The cold whips around my body as I stand outside on the pavement. Cars move past me down the main, busy road and shallow puddles reflect bright white light from their headlights. I hear the occasional sound of cars beeping, typical chaotic traffic in Auckland, although I don’t know if this is directed at me or each other to alert driving mistakes on the road.
I push my long dark hair out of my face and continue walking. I’m wearing my favourite pair of ankle boots with a solid three inch heel on them, and I can’t help but listen to them clunking along the concrete pavement beneath me. Despite the nerves racing through my body and my heart beating so fast it may possibly fall out of my chest, I feel quite confident. But that doesn’t mean that I know what will happen because I honestly don’t have a clue.
I take my time walking down the blocks before I get there. I watch people spill out of restaurants and bars before me, laughing and stumbling over to waiting taxis on the other side of the busy road. And of course I smell smoke. They’re sitting outside, leaning back in wooden chairs while they swig on their typical Friday night beer. I make a deliberate attempt to breathe through my mouth, not wanting the smell to make me feel nauseous.
Butterflies circle my stomach in constant movements, never once slowing down or stopping completely. The anxiousness mixed with nervous excitement that I feel is enough to make my stomach ache, but I try and ignore it for what’s worth.
I cross the last road and finally I’m on the right block. I’m quickly approaching the burger place near the middle and my stomach begins to do flips as the ache worsens. Suddenly my legs feel like they’re going to give away but I force them to keep taking one step in front of the other, forcing myself onwards so that I can do this. I need to do this; it’s all I’ve been thinking about for the last week and I remind myself of why it’s important.
I stand in front of the bar. The bright fairy lights twinkle in the contrasting night sky and flick back and forth slightly in the light breeze. Looking to my left, I see the wooden front door is closed which is surprising for a popular Friday night. Then again, it’s probably because the temperature has dropped so suddenly with the arrival of winter. I try to suppress a shiver as a brisk wind whips past me, causing the tiny hairs on my arms to stand up in protest.
I inch closer and bring myself closer to the large window looking onto the street. I can see inside clearly due to the bright lights. Since it’s much darker outside, I know that I’m not as visible to anyone inside looking out which makes me feel quite relieved.
I see him standing behind the bar, talking to some of the customers on the other side perched on wooden barstools. He’s deep in conversation, leaning over with his face resting in the palm of his hand. He nods at the customer as they talk and begins to smile. For some reason, just seeing him smile is enough to make me pause in my steps and hang back a little bit longer. He looks happy…but for how much longer?
I take a deep breath and after a few minutes of stalling, find the courage to move closer. The wooden door is heavier than it looks and I find myself having to put more of my light weight on it just to get it open. It creaks, alerting everyone than someone’s just arrived and I grimace internally. So much for a subtle entrance, right?
I feel several pairs of eyes on me. Every single one of the customers perched on barstools are glancing over their shoulders, hands still resting on their full drinks. They stare and for a second I feel awkward. I want to turn around and run out of there, never looking back, but I fight the urge as hard as I possibly can. I’m here now and there’s no turning back. Everyone has seen me…and I mean everyone.
My eyes flick across from the staring customers to the person behind the bar. He’s staring back at me, but instead of being visibly consumed with anger and rage, he actually just looks surprised and caught off guard. He doesn’t move for a second, trying to process that it’s me and I’m actually there, right in front of him, in the flesh after all this time and so many years of not seeing each other in person.
I move away from the door and closer towards the bar, suddenly unable to feel anything inside. The butterflies have stopped circling and the ache has disappeared. I assume it’s because the suspense is finally over now that I’ve actually done this. The bench that separate us is higher than I remember and only my head and shoulders are visible above it, despite being in heels. I assume it was made with taller people in mind, not those at only five foot three inches…not surprising really.
He says my name and asks me what I’m doing there. I tell him that I came to talk to him, which he can’t really be surprised about after how he chose to leave things between us. He tells me that he can’t (or won’t) talk about it while he’s working. I tell him that I’m happy to wait until he’s on his break, knowing he was going to say that to try and get out of giving me a much owned explanation. All I know is that this is what I came for and I’m not leaving here without one.
Lucy Rebecca x