Talking to a Bottle

An ice cube clinked against the glass. He poured some whiskey on it, screwed the cap back on the bottle and looked across the table. “What do you want to know?”

The other gave him a confused look. “That’s an odd way to begin a conversation.”

“This is your conversation. I just agreed to it, not to start it.”

The other shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “I just thought we should talk.”

He swirled the ice around for several seconds before taking a sip. The whiskey burned his throat; it was comforting. “I got that. You want to talk. But about what?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No. I don’t know what you want to talk about.”

“It’s been three months! You go to work, do what you have to, and nothing more. You never go out. You haven’t really talked to anyone. Your friends are worried about you.”

“Why are they worried?”

“Because you aren’t acting like yourself.”

“Who am I acting like?”

“I… I don’t know. A stranger?” Irritation came through just a bit. “You just seem to be lost, and we want to help you.”

He finished the glass in one big gulp and poured another. “So three months is the limit?”

“What do you mean?”

“Three months is how long I’m allowed to grieve before I have to be okay again? Or at least get help?”

“No… That’s not… We aren’t saying you shouldn’t grieve. But after three months, we are worried you are just cutting yourself off from everyone who cares.”

“Yeah. Okay.” More burn, more comfort. “But you don’t know what I’m feeling. You don’t know what it’s like to live through this.”

“That’s true. I don’t. Partly because I’ve never experienced it myself.” A long pause passed. “But it’s also partly because you won’t tell me.”

“What do you want me to say?”

“Anything! It doesn’t matter. Yell, cry, rant, share whatever you want. I’m not here to tell you how to feel. I’m just here to help share your burden, to listen, to do whatever. Just be here.”

Another sip. “I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to. Say whatever you want to. There’s no right or wrong.”

“So not saying anything is okay? Not talking to you is okay, right?”

“Dammit. You know that’s not what I meant.”

“Ah. So the only wrong response is not to have one? Got it.”

“Why do you do this?”

“Do what?”

“Use verbal sparring to push everyone away.”

“Is that what I’m doing?”

The other slammed his palm down. “Look, if you don’t want me here, just say so. I’m trying to help.”

He put the glass down; it was empty again. “I thought I had made that clear. I don’t want you here.”

“Fine. I’m your friend; I’m trying to be anyway.” The other stood up and walked to the door, turning around at the threshold. “If you change your mind, if you want to talk, you know how to reach me. You still have friends.”

The door clicked shut. He picked up the bottle to pour another glass. The ice cube had melted away completely, though. He stood, walked to the freezer, and took out another.

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