You look depressed.
I want to sweep my hand across the table when people say things like this. My spine straightens as I imagine the sound the glasses will make when they smash, how everyone will jump.
I can’t sleep.
He smiles like we’re old friends. We’re not. He’s old friends with the one sitting next to me. The one I shouldn’t be fucking.
You want a Valium?
I say no and clasp my hands between my thighs so the one next to me can’t see how much they shake.
He notices anyway. He always notices. He puts his hand on my back and I flinch because it feels good. He takes his hand away and looks hurt.
Wanna go inside?
We’re sitting outside and it’s too cold but it’s what we do. We smoke too much and drink wine we can’t afford and the pauses in the conversation get longer. I’m sitting straight looking his old friend in the eye because if I look him in the eye, he’ll see.
Your eyes are peculiar.
People say this a lot too. I wait for him to comment on the odd colour or the size of my pupils. And he does. He stares into them and I look over his shoulder and wish I could become the vine creeping over the fence.
What’s wrong with you today?
I realised I haven’t answered his old friend and so I shrug and carefully wrap my hands around the stem of the wineglass. I take more than a sip and think about the Valium in his pocket. I think about Xanax. Rivotril. Atenolol. Effexor. Zoloft. My head throbs and I push back from the table and walk to the toilets on imposter legs. I look down at them and their sure steps. I shudder at the current that runs through them and sit down in the cubicle for a while without peeing. I hold my head in my hands and think about getting up and walking out. Leaving and not coming back. I practise in the mirror then go back outside with a smile stretched on. It’s okay. It’s okay. I say to myself as they talk. It will pass it always passes. I wrap my scarf tighter because the cold’s inside too. Please don’t talk to me. I hum some more. I want to go to the bathroom again but instead I turn and answer the question. It feels disgusting, like a cockroach slid inside my mouth. But it works. They buy it. We buy another round, and the pauses get shorter and the gulps get bigger. The sides become less sharp and someone suggests we go back to their house. We get our takeaways and by this stage the alcohol is working. My laugh bounces down the cobblestones and he squeezes my hand as we sway down the street. I smile and make sure I squeeze back hard before I let go. Just in case he notices it’s still trembling.