_ is for ________

I was in a bar the other night. Someone had written on the mirror over the sink in bright red lipstick, “There was a HOLE here. It’s gone now.” I read the message, sniffed in disinterest, washed my hands, and moved on with my life.

Or at least I thought I did, but ten minutes later, I was sitting with my friends and nursing a beer. They laughed about some joke I wasn’t paying attention to, my mind instead focused like a laser on that stupid little bit of graffiti. It’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder.

What kind of HOLE were we talking about? I supposed it could just be some kind of clever way of saying, “So and So is a HUGE slut,” or something like that. A crude joke, in the same vein as the greats about sitting and broken hearts and so on. But there was no cadence to it, no malice. Just a simple, sincere proclamation of things that once were but no longer are.

My friends laughed at something else, but I didn’t hear them. I stared into the black depths of my beer. There was a HOLE there, but it’s gone now. Something or someone left an absence, a void, and then even that disappeared. A story with a decent enough ending that isn’t the one you remember. A picture with your face in it, but you can’t shake the feeling some detail is missing. A stillness in the air because the mouth that once spoke is gone. There were memories, but they vanished, and the HOLE they left behind was filled in by something soft and wet and wholly inadequate to the job.

I finished my beer and went back into the bathroom, did what I had to, and washed my hands. And then I just stood there and stared into the mirror, my empty eyes meeting my own, the writing on the mirror bright and red and impossible to miss against my own pallid complexion.


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