“Are you seeing anyone?”

“Of course not.”

“That’s surprising.”

“Is it?”

I was being cute. I could convincingly fake sincerity, so he wasn’t any wiser. I wouldn’t have ordered that second drink if I was seeing someone. I looked down into the glass of bourbon before me, wishing that he would just get this without me having to explain.

But then I hoped that no one would ever really understand me now.

“You seem like you should always have someone.”

I wish he was using the word “have” more meaningfully than he actually was in that moment. If only he knew what I had.

“They do come out of the woodwork, it’s true.”

Smirk and side eye. My favorite tricks.

I’m not even pretending to be cute anymore. I didn’t have to. The booze was warming me from the top down. The warmth had dripped down the length of my esophagus, now mingling with the acid in my guts.

I shouldn’t be drinking.

I also knew what he was really asking. Men are always working up to ask the exact same question.

“I’ve got my little black book. But I’m more interested in power than in love.”

“Are they mutually exclusive?”

“In my conception, yes.”

“What is your conception?”

“That love is a surrender.”

“So it’s a game?”

“It’s a civil war.”

Dead eyes and red lipstick illustrate perfect foreplay in many contexts. And those were the only contexts I found myself in these days. Hotel bars with close to off duty bartenders only hired for their looks. Truly I preferred the clean break of a dry martini but these gentleman didn’t know how to make them. Nothing kills lady wood like having to explain how to make a proper drink.

“Shaken or stirred?” is almost as shitty a question as “vodka or gin”?

These contexts were altogether disappointing. But I couldn’t go home after what I’d done. Hotel bars always feel the same if you know how to pick them, no matter which city you end up in.

I could make a home out of sameness, I thought. At least for now.

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