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Still Something | A Short Story

“Still Something by Suriel Hess” is playing in the background of The Tap Room. She takes a look at the clock and quickly takes another sip of her drink, trying to distract herself from the fact that she glimpsed rapidly so it seemed like she didn’t actually intend to look at the time. The time was too late, that’s all. Too late at night and too late to be fixed. She knew this, yet she was trying hard to not embrace the fact that she was being stood up. No one wants to accept that, except this was not expected at all. You usually start to see the signs, there is that warmth that slowly builds up and lets you know something changed, something has shifted. It’s suddenly so hot that it feels cold and empty and dark.

She takes another look at the clock and she feels drunk. Not drunk on alcohol, but drunk on a flashing, pulsing unknown feeling. Regret? No, too simple. Ashamed? A sprinkle of that, for sure. Disappointed? Nah, stronger than that. Heartbroken? What a fucking cliché. Still, a cliché sometimes seems to be the only right way to describe a situation. It’s layered, though, and heartbreak is the tip of the ice berg. This moment is melting that ice berg and is slowly revealing the sensations underneath. She starts to get extremely uncomfortable, out of breath even.

The bartender walks over and asks her a question. The ice keeps melting, choking her with held-back tears and bitter memories. She sees “Mike” on the bartender’s uniform and asks him what the question was. Mike responds they are closing in 15 minutes. She nods silently, trying hard to focus on what she is supposed to do with that information, it didn’t make sense for some reason.

She gazes across the room to the door one more time, not expecting anything to change but deeply hoping it would. Did she do anything wrong? Did she fuck this up? Did she say too much? Did she ask too many questions too fast? Did she go too intense and seem clingy?

Mike walks over and she starts to get up, looking for her wallet. “I’m leaving, don’t worry” she mumbles. “It’s alright, I feel like you could use a drink on the house” Mike says. She has nowhere to go, so she accepts. Mike doesn’t stay to chat, he just pours the drink and leaves her to her infinite thoughts and an uprising anxiety she knows will last for days, probably weeks. This drink tastes of confusion mixed with worry. Was this supposed to be the moment she tells herself she needs no man in her life? Independence and empowerment don’t seem like the right company right now, so she lets them go. Instead, she welcomes second-guessing and sourness.

She heads to the bathroom and looks at herself in the mirror. The girl staring back is not the image she was expecting. Who is she? That’s impossible because she is sure this is a mirror, not a frame. She simply does not know who the girl in the reflection is. Again, who the fuck is she? “Still Something” starts playing again through the speakers. Why won’t they turn off that stupid song? It’s a weird choice for a bar anyway. It doesn’t really matter though. This girl staring across the mirror is lost, 5 years old, and heartbroken. Deeply heartbroken because the world has already shown her how cruel it can get. She now knows what the game is like and she is terrified.

Maybe it was silly from the beginning. Maybe it was too much of a long shot. After all, it had been 21 years since the last time she saw her father and she didn’t even remember very clearly, she was so little. When she reached out after tracking him for years, she had really fantasized about this moment. Was it stupid? Was she stupid? These clichés are piling up now, with this little girl in that dirty mirror, drenched in daddy issues and the weight of a world that kept trying to crush her and turn her into dust.

As she walked back to the bar to thank Mike for the drink, she looked at the clock one last time. Mike noticed and asked her if she was okay. She didn’t really know how to reply, so she just worked up a smile, but a couple of tears snuck out and erased that tiny smile. “Do you have any idea how many people walk in here with some story? How many women walk in crying, calling their moms and telling them about how much their day sucked? How many guys sit in these chairs with rings they either never gave out, got returned, or couldn’t afford? Being a bartender, I swear I have more stories than a therapist. You know what they all have in common though?” She had no response for Mike’s question, but she shook her head, waiting for his answer. “They all keep looking at that damn clock. It’s as if we are always waiting for time to fix our problems and tell us what we need to do. Time won’t tell us who we are.” Ouch, that one hurt. So she was a cliché after all, huh?

"Whatever you realized in that bathroom, whatever you saw in that mirror is your next move. Not whatever you were hoping that clock would bring.” This fucking Mike sure knew a couple of things. She slowly smiled, half-laughing, half-crying and thanked him. Mike returned to the back of the bar, putting some boxes away. She took the last sip of her drink, thinking that maybe what she felt towards her absent father may not be love, but it was still something. And feeling is good, even if it hurts sometimes.

Mike kept loading boxes as she walked towards the door, not looking at the clock. “Have a great night. What’s your name again?” She cleared her throat and said, “Mila.”


Rodrigo Manzanera
Rodrigo Manzanera



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