‘You Don’t Need To Care To Drink’ by Carl Gercar

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The beer went past your table. It was deep enough to hide in, deep like the dimple where your collarbone meets your shoulder. You have these dimples all over your body and often don’t notice them. You are afraid to look over yourself too long in the mirror. You are afraid to look at yourself and see something you don’t like, or maybe you are afraid to see too much you do like. Maybe you are afraid to like yourself. Either way, you avoid mirrors when you get out of the shower. She spends plenty of time in front of them, and she doesn’t, and she sometimes does just to get her makeup right. You like girls without makeup. You like girls who look good, too. You like girls who like themselves and girls who are afraid of themselves. You like girls who remind you of you. You want these girls to like you.

That is why you are sitting across from her. You want to live sometimes. It’s worth it to try, at least, so you are here and she is here and oh look that man is drinking your beer. She is in front of you and talking. She is wearing too much makeup, and she’s wearing no makeup at all. She has on a dress and a flannel shirt and a flowing blouse. She has a big purse and a small purse and a backpack. She took a rideshare and caught a bus and biked here. She is beautiful and she is cute and she is very normal looking in an attractive way. You are wondering when the beer you ordered will get here. You remember ordering a beer. You should have ordered a beer before you got here, had it ready, been halfway done when she walked in the door or you walked in the door or both of you walked in together because you met outside. You are not good at planning these things out.

She is talking about herself a lot. You are thinking about your grandmother’s kitchen and how easy the air is to breathe when she is cooking and only barely aware of you. You are thinking about the elementary school therapist’s office and your doctor’s office and that one time you had a very sincere emotional discussion with your friend Pete doing psychedelic drugs on the train tracks just after midnight. You have goosebumps. They force the sweat to run in zig-zag patterns. This, you think, is how a bee flies. Bee-lines.

You ask a few questions but only because you are not very interested. You let her do the talking. The man has finished your beer. Your beer has yet to arrive. You are nervous. She is standing up. She is going to the bathroom and she is fixing her makeup and she is climbing out of the bathroom window. You are boring and you are strange and you are frightening. You want to say something as she stands and collects herself. You don’t say anything. You are a coward. You are thinking about your bedroom at your father’s house. You are thinking about being afraid. You are thinking about beer. You are thinking about beer. You are thinking a lot about beer.

She does not come back. It has been two minutes and it has been fifteen minutes and it has been half an hour. You get up and walk out of the restaurant. You did not get your beer. You put on nice pants and a clean shirt and combed your hair and cared about yourself, and you never even got your beer. You watched some other man, who probably does this all the time, who probably cares a lot about himself, drink your beer. You wonder if she would have liked you more with that beer. You wonder if you would have liked her at all.

You are walking and you ride the train and you are bus-hopping. You don’t know where you’re headed. You pass a bar. It doesn’t look great. You go inside. There are lots of people, but very little conversation. Everyone has a beer. No one is looking at you. No one cares about you. You order a beer. You get your beer. She will not call you back. You drink your beer. It’s easier this way.

Carl Luther Gercar is a Chicago-based writer, born and raised in Illinois. His work has appeared in Fluland, Occulum, A Void, Here Comes Everyone, and Soft Cartel. Carl is reachable via email at clgercar@gmail.com

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