Something was amiss.
John was looking through the window of the bar and
he was gathering up the courage to go in, deliver some paperwork, but he had
gotten caught up with looking around the place, noticing recent changes,
She'd done a good job. This was a bar he would
hang out in.
He was looking at some art behind the bar when he noticed
Max, at the bar. He was having a drink, playing a game of Dominos with Helena.
It was a fairly slow night so she appeared to be mostly hanging out with him,
scanning the place, serving a drink, heading back. Max looked comfortable,
He walked in and presented the question on everyones
WHAT. THE. FUCK.
Of course it didn't come out like
that. Not like he felt. The hundreds of ways and zillions of manners in which
this phrase fit sat comfortable in the back of his mind.
It came out more
jovially. Like a friend might bust out to another friend "hey man...what the
fuck are you doing here?" (slap on back)
They both looked up and said
nothing, and he realized he was forcing a smile. and a tone. That was the new
thing with Helena, this thing where they pretended they were totally fine with
each other in hopes of ringing in a new era that would, most likely, never
She looked at him and said something about it being a
public place and so he asked again.
No, really what are you doing here
When Max informed he was getting a drink, that was too
I am pretty sure that is not the answer to my question.
Helena made some sort of comment about everyone having to be out
every once in a while.
He looked at Max and noted, directly: Not when
you are a shut in.
Max was now, clearly, uncomfortable. And John was
becoming distracted. he was increasingly noting Max, and his comfort, and the
fact that he was drinking out of the same glasses he had at home, and that his
favorite song was on the jukebox and he wondered if she had bought all of Max's
He was about to ask if they were having an affair but
then he had to admit the problem with that, had to own that an affair had to be
had secretively and Max sure as hell seemed comfortable, here, in public with
his ex wife, in a bar he had once owned. And then he also had to admit that he
couldn't even really ask if she were cheating when he was practically living
with another woman and had only had sex just an hour ago and yet, looking at
Max, right there, he was fairly certain there was a lie in here somewhere, an
The various what the fucks were building consensus,
Were they fucking?
Without realizing it he
asked that aloud. Causing several heads to turn.
Oh, no! Lord no! Hell
They asserted this quickly laughing, nodding their heads. gesticulating
madly. Not fucking. Totally not having sex. Just having a drink. No
But really...what the fuck are you doing
here? How would Ann feel about this?
Helena looked at him with
surprise: Ann left him. That look. The reproach. The surprise. The
What the fuck John, don't you know it when your best friend has been
left by his wife?
News he shouldn't be hearing first here. Any where else but
John looked embarrassed and he tried not sound
Why didn't you tell me?
Max glanced at Helena and
said, uncomfortably: you were on Vacation...I didn't want to (another
uncomfortable glance, in deference, to Helna) disturb the
He looked up feeling guilty and then felt worse.
Dismissing all the signs, the weirdness, it made sense. Man, you are left by
your wife and of course you don't want to be at home. Of course you don't want
to call your friend on his love bird vacation. Of course you just want a damn
drink outside your house with all its ghosts and memories.
am really sorry, you could have called me.
They hugged and he looked
over and he saw that Helena had poured him a drink. Fucking Helena. And her look
said it all: stick around, have a drink, be there for your friend.
the funny thing is, he did. And it was almost normal. Comfortable. Something had
broken the tension and he spent the rest of the evening there, having drinks
with Max. Helena made herself scarce, mostly, stopping by, occasionally having
conversation, throwing in a word here and there.
It is all just felt
So damn normal that he even gave Helena a half friendly
hug at the end of the night, grabbed Max's keys, drove him home life this was
And at the end of the night, pouring Max out of his car,
turning off the last plaguing questions, he was almost comforted.
home, crawling into bed with Jessica he thought about how much he had missed
Helena, how, for the first time, he could imagine, someday a life with her in
it, a place for them to know each other in a new way, and he wanted to tell her
anything, something, everything.
He inhaled Jessica's scent and drifted
off to sleep with only the smallest nagging doubts