The afternoon sun falls slant on the windows. I lift my hair — so heavy and hot — off the back of my neck. The bartender moves along the bar, raising his eyebrows at me, but I shake my head no. I don’t need another. I can’t get drunk waiting for James.
The man next to me bumps my arm as he spins on his barstool, turning towards the woman beside him. He watches her closely. She is standing, ordering another drink, and he wraps his arms around her waist. Newly dating, I think to myself. Insist to myself, and avoid feeling envy.
When James appears, scruffy and amber-haired, summer comes in with him. He’s illuminated then, gleaming at the edges like a Maxfield Parrish cloud — just for a moment before the door swings closed.
He’s smiling. I think of my dog’s wolfy grin whenever I catch him eating out of the trash. The way he is guilty and confident, knowing I could never stop loving him. James pulls a bar stool towards me. He doesn’t mention the time or my drawn-down beer. I notice how he experiences my patience with him as a reflection of himself, not of me.
But I stay. I order another drink and never say a word. I stay sitting in that heavy afternoon light. In that light, even flecks of dust glow like gold.
Rose McMackin is a writer whose work appears or is forthcoming in Hobart, The Atticus Review, The Forge Literary Magazine, Moon Park Review, Juked Magazine, and The Noyo River Review. She lives in Seattle with a dog and a life-size cardboard cut-out of Jimmy Page.
Photo – authors own