A smug grin spreads across Alexandra's face as the 7-ball glides smoothly into the side pocket. She's up three on me now. Good thing I don't have my glasses with me; impaired eyesight is a convenient excuse for sucking at pool. She glides slowly around the table, prowling for her next shot, then ducks her head and stares down the shaft of the cue like a big game hunter sealing the fate of some poor lion.
A soft curse escapes her lips as the 5 careens off the bumper opposite her and comes to rest in the middle of the table. Alexandra snorts and intones, "think you can shoot better, cowboy?" before handing the cue off to me. She has to angle her arm up a little to do so; she stands a few inches shorter than me, maybe five and a half feet without the aid of shoes. As a gentlemanly courtesy, I have also foregone footwear. Or it could be that the bouncers took our shoes at the door. Let's go with that first one.
Alexandra seems incapable of smiling with both sides of her face, so any expression of enjoyment comes out as a smirk. Punk chicks are like that; let it be known that she indulged in a single moment of honest delight and she'd have to surrender her badass card. Though she's left her leather at home for this particular outing, she retains a silver ring through the septum of her nose. Instead of blue jeans, she's sporting a pair of elastic sweatpants and a blue shirt with UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO emblazoned on it. I'm in similar getup. We're not exactly dressed to the nines, but I don't own a lot of pants that can hold themselves up without a belt, another convenience I was divested of at the door.
Alexandra is cute. I like her. I want to lean over a table and ask stupid get-to-know-you questions, then have a laugh over how where you went to high school doesn't tell you anything about a person, and proceed to ask her what her favorite Star Wars character is. But there is a reason this can't be. Let me explain.
There is no ambient cloud of smoke around the billiards table. No beers in our hands, no Saturday-night chatter and no local rock station in the background. The only sounds aside from the clack of billiard balls and banter is a television tuned to some game show, watched idly by a middle-aged woman with frizzy gray hair from an uncomfortable chair. It is broad daylight outside. This is not a typical night bar-hopping. We are not at a pool hall. We are in the psychiatric ward of Boulder Medical Center.
The situation that landed me here, ironically, sounds a lot like a typical night of drinking for a college student. I'm sitting down with a bottle in each hand. The bottle in my left hand is half-full of whiskey, the other half a casualty of a party the previous weekend. The bottle in my right hand contains sleeping pills. I had a convenient story ready in case one of my roommates walked by. Had a headache, hadn't been sleeping well lately, perfectly reasonable, rational, typical-sounding bullshit. The truth was, I had both of these bottles in hand because it was Thursday night and I wasn't sure I wanted to see Friday. Luckily, bravery isn't my cardinal virtue, and before I could work up the balls to do something stupid I had put down both bottles and picked up the phone to make a call I should have made weeks before.
It is now Sunday. About an hour after Alexandra and I finish our pool game, she stalks up behind me as I'm reading. The first thing I see is her feet, so the first thing I notice is that she has shoes on. This can only mean one thing. As I lift my gaze to take in her whole frame, I note the gym bag at her side, which only confirms my suspicions: she is checking out. I stand up to face her, now only about and inch and a half taller than her, and I can feel a frown come to my face unbidden. "You know," she tells me "we go for the same stuff. We should hang out someplace more normal." As she tells me this, she extends her right hand, which holds a slip of paper. I take the paper, certifiably confused. Hey, when it comes to womenfolk, I'm denser than lead. She turns and saunters out the door, stopping once to give me that lopsided grin.
I wish this story had a romantic ending, something about two broken halves making a perfect whole or some crap. But I threw the number away. I liked the girl, don't get me wrong. I'm a sucker for that do-I-care air. But a rational, clear-thinking part of me knew that if I was in a psych ward to begin with, I didn't even know how to take care of myself; how could I ever provide love and support for somebody else who needed it just as bad as me? It would be like somebody with a broken leg helping a paraplegic cross the street. So while my heart told me I had the same mission as always ("find true love!" or some bullshit), my brain told me I had a new one, one that took precedence: get better.
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