HOW IS SHE?

I sit at the rooftop bar, on a stool, with one foot dangling aimlessly. It’s cold and breezy, but my whisky on the rocks is keeping me warm as I wait. It’s been 11 years since I last saw him. And is it any wonder we chose to meet at this spot? Our favourite joint, back in the days; when we were close. It’s been so long that now, Tune Hotel, has a rooftop bar section.

I sip my smoky Jack Daniel’s whisky in deep thought.

I wonder what to say to him when I finally see him. The WhatsApp messages have sufficed it for the last few weeks we’ve been chatting. Never have I cared to hear him speak. Neither has he. Or maybe we are both afraid to say a word to each other.

He’s back in the country.

I sip.

I wonder how he looks now, in person.

Another sip.

Am I still an inch taller than him? Before I can sip, I feel a warm hand slowly perch on my shoulder. He’s here.

‘Hey?’ he says.

I stand up to hug him. A smile tries curving on my face but I refrain it. His beard looks more untamed than it did on the profile picture. But I couldn’t stare too long at that picture, he wasn’t alone, his family was in it.

‘Hey wassup?’ I say, firmly gripping and patting him on the back.

We sit down facing each other. I hold my glass, ready to quaff it clean, the emotions are getting the best of me. He looks at the short glass placed before him and asks, ‘Is this mine?’

‘Yes, I ordered in advance.’ I say. My hands are slightly trembling.

‘Thanks, but no thanks. I stopped taking alcohol five years ago.’ He pushes it my way, maybe realizing that I need it more. Him, always the composed one, while I, remain the complete wreck.

I quaff his glass clean.

‘Easy Alex, I hope you’re not driving home, are you?’ he says, ransacking his right pocket for something.

I ignore his question and raise my hand, signaling the waitress for another round. I knew this would happen. The moment I saw him, I’d lose my cool and act stupid. Like I always did as kids. Shit I never outlearn. He seems to have always had a head start over me, Steve.

He learned how to ride his bike before me. Was better in the field as a striker, before me. He had his way with the girls, before me…shit, thinking about it sucks already. Why me?

He draws a packet of Dunhill cigarettes on his hand plus a lighter. I’m shocked, I guess, but hey, lots of things happen to people in 11 years. Like the bad overgrown beard and smoking. And, who knows what else?

‘Did you start smoking five years ago as well?’ I ask sarcastically.

‘Haha.’ A forced laugh from him. It’s only at the sound of his laugh that I establish he’s as tongue tied as I am. The awkwardness between us drumming its beats relentlessly.

He lights his cigarette and takes a long puff. Then a long pause. Then releases the smoke into the air with his chin  raised to the sky. He looks me squarely in the eye and I shift my gaze away immediately. I wish I didn’t do that (aggrh!). Now I just gave my insecurity away.

Years of separation has healed me a good one, though not done yet. I remember I swore to never ever talk to him again. But here we are. Time does heal people after all. He takes another puff. I gain confidence and look at him in the eyes.

‘Where do we start?’ I ask.

The waitress places two glasses on the table, serving as a needed pause-cue in the conversation. When she turns to leave, I hear Steve respond back, ‘how are you Alex?’

‘Fine.’ I gabble.

‘You know you have the right to not meet up with me, but I’m glad you reached out.’ He says.

I want to tell him that the only reason I “reached out” is because I felt I needed closure. After eleven years, I still can’t get over the fact that my own twin brother stole my girlfriend from me, and married her. And ever since, I haven’t found anyone else to love me like she did. I’ve felt so hollow and it sucks. But I’ve hurt so much that there is nothing else left to bleed, I only need to forgive him and tell him I have completely let it go.

I hear myself ask him, ‘how…how…is she?’

Angela. (I still remember the smell of her perfume. The feel, of her long black natural hair. Her angelic smile, laugh and contagious sense of humor. The touch of her body still lives within me. No matter how hard I try to erase it. Angela, was my undoing. But I wasn’t good enough for her, Steve was. And she’ll always be, ‘My Forever Cry.’ The one that got away.)

Steve’s voice echoes in a different tone. ‘She is fine.’ Then he comments about the evident change in the bar.  He’s wise to change the topic. I wish he told me more but then again, I’m letting it go. We sit in silence, communicating without words. The view of the city is scenic, I hope he sees that from all that staring into the distance.

At one point, I tell him, ‘Steve, I forgive you.’

He looks at me, rather guilty and says, ‘thanks Alex.’

After all, he’s still my brother.

 

PS: I think I’ve finally found a way to ensure the two posts a week are up every Tuesday and Thursday at 11:00am latest, without fail. Cross your fingers for me. I’m sorry this one came in a day later. Hope it was worth the wait. Love you Amigos.

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