I’m sorry. Her long, black hair blew past her face, framing the crevices of her cheekbones. Tearstains lined the edges of her lips. I wasn’t alright. I’m not alright.
Jack Daniels whiskey. Holding the glass between bruised fingers and swirling twice before taking a sip, I feel the liquid burn my throat as it takes me towards sweet abyss. The bartender turns to offer me more. I nod.
“What brings you to Hong Kong?” He hands me another glass.
“A girlfriend,” I reply.
“A girl, huh?” The man chuckles, wiping a glass. “Must’ve been a long flight for a guy like you. You look completely ragged.”
“I’m alright,” I shrug.
“Was she expecting you?”
“Yes,” I reply. “She was.”
Roses. So many I could barely hold them in my hands, not properly shaven of their thorns and poking at my skin until it bled. My palms were scratched and scarred, aching for female touch. But I was so happy, so excited to finally see her. I could only think about the hugs and the kisses and all of the I miss yous and I love yous.
“Why is your girlfriend in Hong Kong?” “She came to live with her sister.” “Then why is her sister in Hong Kong?” “
She works for some British firm that moved her out to Asia.” “
And your girlfriend didn’t want to live on her own?”
“More like she just wanted to get out of the country.”
January 2009. It was the coldest winter we had ever experienced, and that was the winter I met her. Standing in front of a department store, thinking of gifts for my father’s 50th birthday, I turned to see a frail woman in her twenties. She wore a coat a size too big and her hair only grew past the curves of her shoulders. She was holding a shopping bag to her chest, cradling it like a child. That January I told her that she was very pretty. She told me that we should stay friends. I said yes, of course. I wasn’t hitting on you anyway.
“Well, what’s so bad about your country?”
“People aren’t kind.”
“Your girlfriend didn’t like that?”
“She hated it. She could only stand nice people.”
“I wouldn’t say people in Hong Kong are the nicest.”
“Oh, they’re much better here. Much, much better.”
Marco’s Diner off Third Street was a hole in the wall mostly frequented by locals who enjoyed late night eats. I took her there on our first date. We went to Marco’s again on our second anniversary, and ordered her favorite Portobello mushroom burger. She could barely finish half of it, nibbling on the edges and setting it down with trembling fingers. Then we settled the bill and stood to leave. She bumped into someone, almost knocking him over from the force. Move out of the way, the man bellowed, before muttering under his breath about Chinese women and how clumsy they all are. She bowed in apology before shuffling out the door. Hurt and angered swelled within.
“You should bring your girlfriend here.”
“We’re nice people. She’ll be able to stand us.”
“I suppose she would.”
My apartment. She stayed with me some nights, but she never liked the way I lived. I was messy. In the midst of bickering about how I should clean my apartment more, she announced she was leaving for Hong Kong the next week. I offered to go with her. She shook her head no. She needed time and space. From here, she said. From this place.
“How long have you been apart?”
“About three months.”
“That’s quite a while.”
“Is she going to stay here for good?”
“Yes. For good.”
The drive to the airport. I reached over to take her hand, but she pulled away. She told me not to miss her too much, that she would call once in a while. When we arrived at the airport I moved in to kiss her but she turned around, dragging her suitcase behind her. Then she turned around with a look of uncertainty in her eyes. It would be the last time I saw her in months. She called me sometimes, but never as much as I thought she would.
“And now what?
I take a sip of whiskey.
“Now… we broke up.”
Silence. I feel his eyes on me, uncertain to push for more. His gaze burns my skin, settles into my bones, engulfs my broken heart.
“We broke up, and then I left her. And now I’m here.”
I close my eyes. I’m drunk. I’m most definitely drunk.
“Okay. You broke up. But why leave?”
I open my eyes. “
It’s the last thing I can do for her.”
Her sister’s apartment in Hong Kong. Roses between my fingers, my heart on my sleeve. I told her I loved her, I missed her, and she let me inside. Pouring me a cup of coffee, settling the roses down on the countertop, she asked how I was doing. I told her I was fine. I asked if she liked Hong Kong, if she got what she wanted. If she found herself. I felt myself sweating, because she was so quiet. Before I could tell her again that I loved her, she turned around with the saddest eyes. And I knew it was over.
I’m sorry. She was dressed in white, reminiscent of a ghost who will haunt me forever. I’m not alright.