On Edge

I can’t remember but I think she was already there when we sat down.

She sat to the right of me, at her own table, on edge.

Perhaps it was the make-up. The lipstick, the thick mascara. Or her wide-eyed look, dazzled by headlights, or confused by overpowering brilliance when she opened her curtains that morning.

A white shirt. A black suit. Huge rings, one of a flower, and blonde hair tied to the side with a clip.

She ordered a vodka with coke, and a pizza, ‘I’ll have it if it tastes nice.’

Abrupt. A show of authority.

But really she was anxious.

Her eyes, a birds, scooted here and there. To other people sat at other tables. To me.

And towards her phone.

She laughed loudly, conspicuously.

Her pizza came.

But that wasn’t enough. ‘I need something else.’

And ordered another vodka, dough balls, and chocolate fudge cake with ice cream.

She knocked it all back, speaking on her phone, ‘Have you got any work at the moment… umm… u-huh… I can do most days apart from Tuesday evenings.’

Another text sent her laughing, up from her table and circling round her chair.

Then a woman asked her, ‘Are you alright? I thought you were crying.’

‘I’m having the worst day ever – I’m about to lose my job and I’m breaking up with this guy I’ve been seeing for a long while – I’m going to have to move out. I moved up from London for this job. Boss told me I have until Friday to get my act together or I haven’t got a job – that’s hardly an incentive is it?’

‘How old are you?’ the other woman asked.

‘Twenty-five.’

I thought as much. Her energy fractured, ungrounded, reminded me a little of myself at her age.

Then came a litany of shits about her life.

So wrapped up in herself, she didn’t notice the five year old sat opposite me.