I sat at the bar peeling the label off the beer bottle in between my hands. I didn’t want to think so I focused on the task in front of me. The trick was to let the bottle sit about fifteen minutes and as the liquid warmed inside the cold glass, a sheen of liquid formed on the bottle, softening the paper enough to peel it away in a sheet – if you were deft enough. It was a game we played in college and I usually won. I wasn’t having much luck tonight; my focus being pulled elsewhere. I struggled to lose myself in the moment and not let his words haunt me.
Feeling a warmth next to me, I saw him out of the corner of my eye but made no move to acknowledge him, just continued to peel at my bottle. His arm raised and the bartender placed a bottle identical to mine in front of him. His fingers immediately began to pick at the label. I rolled my eyes even though I knew he couldn’t see them. “You have to let it sit a while. It’ll never come off in one piece if you start right away.” His fingers stopped and he lifted the bottle to his lips and drank. Nodding to the four labels stuck to the bar in front of me he asked, “How long have you been here?” I shrugged my shoulders but didn’t say anything. We sat in a long silence, him slowly drinking his beer, me slowly peeling back the label from my bottle.
When I got the last edge free I slapped it on the bar and downed the remaining liquid in one long swallow then motioned for the bartender. He shooed the man away. “I think you’ve had enough.” Turning on my stool I finally looked at him. “I thought I made it clear. You don’t get to make decisions for me.” I hopped off the stool and turned to go but the five beers had taken their toll and my brain was a little too fuzzy to react quickly enough. He caught me before I fell flat on my face. “I think I should get you home.” I glared at him. “You mean the home we made together that you’re abandoning? The home you decided to leave without even talking to me first? The home I’m supposed to walk away from to follow you and your dreams and just abandon mine? That home?” He sighed and put his arm around my waist as he led me out the door of the bar. It was obvious this discussion was far from over.