Friday Evening, Some Time in the Future

I passed an eggshell on the pavement. It was cracked, empty; an abortion.

There’s something in the way night is coming on today, a softness that I’m not used to. You don’t usually find these things in the city.

I’ll sit and drink at the nearest bar until he calls me. It won’t be long, because probably he misses me. We’ve known each other since we were children. Maybe we still are children.

The barmaid stares through me as she takes my order, like I’m not there at all. I watch her spring open the till and thrust the change on the counter. I scrape it up, so many coppers slipping back into my bag, as she makes my drink. She lets the ruby-coloured water overflow the measuring thimble, spilling into a crystal glass. I always choose expensive bars, but only by accident.

“One Chambord,” she says, “you want ice with that?” On my nod, she tips a couple of ice cubes into the glass and they tinkle pleasingly. I’m concentrating hard as I choose where to sit. It’s a rule that you don’t sit at the bar. You’ll just attract attention.

To my luck there’s a single table in the corner, where some old customer’s left a newspaper. I don’t rifle through the pages; I’m sitting, absently tearing them up in strips. No one is watching me, and it feels good to be hidden, watching everyone else.

I’ve got my phone out now, on the table in front of me. I’m dreading it ringing. I need it to ring. There’s a headline about badger culls, and another about a terrorist attack in some country I can’t pronounce the name of. I don’t watch the news, these days; I haven’t got a TV.

What happened to the chick from that eggshell? There’s a man over there devouring a cheeseburger, his lips slick with grease. Maybe it got away; flew somewhere south where it’s warmer, looking for its mother. Maybe it ventured into the road and was crushed in an instant.

There’s black ink on my fingers, from the newspaper.

I’m growing warm from the Chambord. I feel myself going to the bar to order another. The same girl serves me, her eyes flickering.

Its body would be so small, if you saw it. Barely a feather.

The raspberry-thick sweetness sticks in my throat, cold and smooth - melting the burn of choked-up tears. People are watching now. I know it.

I try to focus on the curls of newspaper strips on the table. Some of them flutter to the ground as I sit back down. I can’t help thinking of holidays by the sea and swimming and running through fields with him, in paradise lands where no one is watching. There are his eyes, reflected in my glass; two heavy emeralds that won’t look away. My hands are trembling as I drink. I realise the barmaid never asked my age. My hands are trembling, trembling.

What if it couldn’t fly? Can a baby chick fly? Can it fly its way home?

I notice outside the sky filling with twilight. The bar is clattery, but I hear only silence. I miss him; I miss him.

I’m just sitting here, tearing up a newspaper, waiting for my phone to ring.

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