The spotlights dimmed slowly as the singer finished her song. The applause died down as quickly as it came. Customers rose from their velvet red chairs, left the intoxicating bar, and breathed the nightly air. With the motions and movements, every table is refilled and emptied without hesitation. The same loop of music tracks being played and sang like an exhausted anthem, the same routine and rules being played but with different faces. This bar is nothing special but it’s different tonight because I met my younger self from ten years ago. A girl who is yet to see what life can do to a person.
“Wait, wait…what was your dog’s name again?” I asked. She finally looked at me, with her glass of apple juice still unfinished although it’s been an hour. Her earrings glimmered a little from the yellow lights and her denim jacket was slightly slipping from her shoulders, matching her laidback posture. This girl is your usual nonchalant teenager with too much time to kill, but dreams flooding her scattering mind.
“Izzy. What? Is it a weird name?” she replied. I’ve had many people tell me that her name is either unoriginal or tacky. Weird may sum her personality up altogether. She had an unrelenting habit of going on her two rear paws and standing up straight for as long as possible, almost like she wanted to be a human. She was my Izzy, but now I found out that she also belongs to the girl sitting next to me. And I couldn’t help but feel like Izzy was taken from me, even though she’s not here anymore.
“No, no. It’s cute,” I said. My stomach twisted into knots and only wrapped tighter and tighter as she told me about the town she grew up in before she moved here.
“My favourite hiding place was across-“
Her thin eyebrows furrowed and she was almost taken aback. “Y-yeah. Was that a lucky guess?”
“Well, one of my cousins lives there and he always goes to that area,” my stomach uncoiled, luckily I could still make up a simple lie. No matter how many lies I could make on the spot before the whole thing cracked, there was one undeniable truth. Every future event in her life that she was blind to, I could name without fail. I didn’t have to step into her shoes to understand her, I walked through my life in them. Her mistakes were the ones that I made, her dreams were the same ones that I had to leave behind, and the people she lost were the ones that I pushed away because of my fears.
The more I talked to her, the more guilt rushed through me. If it was water, it would have been a hurricane that could tear the entire bar within a minute. She was only in the eye of the storm and I couldn’t do anything to save her. The next ten years of her life were going to be brutal.
“I got to ask, why are you even in a bar? Shouldn’t you be at home?” I asked. I looked around and I couldn’t see my dad or brother at the counter. But I knew that even if they were there, I wouldn’t be able to recognise them. The girl drank from her glass and paused. Her eyes looked past me, I assumed she was looking at the exit and potentially planning to leave me soon. “I can’t be at home right now,” Her eyes switched from the door to me, “my dad…my mum. It’s all a mess now!” She turned away and her hands covered her face. If I didn’t know her, I would have thought she was a bratty toddler in a teenage girl’s body.
Her right leg started shaking up and down like she was drilling into the floor.
“What did they do?” I took in a sharp breath, expecting her to lash out. But instead, her shoulders relaxed slightly and she lowered her hands to reveal her tired eyes. The mascara started to smudge around the edges of her bottom eyelid.
“They met him. My boyfriend, Pete,” she paused and her feet kept drilling. I clenched my fists without thinking. “He’s not a bad person. Sure, he’s done stupid things, but who hasn’t? They didn’t give him a single chance. It was like they decided to not like him before he even came over.”
It was quite naïve of me to expect her not to talk about him. Besides, Pete and I dated for four years. We went through year seven to eleven together, all the worst moments and the best. How can you forget about that? I tried and I’m still just as angry at him as I was ten years ago. But she was right. Pete isn’t a bad person; I doubt he’s as mindless as he was when we were together. But what he did, what he said, the worst part wasn’t that he even did it. The worst part was that everything he did, my parents saw it coming before I did. They warned me ever since I told them about Pete. And since then, one failed relationship after another, I lost my way and I let the wind take me wherever it wants me to go.
“I want to get them to see him. To truly see him,” her hands were now placed between us. And her eyes stared at the back of them like she was searching for an answer from them, “I know Pete and I can get through this; I know we can. But-“
“It feels like everything is stacked against you?” She stopped staring at her hands and her leg stopped shaking. After a few moments, a heavy sigh escaped from her, tears ran down her cheek.
The silence was shared between us while the waiters still quickly paced around, although they were gradually walking slower as the hour ticked by. Another word from me would have destroyed her. So, I let the silence dissolve on its own.
I tapped my fingers on the table, following the quiet blue tunes playing on the speaker. Each tap felt like a passive thud, but it didn’t bother her.
“I love him,” her voice was hoarse. The fibres in my heart were threads and strings that were being tugged and pulled and close to snapping. Do you?
“Of course, I do,” she said with a brisk tone. Her eyes widened and her lips curled down. I was surprised that I said that out loud and I flinched at my harshness. I held onto my heartstrings as tightly as I could. What I showed her was going to break her, but the broken pieces were going to be used to create something new.
“Pete wanted to meet your parents, right?”
“I think so, I asked him and he said ‘sure’.”
“But was he completely comfortable with it though?” She tilted her head to the side and mumbled, “N-no. I don’t think so. We talked about it after our date,” she started scratching her head, “and I dunno we just thought ‘why not?’”
“Or do you mean”, I braced myself, “you thought ‘why not?’” The girl sat like a defendant in court.
“Maybe I did.”
The damage that she caused, the damage that I caused. The girl and I may have been the conductor of our own pain. It wasn’t entirely our fault, but we needed to know we were responsible too.
“Well,” I stopped for a moment.
“Are you happy with him?”
Her nose scrunched up and she looked at me as if I asked if the earth was round, “Yes of course-“
“What? Do you think I’m lying? Why would I lie about that and-and,” my words wrecked her, “what makes you think you know more about my relationship with him than I do? You don’t even know me!”
“Seriously, you’re acting like my dad. Why am I telling you all of this?”
I thought that I wasn’t going to be prepared to see my younger self. I thought that that was going to be the hardest part. But tonight, I saw who I became and who I lost. That was the hardest part. I took out two ten-pound notes and put them on the table. There was nothing else to be said or to be fixed. I messed it up like always.
I got up from my seat and put on my coat. I took one last glance at the girl.
“I’m sorry, Stacey.”
She lifted her head immediately, “Wait how do you know my name?”
“A lucky guess?” a smile cracked around the edge of my mouth but it was short-lived. “I can be a jerk sometimes and unfortunately; you just saw that.” Her head was locked in place, neither a nod nor a shake.
“This might be really selfish of me. But no matter how well or badly things will go from now on if you see me again, can you tell me about it?” The guilty hurricane swirled wider and wider, but I couldn’t let it shake me.
The girl scoffed, “And when will I ever see you again?”
That’s when the waves hit me and I didn’t get swept away, “See me in ten years.”