She threw her head out of the car’s window and let the air blow across her face. Because it had to go. The hangover. The ruddy hangover. Pieces of lemon lay on the floor, where she had spat them out after chewing them dry.
8 hours, 37 minutes and 43 seconds was how long the hammer had banged inside her head.
2 was the number of times she had wretched.
13 were the hours left to pay the rent.
4 were the number of letters in the word the man in the tie had called her.
3rd was the finger she had dug into his eye.
44 were the number of stairs to the lobby.
4 was the amount of money in her bra.
11 were number of holes in her dress.
She bent over to the front of the car and ran a finger through the leather of the seat cover. ” Got a lighter? “
It was there under dilapidated awning of the long shut down cafe while waiting for a taxi in the cold autumn air that she saw them. Man and girl, walking hand in hand. She was jabbering something at him , pulling hair out of her eyes with immense effort while he looked at the skipping four year girl with an indulgent smile. It was that look on his face , declaring her to be the center of his world, that bespoke a hundred promises to protect her and be there for her, which caused her chest to constrict.
Did the girl realize the dubiety of the moment ? How one day someone was so involved in your life that their presence went unnoticed by you ? That thinking of their absence never crossed your mind and you took their presence for granted. How one day your father would be arguing with you about your irresponsible boyfriend and then there would be none of that for the rest of your life. How one day you would be asking him to give you a ride to work and then on another you had to bear confined overcrowded bus. It surprised her, the transientness of life.
As they passed by her, she felt an insane urge to run to the girl’s father and be told that everything was going to be fine. That he was going to be there for her to call to when she had a late-night shift, would be her collaborator to pull mum’s leg, would make silly faces when she was sad and then run to the grocer’s to fetch ingredients for making that pasta she loved. She wanted to be that girl. She wanted to be the one receiving that look.
A horn blared in the distance. Breaking her gaze from the girl and her daddy she turned and nodded at the cab driver to stop. Feeling slightly silly at the train of her thoughts, she sat in the cab. As she passed them she leaned on the window and waved at the girl.
She could never become that girl again.