The Resurrection of Grace
I wanted to explode into dust. To evaporate into a mist and escape the thick, sweaty crowd. My vision clouded with the malevolent vapors of the past.
I was sitting in the crowded dive bar with my best friend, Molly. A muggy, desperate heat filled the room, and the smell of spilled tequila made my stomach churn. O’Connell’s Pub was my old hangout with Sean. I hadn’t set foot inside since Sean dumped me. I’d come up with an excuse any time Molly begged me to come with her. But I finally relented when Molly’s eyes welled and threatened to spill over.
Molly, waif-like and flitting, abandoned me as soon as we sat. “I have to say hi to some friends,” she giggled.
Friends who emerged since I went into hiding, I guessed. I only saw drunken strangers. I choked back my anxiety, and sunk into a corner.
I looked past the glaring orange, bright sections of the bar, scanning the darkest spots in back — the places Sean and I used to tuck ourselves away. My eyes froze when I saw him — sucking the face off of a woman who looked like a Depression-era, Dustbowl wife. Like she would recall how “hard life on the farm was fer me n pa.”
I felt like an asshole, but she was hideous. A year since I’d laid eyes on Sean, and it still stung to see him with this hardscrabbled woman.
I slammed my burning shot of cheap cinnamon liqueur and finished the warm $2 beer. A mosh pit of liquor slammed against my stomach, and my body’s bouncers were about to kick the entire group out. I threw down a crumpled twenty and sprinted outside.
Icy daggers stabbed my throat and my nostrils froze. Yet the crisp night air offered no clarity. I gagged myself dry. And the night’s darkness swallowed me.
“You’re a fucking loser, Grace.”
I heard a scratchy bark behind me. An invisible hand pushed my back. I whirled around.
“What?” I shouted into the darkness. “Say it to my face!” A phrase I’d never uttered before. I stood in the silence and watched my breath form little white mushroom clouds against the night.
Molly appeared beside me, panting. “Who are you talking to, Grace?” she asked. I shook my head and shrugged.
“I thought you were over Sean,” she said. I told her I was, but I didn’t need him throwing his new friend in my face. Molly looked puzzled. With disdain, she told me Sean wasn’t inside. I felt the back of my neck grow warm, and made up a lame explanation. She wanted to drive me home, but I insisted on walking. “You’ve changed, Gracie. I’m worried about you,” she said.
My feet were numb, and my fingers tingled under my gloves. The night left me feeling crazy and a lead balloon of dread hung over me. I walked to burn off the nagging sense of fear that threatened to erupt.
I jogged the cracked downtown sidewalks toward home. My boots crunched the remnants of snow. Heavy snow once filled me with a sense of hope, but when I scanned the winter scenery around me, it reminded me of a wasteland. I avoided the mounds of icy gloom, streaked with car exhaust and dirty footprints. The incident in the parking lot had crept under my skin — I couldn’t rid myself of the uneasy slime it left in its wake.
I waited to cross the busy intersection a block from my home. A group of bundled up, teenage boys stood huddled and laughing on the other side. The light changed, but they didn’t move. As I approached, the laughter died. I steeled myself, and walked through the snarled mouth of a wolf. The boys watched me silently.
After I passed, the tallest boy in the pack lingered. He called after me, “You done messed up, Grace. You’re wasting away.”
He pulled the drawstrings of his black hoodie tighter and walked backwards, never taking his eyes off of me.
“What?” I yelled. “How the hell do you know my name?” He turned and ran to catch up with his friends.
I felt tears slice through my reddened cheeks. I screamed away the night. I was white-knuckling sanity.
The wind began to whip around me, blurring my vision. I passed the side street where I used to run daily, and my calves ached. My running tights sat, tangled in cobwebs, in my closet. The invisible hand pushed again, harder than earlier. I lurched forward. I wanted to break out of my skin.
I sprinted the last twenty feet to my building. I found my front door — dead bolted before I left the house — wide open. I instantly recognized the lipstick shade scrawled in words across the door — “Not a Waitress,” my favorite shade of deep red.
“You suck!” the lipstick proclaimed.
I found my tube, last used two years before, lying open on the dirty tile of my foyer.
I caught a glimpse of my former self — my zombified, hollowed look vanished — in the mirror by the door. A new, raging fire coursed through me. I walked to the living room. I gathered the framed photos of Sean and me, Sean’s black hoodie — draped across my computer chair since the day he left, and what was left of the lipstick. I shoved them in a garbage bag. I grabbed an entire box of matches swiped years ago from O’Connell’s, and ran down to the dumpster.
After tossing the bag into the dumpster, I stood on my tiptoes and struck a match across the entire matchbox. Initial sparks melted into roaring flames. I danced as I watched the flames turn to ashes. I turned my gaze toward the night sky, and watched again as my breath formed white mushroom clouds in the inky black night.