she asks me why I’m here tonight
tilts her head, coquette smile
she thinks she’s something
and maybe she is.
a knowing glance,
painted fingernail, tracing the rim of her glass

what if I told her
she didn’t exist?
that the space she takes up
is empty, that
I could watch her catch fire right now
and not react?

‘I’m here to drink,’ I say.

no shit, sherlock, she replies,
another superior smile.
she leans back, summons the waiter,
tells him, eyes on me,
this man needs a drink.

and I do
that’s all I do
come here, wait for you,
drink to forget
that I’m waiting for you
drink to numb the pain
of forever waiting for you

she flirts with the waiter
too much lipstick, I’d wager;
he’s a young kid, ill at ease
but if she thinks she’s something
maybe she is.
and he’ll make an effort –
worth it, for the tip.

so, she says, waiter dismissed
crossing and uncrossing her legs:
here we are.

we?

I watch her mouth move:
those full red lips, slightly smudged
smiling again,
colour of rust.
ah, she says, the silent type, are we?

we?

the waiter returns,
an interruption of scotch.
i bring the clinking glass
to press against my cheek.
I see them, looking at me
but don’t see them.
see instead a memory;
a different reality.

I see you:
mother of my feverish child,
pressing a different glass
against different skin.
soft baby skin,
amassing little purple spots.

she’s talking again,
but now all I hear
is your voice.
filling fast with panic,
sheer and cold and rabid.

‘they’re not going away,’
you say,
then the freeze-frame:
of you,
twisting back to me,

do
something.

when I next look up
I am alone.
she has gone,
and the scotch too.
I must have drunk it
while sitting here;
remembering
the end of my child
the end,
of me and you.