You have to drink more of this, she says, and pushes the bottle across the table. The restaurant is confusing and the staff is almost rude and the guitar player has just started singing and is awful in that unabashed way of someone who clearly doesn’t know they’re awful. I steal a pitcher of water from a side table and drink the entire thing. I’ve been dehydrated. My skin has been dry. I wake up one morning with an enormous cold sore on the side of my mouth. A week later and it’s still there, still persistent. When people talk to me, I can see their eyes dart down to it. It’s like a temporary missing limb; you know it’s suddenly the only thing anyone can see.
How are you? she asks at one point. It’s out of nowhere; it feels strange, out of place. We’ve finished our dinner and we’re solemnly working our way through this bottle of tempranillo. I don’t mean, like, right now, this minute, she clarifies. I mean in general.
Oh, I say, Sure.
This has always been a hard question for me to answer, but it’s one everyone seems pretty casual about asking. It’s the first thing we say to each other, really, when we see someone we know on the street or when we call our friends across the world or when we email old acquaintances to check up. Hi! How are you? But do you really, really want to know? Or do we just want the easiest, cleanest answer. I am fine. I’m doing fine. And you?
Good, I say finally.
Good, she says.
The bottle’s almost empty. I’ve had most of it. I tip another generous pour into my glass and maybe that’s what does it.
Actually, I say, I’m probably better than I’ve ever been. I mean- happier. That’s how I am, I’m just really fucking happy.
I’m out of practice. Those exact words have been unused for so long that although they are real, although they are the truth, they fall a little flat. They’re not earnest enough. I try and smile, to prove it, but even my smile can’t match what I actually feel. The actual truth of saying that, and meaning it- I am happier than I’ve ever been- it’s impossible to get that right.
But I think she understands me. Some people, you meet them and you know right away. Or you know ten minutes later. This person will get it. This person will just know what I mean.
Good, she says. I know you are. And then, like she’s not sure she should be saying it, she sort of leans in and whispers: I hope I know you for thirty more years. You know, if I live that long. I think you’re going to do really beautiful things.
There is nothing to say to this. I drink more wine. The guitarist plays on, miserably. The night darkens; the city swarms around us. Girls in no coats, girls in wee short skirts with legs bare and goose-fleshed.
You should see it in Dublin, she says before we part ways. In Dublin, nobody wears any clothes.
I walk home by myself. I write merry text messages to people with no cell phone reception.
I fall asleep on top of my covers. I wake up later, freezing.
Thirty years from now, I think, and then I fall back asleep and I dream about things I won’t remember in the morning.
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all photographs taken on my iPhone/ filtered with instagram.