What it feels like
Tom McAllister

Here's what it feels like when you're at the bar and you meet your ex-wife's boyfriend, who's wittier and handsomer than you, and your ex's relentless grin makes her look ten years younger: you're not angry as you'd expect, but you're exhausted, suddenly bombarded by the emotions you've been drowning for months in bourbon, and you remember she's not a hateful shrew but a smart, charming woman, at least when she's happy, so maybe you were the problem all along. Here's how you respond when she says you look good, which everyone knows is a lie, because you've gained at least twenty pounds and every time you look in the mirror all you see is your sneering grandfather, with his splotchy cheeks and his downcast eyes: you say you look great. Here's how you handle it when the boyfriend tries to crush all the delicate bones in your hands, and says nice to meet you, pal: even though you'd like to tell him you're not his pal and nobody has called you that since your grandfather, who only called you pal when he needed something from you, what you do instead is you say nice to meet you too, but you keep one hand behind your back, fingers crossed, while casting some sort of voodoo curse on him, hoping his skin will melt off or maybe in the morning when he wakes up, he'll find his arms have been replaced by oars, his feet fused together like a merman's, his mouth filled with bees. Here's what you do when they leave the bar without you: you trail them back to your old home and watch from the street as the light in the bedroom window flickers on, then off, as if winking at you.