It had been at that greasy pizza place near Fort Lee, alight in fluorescent opulence, where she last saw Liam. Outside that pocket of majesty, the world was still and dark. Sylvia had sat alone, spinning strands of cheese around her fingers before biting the gobs off.
He was spray-cleaning the front of the counter glass. There was comfort in the silence between them. The spritzing and squeaking, the cheese twirling — this was a language they spoke instead.
“You want another soda or something?” he finally asked.
“Ohhh, whatever I want? Aren’t I just a princess.”
“Yeah, my soda fountain princess.” He snatched the styrofoam cup from her table, grinning that toothy smile. His canines made him look vampirish. At summer camp, one story went, the girls had chased after him and called him Edward. Promise me you’ll never do that. “Oh god no,” she’d said.
He filled her cup. “Two parts regular, one part cherry.”
Their eyes had lingered, until she looked away. She hadn’t told him she was planning to leave. She hadn’t told him why, because she didn’t like to lie and didn’t know the truth herself. She didn’t think he’d care, anyway.
Like her other memories, this one had become a specter. And like the others, it lingered over the stillness in her lonely room, there in the new city. This was a stillness without the comforting languages of spritz, twirl, and soda fountains. As she sat on her bedroom floor, her finger hovering over the Send button, she blinked. She battled. Finally, Sylvia jumped up, slipped on her shoes, and went to find a drink.
Down on the city streets, college girls clumped around the local sports celebrities. Twangy music flooded around their boots, washed over their perky blonde curls. So shiny, they glistened. Sylvia walked the other way as quickly as possible.
There was nothing uplifting to be found at the bottom of her first glass. Or her second. She found the same was true about the third. Somewhere in the fourth she found her thumb hovering again. She stared. She resisted. She dialed.
Featured image adapted from photography by Nestor Ferraro.