Lorraine arrived at the beach. She had come to the end of Denman Street. In the distance, the violence of the dying sun had left the waterline covered in purple scratches. The soil and grass around her had the earthy smell of beets. Lorraine passed the first Izakayan restaurant to check out the second one. The first one seemed better. It had soft electric blue light, and sharp black shadows along the walls. Lorraine waited at the bar, observing the people around her.
She had had vodka today.
She remembered vodka. Vodka was always my demon, she remembered. So fitting. Of everything to have slipped over the rails with.
Maybe gin would calm me, she thought. Get me thinking straight. Alexy calmed me down once with a green bottle of gin.
The bartender was away. A group of three young men were standing close to her, speaking sometimes English, sometimes Japanese. One of them splashing beer on the floor. One of them saying, “No one ever said feeling was easy.”
“To drink?” a voice cleaves the space behind Lorraine.
She turns to the man tending bar.
“Gin,” she says, “Top shelf. And tonic.”
“We have sake,” he said, “sake, beer and wine.”
Lorraine ordered sake.
“Of course,” Lorraine says.
She’d never tried it.
“We have a table ready,” a woman behind her observes. “Follow me and I’ll bring you your drink.”
Lorraine followed her to a small table near the corner. Minutes later the woman brought her the sake, a small candle in a green glass on the tray lighting the woman’s face.
She was the most beautiful person, thought Lorraine, as she moved the candle, in the green glass, and then the sake, from the tray, onto her table. Her face the creamy white of a freshly bitten pear. Her blue-black hair reflecting the green candle light. Her bangs an edge, a cleft, revealing and obscuring two eyes as black as ore. Obligingly she chose Lorraine’s courses. She brought a soup.
A clear broth with a floating egg.
Lorraine tasted the sake.
It tasted like vodka.
Lorraine looked toward the corner. There. Lorraine. There two blue eyes are staring.
Alexy was there. Alexy’s ghost was there.
Sitting there, staring. His hands folded in his lap.
Lorraine looked at Alexy. His head didn’t turn but he was staring now directly ahead.
She looked at him. She could see his left eye, so blue. Then again he was staring. His right eye shiny metal in the green candlelight.
A steely, thought Lorraine. A marble. Oozing chrome. And Lorraine looks now as he smiles, as the eye oozes out of Alexy. He waved. He waves again.
Lorraine stood up. She sat down. The waitress came over to her.
She asked Lorraine if she was all right.
Lorraine looked at her. “No,” she said, “I’m not all right.”
The girl took a step back, focusing on Lorraine. “Hold on,” she said. The girl left Lorraine and returned cradling a large bowl. “Drink,” she said. “Squid ink.”
Lorraine took the bowl with two hands and raised it to her lips. Her eyes were reflected in the liquid. Lorraine looked up at the girl. She tilted her head back and poured the fluid into her mouth. Lorraine couldn’t gulp it down fast enough and the black liquid flowed over the corners of her lips, and up into her nostrils. Lorraine put the bowl on the table, wiping her face off with her sweater. She looked at her sleeve, then up into the girl’s eyes. The liquid poured back out of her nose. The front of her sweater was covered with ink. Lorraine stares at the candle in the green glass and the candlelight.
The girl said, “It’s no cure.”
The flame flickers with Lorraine’s breath. “Then why did you give it to me?”
“I feel sorry for you,” the girl said, sitting. “But you need to learn. Nobody ever said feeling was easy.” She glanced toward the bar. “You’ve caused a scene. You have to go.” The girl stood and walked toward the bar.
Lorraine stood. She was covered in squid ink. She noticed one of the drunk young men had pointed at her. Everyone was staring at her.
Lorraine straightened her shoulders.
“Objectify me,” she said.
The people glanced away.
Lorraine stared at the girl. She pulled on her coat and tied its belt and began heading out of the restaurant, moving as slowly, as she felt, she possibly could.
Outside of the restaurant Lorraine stared back into the inside, pacing back and forth before the windows.
I need the girl to look at me once more, for strength, thought Lorraine. She kept pacing, and finally, the girl glanced at her, but only so very briefly. “That counts,” said Lorraine, and when she was sure the girl wasn’t going to look again she walked away.
A few blocks down Lorraine heard a siren. She jumped onto the curb and looked into a store window. A casual peruser, thought Lorraine. I am a window shopper.
The siren passes by her, and by the time Lorraine is casually turning around the siren is down the street.
She crosses streets without looking to see if anyone is coming.
Lorraine noticed she had started to tremble. She shoves her hands deep into coat pockets. She starts rubbing her fingers with her thumbs. Her teeth chattering violently. Her shoulders vibrating. I think I’m ill, thought Lorraine. With her thumb, she was feeling two rings on one finger. She turns the rings on her finger. This ring, this is the ring Alexy gave me while we were at the U.B.C. And this ring, this one was his grandmother’s.
Lorraine took her hands out of her pockets.
I am, I’m quite ill, she thinks. Lorraine stops at the curb.
Maybe at the next curb.
And she starts down the next street.
When Lorraine arrives at the corner before her hotel she stops.
Before her, across the street and half a block down two workers are standing along the hotel’s glass door.
To her left is a black street. A few sunken steps, far down that block, are bathed in a soft pink light. Another entrance, Lorraine thought. The entrance to the hotel bar. Lorraine couldn’t stop shivering. Her shoulders were beyond control and her whole body jerked sporadically. She looks down at the rings on her finger.
What do these mean?
Lorraine takes the first ring off of her finger and places it on her palm. Then she places her palms together and brings them to her lips. She breathes into them, and inhales with her nose. It smells warm and wet. Like metal. She takes the ring in her right hand, looks down into the dark street to her left, steps back, and throws the ring into the blackness away from the soft pink light.
The other ring is off and following.
Lorraine doesn’t hear if it landed.