Ally

The ice in my glass clinked around as I walked. I’ve always liked taking glassware out of the house. Drinking a whiskey on the rocks out of a glass makes me feel like wherever I’m walking, I’m home.

“It’s getting cold out.” Ally said.

“Refreshing, isn’t it?” I replied.

It was late fall, warm for Calgary this time of the year. But still, it definitely wasn’t summer outside. I let a deep exhale out to watch my breathe freeze in the air.

“These are the days we’ll think of when we’re old.” I said.

“I’m thinking of today right now. Isn’t that enough?” Ally asked.

I smiled, slightly. “Yeah. You’re right.”

We sat beside each other on a park bench along the river. Down the river was the lit up skyline of downtown.

“You don’t get this in small towns.” I said. “We had the northern lights and the rolling hills. They were beautiful, but so is this. I don’t understand how people can say the city is ugly. That would be like saying Lana Del Rey can’t sing. Insane.”

Ally took a deep breathe of the brisk, night air. “You ever wrap your head around just how many people live in this city? Look at all those office cubicles, all those lights. You ever consider that at one point or another today, each one of them had another human being in them? And that each one of those humans has a whole circle of friends, a family, a group of people that love and respect them. That they have their own hopes and dreams, goals and ambitions. Sorrows. Heartbreaks.”

I looked over at her.

“How are you doing these days? Holding up okay?” I asked.

The wind rustled through the leaves above us.

“I’m okay. Been better. Ever since John died… Things just… It doesn’t feel the same.”

“What doesn’t?”

“Life.”

We held each other’s gaze.

“You know,” Ally said, “I found myself laughing as I walked out of the grocery store yesterday. The cashier had made a joke about how much I must love nuts as she scanned through my trail mix. The first person I wanted to call and tell about it was John. I even pulled out my phone before I remembered.” She had sip of her whiskey. “What are you supposed to do when your best friend leaves you? What does one do with herself?”

The water quietly danced against the rocks below, too dark to see.

“It just feels so surreal still. So awfully surreal. Some days I wake up, still half asleep, and think that it was all just a dream. That John’s downstairs, drinking coffee and working at his computer. That he’s going to say ‘Good morning, alley cat’ and that I’ll just kiss him on the cheek as I lean over him and hold him. Fuck.”

Ally’s voice cracked. In the dim, moonlit night I could see her eyes welling up.

“Jesus. What I wouldn’t give to hold him just one last time. One last fucking time.”

Her gaze rested on the cubicle lights.

“These people don’t know how lucky they have it. They go to work, they come home, they watch TV with their partners and they just repeat this endless, pointless cycle. They think they’re heading somewhere. They think that what they have right now isn’t good enough yet. That if they just work a little harder for a little longer, take on a few more hours at the office, forego their vacations together for a better future, that one day they’ll be happy. That one day they’ll have the life together that they dream of. I want to punch them all in the face. Every single one of them and scream at them. They don’t know how good they have it. How great their life already is. If they could just look up from their grind, just appreciate the person in front of them, they’d see how special everything really is. How fragile, vulnerable and fantastic the gift is that they’ve been given. Instead they yell at the traffic and argue over taking the trash out.”

“Ally…”

“And then life vanishes before their eyes and it’s all over. That’s it. The end.”

Her lip trembled. Neither of us said a word. A wheezing, sniffling sound started to come from her mouth. She threw her arms around my neck and sobbed into my shoulder.

“I just miss him so much.”

“I know Ally, I know.”

I put my arm around her and pulled her close to me.

“I miss my best friend too.” I said.

And we sat there, watery-eyed and silent. Letting the emotions wash over us like a thick, rough blanket as dark as the night sky. I stared into the empty cubicles and hoped, desperately and pathetically hoped, that the people who work in them know just how good they have it.

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