the last happy hour

We’re standing so close to the chain-link fence. I haven’t thought about how much I hate these chain-link fences in a while, but then I focus back on the side of his face and he is making me laugh and she’s laughing too and there’s no time to think about fences. On the other side of the fence is the A&W. I used to go there in another life for chili dogs, but not for root beer, even though everyone says their root beer is great. I don’t drink root beer because of the carbonation; I don’t drink many things because of the carbonation.

Sometimes we’d walk over and talk and get a chili dog or two. I remember that. We’d laugh and inspect the dining room of the A&W and nothing would be bright enough. Inside jokes. Who’s going to pay? All the quarters in the world couldn’t have brought this back.

Chain-links in that tilted square pattern that looks rounded but is rough on the hands, on tiny fingers like my own once were when I grabbed onto a fence just like this one and tried to slow my breathing. I had been running; why had I run? Don’t adults know to stop children from playing this kind of game? The kind where children get hurt. Hurt each other. I had been running. I remember that now.

Three smokes around. I gave them each a smoke, lit with my CHICAGO lighter. It’s yellow translucent plastic with a hot-pink skyline. I bought it in O’Hare during a layover at Thanksgiving. Between text messages to Arizona, I sat outside in the frozen cement jungle and smoked ugly cigarettes and I shared some too. Because I believe in that. Sharing. Sharing the habit.

I can’t think about this being the last time the three of us will be together like this. It’s like a wake, and I still can’t come up with anything good to say. She has one day left at this job, so we say, “See you tomorrow.” But tomorrow, what will we say? I read an article that office friendships only last two years after one leaves the workplace. See the hourglass over her head as she walks away?

My neck hurts like broken brick. Something wrong is sliding inside there. I am sure things in the neck region are supposed to stay together and he’s making me laugh again. Stop laughing. I don’t understand where this goes from here. The chain-link fence sings when you run your fingers across it, when you run a stick across it. It sings like this kind of laughter: brittle, focused, limited.

We could just walk across to the A&W. Then we wouldn’t need to end it here. We could have chili dogs, and I’d pay. Across the street is where I used to live. C’mon, I’ll show you. There’s no fence there, just blank brown dirt for a quarter-mile, and if we walked it we wouldn’t ever have to stop. Keep walking. Have another smoke. Keep going.

Current mood: Current music:

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I acknowledge that I live and work on stolen Cowlitz, Clackamas, Atfalati, and Kalapuya land.
I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.