Death walks into the bar, and even though I don't see her right away, I know she's there as a quiet hush settles over the room's crowded contents. Glasses and silverware stop clinking for a fraction of a second. Speaking suspends. It is the most brief moment, and yet, in that tiny collection of seconds, the room holds its breath.
And then time creaks on again as though it never once wavered, and her electric blue eyes meet mine over my already-drained glass of deep red wine.
I blink my eyes and she's sitting next to me, laying a hand full of red-enamled nails on the sleeve of my nicely-pressed black shirt. My skin retreats from her touch in tiny waves -- it is a tingle of disgust mixed with an inkling of excitement that has always disturbed me. And even though the bar's patrons can't see us - couldn't see us, even if we were seated on the bar counter itself - I have the urge to hide underneath the polished wooden table. Just being here, sitting beside her while her hand rests itself on my sleeve makes me feel tainted.
"I still don't understand all this," she says, waving her hand in a sweeping gesture around the dim room, cigarette smoke clinging to the ceiling. She lights a cigarette of her own, and this is something that I've never understood. But she's tricky and she's moody, and so I keep my mouth shut.
Her cherry-red lips pout around the cigarette's white stalk. She blows circles of smoke up to the ceiling, where they mesh into the rest of the fog.
She raises one perfectly-shaped eyebrow toward the ceiling. She has always resented me, always cringed at the fact that I like to meet in crowded rooms or nice resturants or night clubs where people play guitar and soft chords cover me like a blanket on a cold day. She hates it. And yet she has to come, has to let me call the shots.
Without me, she'd be out of a job.
I let my green eyes mingle with her blue ones for a fraction of a second. A fraction of a second seems to be all I can handle in one helping.
"Look, Life," she says, finally relinquishing her grasp on my shirt, and I can breathe again. "What do you say we call this whole thing off, eh?" She holds her two perfect, white hands out in front of her like a peace offering. "Truce?"
I blink, and my glass is once again replenished, wine flowing into this hemisphere of thin glass on a stem. It's all so superfluous. She smokes cigarettes, I drink wine. We meet in bars. We meet on streetcorners and in hospitals and at traffic accidents. She likes to play it off as though it's happenstance. But if I know one thing, it's that nothing - not a single thing that happens as we travel down this wide ribbon of eternity - is happenstance.
And nothing is what I say as we sit together in the back corner booth of a bar whose name I have forgotten. I can tell that she is looking at me with flames in her eyes, but I hold my silence, and it is silence that infuriates her the most.
She gets up huffily, her long, flowing red dress trailing behind her like a loyal pet. On her way to the door, she flings a slender finger at a middle-aged gentleman sitting on a black barstool. He makes a choking sound, clutches a hand around his throat, slides to the floor.
No one sees a beautiful woman with violet-blue eyes and black hair slam the door so hard the entire building seems to shake. And no one sees me sitting in the corner, watching as emergency medical personel are called in, knowing that it won't make an ounce of difference.
I close my eyes and concentrate.
For the briefest of moments, the clamour inside the bar seems to suspend itself. It's a fraction of a fraction of a second. And then time crashes on, screeches on. The man sits up from where he has fallen, eyes wide. He breathes.
Life crashes on. Movement continues.
I allow myself a wry smile.
I blink. And then I , too, am gone.