocket. I put my foot back in the cab. Nick was waiting by his front door, holding it open for you and her. He was smoking and spitting like he always does. I shut the door of the cab and asked the driver to take me home.
I didn’t have any money. He was angry and yelled at me. I gave him my number and full name and told him to call me tomorrow and I’d give him my credit card info.
When I got inside, nothing looked like you anymore. The hair in the wastebasket in the bathroom made me gag, or maybe it was the alcohol, and when I leaned over the toilet and threw up, again and again until there was nothing left in my stomach but acid and bile, I felt only a shadow of you behind me, an absence, where you should have been, waiting with a glass of water and a toothbrush, telling me sip, brush, come to bed.

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