Violet watches me like she's afraid I'll skip out on our agreed meeting. When instead I roll up the letter in my hands for the millionth time, she decides that I'm completely sure of my decision…which is to say, I've never been more unsure in my life. I'm not supposed to be here. But seeing as I don't know where I am supposed to be…I found myself here.
"Come on." Violet takes my arm and drags me into the dimly lit, smoky building. I shove my hands into my pockets, making Violet tug harder on my bent elbow to usher me forwards. Coughing, I survey my surroundings. Small, circular tables line the sides of the room. Seedy, drawling country music whines over an unseen radio and speakers.
The smoke – it's stifling, curling up my nostrils and thickening into a paste in my throat. I cough again; it's a reflex. A sharp glare from Violet's grassy green eyes silences me. Instead, I concentrate on the clicks of my 'hipster' high-lace boots as they hit the floor. I'm walking forwards. Still not supposed to be here. We take seats at the bar. Antique silver ashtrays glow with partially lit cigarettes. Scrutinizing, I wrinkle my nose. Violet orders me a drink – something with an artificially red cherry like Rudolph's nose floating in it. I take a sip – it's bitter, but with a sweet aftertaste. Good. She's not going to poison me.
"When are we leaving? I have to be home soon," I recall from my long list of nonexistent excuses.
Violet shrugs in her black leather jacket. "I don't know." She takes a big sip from her drink. It's something massively less classy than my drink. Hers is hidden in a huge, brown mug which appears slightly greasy. I don't question why.
My eye catches another, cloaked in a deep, forresty- green hoodie. The owner's eyes meet mine for a millisecond before I tear the contact. I don't want to be remembered here, not for my old jeans and my floppy gray pullover hoodie. Or my messy, loose bun flapping on the nape of my neck when I walk. I'm not supposed to be here.
As my cheeks flush and I bury the embarrassment in my drink, requesting for nothing else that night, the owner strides up to me. I don't want this. Silently, I hope that he doesn't say anything to me. I am no one, simply put.
Violet scoots over a seat to make room for my visitor. I glare at her. Flashing a dimply smile, she points to the back of the building and mouths bathroom.
"Hello," a medium-roast, like semi-smooth coffee, says to me. I pretend that I'm one of the inanimate ashtrays. I'm immovable, see? Only for decoration.
"You're Ruth," the guy states, as a fact. It's true. "And I'm Oliver."
"Oliver?" I snort impolitely. "That's a plain name." Really, it's so plain that it's uncommon, except from that stupid character on Hannah Montana. I don't belong here.
But Oliver is unphased. "Yes, it is."
Hushed absence of words stills my lips. Another sip. I don't belong here.
This statement snags my attention. I've never been much of a writer. I like to sing. But the words to songs are all foreign; all never make sense to the bland mush that fibrously stretches from my days. "Oh?"
"No." I don't belong here. Following an invisible path, I stand up and leave my empty glass on the bar. The husky bartender grunts at me and begins to wipe it with a stained indigo towel. Oliver follows me, a couple paces behind. A song comes onto the radio, the clear chimes of a piano drifting into my ears. I've no idea what I'm thinking. I take Oliver's outstretched hand and we dance slowy. We waver our stances. I let him follow, placing my feet in patterns on the dusty floor. It's a slow fade into the numb feeling that washes over me.
Gone are the days, I remember, when I thought that my life would indent a massive fingerprint on the Earth. I am no famous ballet dancer, long legs outstretched into impossibly graceful positions. I am no singer, hands clutching a guitar and smile wide to the roaring crowd gathered for me. I am no president, making hollow promises to an expectant country. I am no beauty, entrancing men from far and wide with my charm.
And I don't belong here.
I stay in Oliver's embrace for what seems like hours. Violet never returns from the restroom. Figures, I say to myself, she's always been the adventurer. It seems easy for her. Since I'm not, I found myself falling into a wooden place behind her, smiling shyly…for that is all I have to offer.
I am no drinker. In fact, the drink which Violet had ordered for me was non-alcoholic. I am no traveler; my passport is undamaged and unstamped. I am no genius; Mensa will never herald me in any form or fashion.
And I don't belong here.
"Ruth," Oliver says to me after a long time. "Let's sit down."
And we do, in a booth tucked away in a far corner. Gently, I finger a stray ketchup packet. We're the only ones here now. The bartender has begun stacking chairs onto tables, though this place is open 24 hours a day.
"I'm sorry," I mutter, more to myself than Oliver. He notices. His brow lifts kindly, begging me to go on. So I do.
I tell him about my sub-par childhood, the normal evenings basking in the sun. I tell him about my long, long life. I tell him about the people I've seen die and grow old before me. I tell him about my family, who no longer breathes air on this earth. Sealed and protected, they lie still in the earth. I know he thinks I'm crazy. Maybe it's because he had a lot to drink that night, or maybe because on some deep level, he understood.
I finished my story. "At the end, I'm Ruth. And I don't belong here."
He told me something that I'll never believe, that I do belong here. I wanted to shout at him, remind him that whoever I speak to besides Violet will eventually pass away. She'd already left me, so what was the point in chasing her? They all leave.
I am shy. I am no regular person. But I don't belong here.
Oliver's hand, deeply tanned from days baking in the sun, covers mine for a moment. He kisses me on the cheek and leaves a phone number. I assume that this is because he wants me to call it. I probably won't. Gingerly, as he leaves, I unfold it and it has but one name.
And I wonder, errantly, if he doesn't belong here, either.