Fiction: Loneliness

She looked at her reflection in the mirror behind the bar, the mirror lined with pretty bottles filled with alcohol. She saw the long, narrow face with wrinkles around tired green eyes and full lips framed with frizzy, red hair. She supposed it had been a pretty face once, but now it looked old and tired. Looking around the room, she saw no one she knew and no one knew her.

The bartender walked over to her. “A margarita on the rocks, please,” she said, “with salt and an extra shot of Anejo.”

He walked away and came back a few minutes later to set the drink in front of her. “Do you want to start a tab?”

“Sure.” She passed over her credit card and took a sip. The drink was good, and she took a bigger swallow. The alcohol spread through her like a comforting friend, and she smiled. Not looking at her reflection, she didn’t see how the smile changed her face and brought out the beauty still there. The man at the other end of the bar noticed and moved over to sit beside her.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hello,” she said back.

They drank together – her, her margarita, and him, his beer. They had another and another until it was late and the bar was closing. The hours of superficial conversation and alcohol were so they could leave together and have a semblance of a connection. It was a dance she knew well. They walked to the hotel they had determined they were both staying at across the street from the bar.

The sex was good, not the combustion of two bodies with great chemistry or the connection of two people in love, simply contact and comfort and release for a fleeting moment to feel alive and to not feel alone.

When she awoke, it was 6:00 am. The body beside her snored, and she squeezed her eyes shut. One tear rolled down her cheek and she brushed it away.

She got up, went into the bathroom, and stood under hot water. Coming out wrapped in a towel, she found the man sitting on the edge of the bed sliding his feet into loafers.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hello,” she said back.

He stood and put his wallet in his pocket. He got his keys off the table and jangled them in his hand for a moment. Then he walked out the door, nodding her way as he went.

She gave a slight nod back and the door closed behind him.

After a minute, she got dressed, packed her bags, and followed.

At the airport, she boarded her plane and headed home.

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