If We Leave Right Now, It’ll Always Be A Party

I’m on my way from one job to another, on foot because it’s nearby, when I glance into a music-shop window, and suddenly feel the urgency sap out of my stride. There’s something there, in the center of the display, that I recognise. That reminds me of Eve.

She was still beautiful, the last time I saw her, though you could see where it was straining – the points on her skin where the bad things inside her would most likely break through first. She looked like she looked good for her age, if her age was ten years older.

I remember that the last time we really spoke properly, about a month before I saw her last, she still had the charm, but her eyes moved that little bit too fast, and her speech that bit too slow. Like she was out of synch with herself.

That was at my place, the house on Avenue Avenue, where I lived alone before Jim and I moved in together, into the bigger place with the nursery. She had invited herself round, but I was glad to see her, and we shared a bottle of wine and some memories, though she was drinking faster than I.

Midway through her second glass, I had asked her how she was feeling, but I’d obviously done a bad job of masking the real question, because she had shaken her head slowly, her hand up to me, a denial of an accusation that I thought I’d managed not to make.

She didn’t answer, though.

“Did you ever see that film, ‘Leaving Las Vegas’?” She had asked, instead.

Five years before, we had watched the film together.

Back then, we had been inseperable. At the time, I could match her drink for drink, drug for drug, and come-down for come-down.

If she was the wild one, it was just another of the chaotic things in our chaotic world that she had complete control of. She always had money to burn on the things we loved, and the plan, and I followed in her wake, her holding tight onto my hand so that I wouldn’t get swept away.

It wasn’t until later that I realised that she had the money to burn because she never held on to any, or anything. And she could make the plans because she never thought beyond the end of the night.

And besides, those plans – though she seemed so wise to me at the time – never broke particularly new ground. They generally either involved watching DVDs with a bottle of vodka on her ratty sofa in her shitty flat, or going out to one of a small selection of pubs and clubs, flirting with boys or kissing each other on the dancefloor for drinks and giggles.

Sometimes she’d change it up a little. She’d pull out her guitar, bright pink and covered with stickers  – omnipresent in the corner of the room, always on display, but seldom used – and she’d play me songs, mostly covers but very occassionally stuff she’d written herself.

She’d bought the guitar when she was younger, saved up for it out of the pocket money she’d earned during a childhood she never talked about. As she told it, it was money she was saving to escape from something, but she had bought the guitar instead.

She would sing low, and only for me. To be honest, though, I think she was only really singing for herself.

It was a crazy time and it had taken a lot of time to grow past it. Still, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt like life was as easy or as fun as I did during that time, and if that was because we were too drunk or high on each other to know any different… Well, I don’t know if that really diminishes the feeling.

So one night we were lying on the sofa, slumped across each other as often happened, passing a bottle back and forth, and watching the film. It’s about a guy who decides to drink himself to death, and decides to do it in Vegas. On the way he meets a hooker and takes her along, but really, she’s not part of the story – she’s just there to have someone in the film to feel bad about his situation, as he doesn’t give much of a fuck about it himself and he’s driven everyone else away he knew before the film away.

We watched, and drank. I absent-mindedly stroked the band of Kanji symbols on Eve’s exposed tummy up to the point where the tattoo sunk below her belt, as the story played out.

Back then, we were fierce and brave, and our love flickered and burst like a fire – sometimes we were friends, and sometimes something else.

She was my one big gay crush. My bi try. Looking back, I’m really not sure what I was to her. She called me ‘Angel’ because she knew I hated ‘Ange’, or for that matter ‘Angela’, and at the time that felt enough like a sign of love for me.

The film made me cry. It made Eve cry too, and we talked about it for hours afterwards, until we both passed out on the sofa.

At the time I felt as if we hadn’t seen exactly the same things in the film.

“Yes, I watched it with you a few years back.” I responded, trying not to sound too hurt that she didn’t remember.
“Hm.” She made a show of trying to remember, as she sipped some more wine. “Did we?”

She put the glass down, and returned to her point.

“Here’s the thing about ‘Leaving Las Vegas’. It’s a pretty bleak film, right?”
“I didn’t realise you’d noticed, but yes. Very sad indeed.”
“Yes, but… but… here’s the thing. If you watch the film through, but just… stop paying attention – switch it off or leave the room or whatever – before the final act, it’s actually a film about a guy going on a trip and having a good time.”

I looked at her, a little stunned, as she smiled at me expectantly.

“No. No, Eve, it really isn’t.” I said. The smile left her face and her eyes darted to one side, before coming back to stare at me, a little colder than I was used to seeing them. Her chin jutted like a child’s.
“Well, I think it is.” She said. “If you don’t like how something’s going, you should just leave the room before it ends, Angela.”

She left soon afterwards, and I only saw her a few times after that, in pubs and just around. I knew that she was still in town, because people would mention bumping into her, but she never got in touch. And then, after a while, I didn’t hear anything any more.

Standing, staring in the window, at the bright pink guitar, I realise that I’m crying. Nothing too showy or embarassing, no sobbing  – there are just silent tears on my cheeks.

I look at my watch, see that I’ve been here a couple of minutes, but I’m not yet late. The thing about present-day me, I’m always ahead of time. I’ve always left a margin for error.

There’s no doubt that it’s Eve’s guitar in the window. It’s been cleaned up some, but there’s an image of a cartoon cat right there, under the strings. I’d only ever seen it sneaking out between band logos and pop-culture slogans, but it’s uniquely her – a friend had painted it on for her while she was at college.

I walk this way a lot, and I hadn’t seen it before today. I’m not sure what this means. If it’s here, now, Eve must still be too. But if it’s here, now, the thing she gave up her future for, what does that mean? Didn’t she need it any more, or could she just not afford to hang on to it?

I put my hand to the glass, picturing her moments after selling the guitar, standing right here. I almost see her reflection, sliding over mine, looking down on her most beloved possession, behind the glass.

I realise that I’m thinking about going inside and buying Eve’s guitar, though I’ve never even played.

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Nicolas Papaconstantinou
Nicolas Papaconstantinou is an enthusiastic amateur creative type, and the chap behind Elephant Words. Be nice to him. He growed up kinda wrong.

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