I felt her hand touch my shoulder but to be fair, I smelled her long before that. That soft scent of violet, my scent, cutting through the smoke and pallor of the bar. She always wore that scent for me. Just for me. Especially at times like today. I didn't look up, afraid to see her reflection in the mirror that ran the length of the bar counter. Afraid of the memories, afraid of the things that once were, afraid of looking into her eyes just one more time.
"Ellis....Ellis honey you need to stop."
I swirled the brown liquor in my glass, splashing it around the two well worn ice cubes at the bottom. I closed my eyes and tossed the last drink back, feeling the warm burn course down my throat. I lowered the glass back to the bar and opened my eyes again when me head was down, staring at those two ice cubes as they tinkled inside the cup. I felt her grip tighten on my shoulder and I resisted the urge to inhale deeply, resisted the urge to fill my head with violet.
"Ellis, baby, this isn't the answer. I know you're hurting, but you can't do this again. Not to yourself.......not to me."
I slammed the glass down on the counter, hard, the two ice cubes bouncing in the glass. I knew she was gonna lay this card. The guilt card. It was really the only one left. I'd long worn out pity and forgiveness by now. It was the only card she had left. The only one she could still use that I might still buy. To bad for her I was far to numb for that one today. Or ever again for that matter. I let myself take a small whiff of violet before talking. For old times sake I said. For memory.
"Babe, you made it clear how you felt about me. About us. You made it crystal clear in fact. You didn't want me anymore. You didn't love me. So I don't really see why you should give one god damn about me now."
I still didn't look up. Fuck, I didn't even raise my voice. To be honest, I couldn't let myself. It had taken a long time to get where I was right now, and I'll be damned if I was gonna break. I motioned for the bartender to pour me another, slipping a wad of crumpled bills on the counter. Money, fortune, fame, celebrity, fuck it. It was nothing a nice drink couldn't take anyway when you wanted it to.
"El, I never wanted to hurt you. Whether you believe it or not, I loved you. I still love you..... in a way. We shared a life together, a life filled with some bad times sure, but there were a few good moments too. I don't want to see you do this to yourself. I don't want your daughter to see this happen to you."
With that line I did finally let out a course laugh, jagged and raw, that ended in a small fit of coughing. I used the napkin under my glass to cover my mouth and crumpled it up before she could see the red tinged remains in the paper. Still that last line had been pretty funny. The bartender poured me another drink and I grabbed his arm before he could go. I tossed the drink back again, keeping my eyes closed one more time and set the drink on the counter. I rattled my cup, those lonely ice cubes now little more than slivers, and beckoned for a refill. I staved off another throaty chuckle before answering her.
"Dear, you were pretty explicit about my status with Vi. You've barely let me near her in the last two years. She thinks I'm a deadbeat and a loser and for the most part, you were pretty happy not to change that point of view. Fuck, I thought you having me sign adoption waivers so Andy could step in made in crystal fucking clear where I stood with Vi. As for the good times, I remember them well. Every time I look at a painting, every time I pick up a brush, I remember them. The bad times though? Those didn't come until after."
I felt her hand fall off my shoulder, but I didn't look up. The bartender brought me another drink and I fumbled for a cigarette out of my coat pocket. There were only two left, but that was okay. This was probably gonna be my last pack anyway. I thumbed one out and lit it with a match from one of the free packets they gave out at the bar. The smoke burned at first, my throat still a little raw from the coughing, but soon it felt smooth as silk. I tossed another drink back and listened to the fresh ice rattle in the glass. I did love that sound. I puffed in silence, trying to use the smoke to mask her scent, such a soft scent that seemed to fill the air when she was near me, cloying, not letting go. I tried to push it away, push it from my mind. But I couldn't. Not yet. Finally after I'd nearly finished the cigarette she spoke.
"Fuck you Ellis. Fuck you you fucking asshole. I don't give a fuck about what you do anymore. If this is what you want then fucking do it you fucking pussy. Fuck you for giving up. Fuck you for quitting on Violet, but most of all fuck you for quitting on me you fuck."
She turned to walk away then. I could hear her spin on her heel. She has been so calm and monotone through the speech. Even and measured, like she had practiced it. Fuck she probably had. Calm and measured though, right up until those last two words. You Fuck. I could hear the derision in her voice. The scorn. All the years of pent of hate and anger she'd had at me set free in two little syllables.
I bounded up from the stool, upending it behind me and threw the glass at the mirror behind the bar. It shattered, spider webbing cracks all along the length of the mirror, shards strewn about the floor and into the bottled liquors underneath. I did look up now. I could see her back to me in the reflections, hundreds of shots of her with her back to me. Hundreds of shots of her smooth brown hair falling across that worn woolen jacket she always wore to work. Her black skirt was a little longer than she use to wear it, but it was my girl. I stared at the myriads of her reflections, each sliver like a vein to my heart.
"I never quit on you Becca. Let's not forget who left who here. Let's not forget who killed who here. You were the shining sun of my heart Becca. Sometimes though, things shine too bright and they burn you. I wasn't perfect Bec, never said I was. But I never quit on you and I certainly never quit on Vi, You two were my everything. Sometimes though, everything just isn't enough anymore."
She never turned back around. I just watched each reflection walk away, the clack of her heels echoing in the silent bar. I watched each reflection leave me, each one killing me a little bit more than the one before, a thousand tiny deaths. I watched her walk out that bar and saw the love of my life for the last time. I tried to catch her scent in the air, but it to had left with her. I slowly picked up the stool and dropped another crumpled wad of bills onto the bar, paying for the rest of the bottle I'd been working on, and the damage to the mirror. I had him put some fresh ice into my glass and I walked out of the bar, bottle and glass in hand.
Violet would be taken care of, that I knew for sure. between the adoption papers and everything else I'd arranged, I wasn't worried about her. I popped the last smoke out of the pack and crumpled up the empty carton, tossing it aside as I walked down to the beach. I rattled the ice in the glass, enjoying the fresh sound of ice tinkling against the glass walls. Another rack of coughing forced me to stop for a moment, but after a few minutes it passed. I wiped my mouth on my sleeves, the red tinges fading into the black leather of my coat. I took a drink straight from the bottle and checked my watch, finding it just shy of 2:00 AM.
The beach stretched out before me, the waves lapping against the coast, the waters dark and mysterious. Next to fresh ice, the sound of the ocean was my favorite sound. I kicked off my shoes and socks and let the sand squeeze through my toes and I sat down on the cusp of the shore line. The sand was a damp and there was just enough of a tide that occasionally a small wave of salt water would run over my toes. I poured another drink and thought that it might not be a bad idea to see just one more sunrise.
End of Line.