I met Justine on Tinder when I was in Nice. It didn’t take us long to work out a date, and when we met, I knew we were going to fuck. I think she did too.

She had nice legs and a French accent that complemented her mouth when she spoke. Her body was arousing enough to always get me hard, but not enough to make me very giving in sex. I was still selfishly fucking for my own pleasure, akin to masturbation. When I would tell myself I’d try to please, our sex would wane out, undone, and that made me think of how easy it was with Maria. For two and a half weeks I’d have to get drunk with Justine every night so I wouldn’t think of Maria, but I thought about Maria anyway.

When I came back home, I was glad that it was over. Justine made those two and a half weeks in France longer than they should have been by being a perfectly unnoticeable and modest companion. She was boring. While there, I thought that being with her is better than being alone. I always hated eating alone. Waking up was difficult and pointless without anyone there, next to me, who would breathe at me to remind me that I had to get up and brush my teeth.

But as soon as I came back home, I realised that being with Justine was painful. It was a slowly acquired pain that worked its way up, like a sore back, then stayed, persistent and stubborn. An unimpressive, forgettable pain. I hated it so much because it was so plain.

Then, just yesterday, she texted me. She didn’t ask anything but said that she is coming. She said she missed me and that she couldn’t wait to see me, but the pain had not yet let go of me. I had to get a drink. I called a buddy of mine who used to work as a journalist and could drink like no one else I’ve ever met. I said, “Jacek, buddy, let’s get a drink, I’m thirsty.” And he didn’t hesitate. We met at a bar where pretty girls would come, I don’t know why, but I knew I drank better with pretty girls around me. We took a bottle of gin knowing we weren’t gonna play around. We didn’t want the delay of having to ask the bartenders anything or get up from our chairs. We had two girls look at us the whole night because I had that pretty shirt on and Jacek was a pretty boy anyhow and knew how to smile. I drank faster. I told Jacek about Justine and he told me about a Cuban girl and we exchanged the best and kept the worst to ourselves. I didn’t mention Maria, but I thought about her.

We polished off the bottle and then some. In the taxi ride back home, I lay down on the backseat and promised the driver I wouldn’t puke. I said, “those years are behind me, old man! I drink expensive booze now, I don’t let it go to waste. Teenagers can afford to puke their guts out, they drink the way they love – mercilessly and carelessly. I am over that.” I staggered out somehow and stood upright in the elevator and had a conversation with myself in the mirror. I said to myself that tomorrow I will be happy. And tomorrow I’ll pick up Justine at the airport and fuck her good, for an hour. Then I burped gin and thought I was gonna die.

I felt sick to death and that made me prone to sleep. I always thought it involved some risk – going to sleep feeling like you’re about to die. I thought that one day I would just wake up dead. And it will all be over. I never did. I always woke up alive and feeling worse than death itself. I made some eggs with cream cheese thinking that would fix me up, but they didn’t sit well with me. I saw another text from Justine: “I land at 13:35. See you soon. Love J.” There it was again. A burp on the verge of vomit. It was a pretty close one, so I rushed the shower and forgot to brush my teeth and went to my car and to the airport.

It smelled strange, the terminal. I could have sworn that they had somehow done this on purpose. It smelled as if my mother came through and used my cologne as an air refresher. I walked to the arrivals gate and leaned against a pillar and blinked and blinked and blinked, until I thought I would see her and we could just go back home and sleep. The door slid open and closed again and again, and my vision began to get blurry. It looked like a prank where someone was messing with the door and just wouldn’t leave it open as they should. But then, suddenly, it opened and stayed that way. And many people started rushing through. I thought that she must be in the crowd so I tried to snap out of it and crack a smile.

From the crowd poured out a small red suitcase on four wheels. Then a pair of clumsy feet and a long blue coat. I looked up and saw her face, smiling like she used to, taking smaller and faster steps. She ran almost and started laughing, rushing into the arms of the man a couple feet from me. Maria. I grabbed the rim of the nearest trashcan and bellowed the whole previous night and today’s morning into it. It was louder than all the clamour of the terminal and everyone looked at me. As did she. With the look of ultimate disgust on her face, continuing to hold the man’s hands, she turned to leave. I lifted my head and said I was sorry. I was so sorry. She turned the man around with her and pulled him toward the exit. I heard him ask “who was that” and I couldn’t hear what she replied. I think that poor fella would never really know. I was the love of her life, for a time. God that sounds so stupid now.

I wiped my mouth and turned around. Justine was just passing through the sliding door. I couldn’t smile but I opened my arms. I gave her a big hug and hoped she would not insist on kissing. I was afraid that my vomit-stained breath would give her cold feet. We walked quietly to the carpark. “I missed you so much,” I said, as I held the car door handle. She smiled across the roof, oblivious. “I missed you too.” Ugh, that fucking pain.

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