Erica reached into her pocketbook outside of a bar. She had grown tired of seeing people walking out, looking barely different than the ones going in. Alone, or sometimes with another, but they were never talking. Other than that, all of them remained shadows under the light, and a twist of brightness under the cloudy night. She found nothing of value in her pocketbook. Why did she even bring it? Something always must make sense. Everything must be organized.
She began to walk away. Walking under the light, she stares at her hands and thought about how they had minds of their own.
“Leaving already?” she heard a man ask.
She wasn’t looking for any new friends or any, to be exact. But, not saying anything, that’s rude.
“Haha, yeah, I don’t have any money,” she said looking down.
“Come in and have a drink. On me.”
“Aw, you’re so sweet. Thank you.”
She walked in close behind him. She walked inside, no one said hello. Something was very wrong. She thought.
“Do you own this bar?” she asked.
“Of course, I do!” he yelled back, “Seven years now. What’ll you have?”
“I told you I don’t have any money.”
“It’s on me, remember?”
“Oh. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sorry.”
Her hand was in her pocketbook. Nothing was in it. She remembered that much. Nothing made sense here. At least outside there was a place to go. Now, she was trapped. Trapped with all these miserable, lonely people.
“I don’t want anything.”
“Oh. You can stay for a while, it’s cold out.”
“No problem. Are you okay?”
His looked at her with raised eyebrows, but his body stood still. Erica found herself the same way.
“Hungry?” he asked.
He pointed to the menu. The text was bright, but it just wasn’t large enough for her. She smiled at him while she squinted.
“You should get some glasses,” he said with a smile.
“They’re somewhere on Elm Street.”
She’d lost her glasses and her wallet. All she had in her pocketbook was a phone with a half-shattered screen that rang once a night around this time.
“Tell me about that in a second. I’ll be right back,” the owner said after a lady waved at him from the back.
“Take your time.”
Erica clenched her fists. She had lost count of how many people were in the bar. The lady left. Where could she have gone?
Erica put her left hand around her right arm again. She knows how these situations go…
They leave, they return, they stay. They will come from all directions.
My only way out, is to give in.
She decided to leave. She felt a cold breeze in her hair that sent shivers down her body. It was time. She walked faster with each step. If anyone so much as looked at her, they’d be certain she was about to throw up. She put her hand to her mouth. Foolish. What about her arm? She was surprised that that number hadn’t called her. It had been 26 hours. Not even a text to demand money.
Footsteps were coming in the distance. Her heart began to race even more. Something was going to get her, something soon! It had to be him! He knows where everyone is. Even all of her friends who have died. They still pay him in death.
He needs it, she thought. She was still under the light, hadn’t taken a step more than she had to. Now, she was begging for her phone to vibrate. Everything would be clear then. His face is so beautiful, a smile that will send you on your way. A beautiful man with a beautiful mission, to make people happy when they have run out. The one punishment: an arm getting carried by another. Only then, can it be invisible to everyone, because everyone is always watching.
The owner of the bar had a glass of water in his hand. Maybe she’d be okay, he thought.
Written by Jon Benham – Monroe, Connecticut
Photo by Bruce Mars