Anita Mechler: The Morning After

I left my house and turned right. I passed by the window of the cafe downstairs from my building. Sometimes there are pretty good looking people gazing out the window. Whenever I pass I wonder how attractive I might be to them. And then I realize that they might not find me attractive at all. I push the door into the vast array of baked goods at the counter and the soothing, reassuring smell of coffee grounds.

Behind the counter, the adorable girl with the Skillrex haircut illuminates me with her brilliant smile. “What can I get you?” Through the haze of my severe hangover, I know that the only thing I can handle is a savory croissant (ham and cheese) and a coconut water that I feel will save my life by making my heart stop beating so hard that I’m convinced I will have a heart attack.

I wonder how long I will last at work.

Out into the blinding sun, I contemplate putting on my sunglasses but feel too rushed to get to work somewhat closely on time. The walk to the train sometimes feels unbearable as it gives me a moment to contemplate regret for the past evening’s events.

It comes in flashes: the things he said, the things I said, the things we did. I wonder how much the neighbors heard and I wonder if you can tell anything by just looking at my face. I can feel the remnants throughout my body: the headache, the bubbleguts, sore thighs and spots of mysterious bruises. I can also smell traces of body odor and excitement but then the exhaust from the highway beneath the bridge I cross masks any of it.

Once I shyly pass the fire station and cringe at the thought of the Chicago Blue Line stop and its leaking walls and year-round wet floors, I steel myself against the onslaught of people getting off the bus and crowding at the top of the stairs. There are others, smoking near the dumpsters behind the coffee shop. I hope they don’t look at me. It’s times like these when I think “Wow. City living.” This is brief as I face the reality of a non-biking commute.

Then there is the race down the stairs, through the beeping turnstiles, and then down again. It’s a race against the other passengers to my favorite place on the platform. Then I stare down the tunnel, willing my train to arrive, rechecking all of my senses again, reliving those flashbacks, searching for some sense of shame.

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