My First Year in the City

by Alex Miller

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA with Sarah We matched on Bumble. We met up at Industry Public House and sat at the bar, where she showed me pictures on her phone of the peach-colored bridesmaid dress she wore to her friend’s wedding. I told her the dress looked nice. Sarah laughed and said it was awful. She told me it wasn’t even the worst bridesmaid dress she’d worn. She’d attended eight weddings since graduating from college two years ago. She believed her friends were stupid to get married, that they would be miserable. The lucky ones will get divorced, she said matter of factly. The bar was mostly empty, and the bartender stood at the far end polishing a glass with a white cloth. I told Sarah I’d never seriously considered marrying anyone, that it seemed out of reach, something to be done by some weird future version of myself. Sarah said she didn’t understand why anyone would give up all the benefits of being single. She said the math didn’t work—it’s impossible to sustain sexual interest in the same person for more than a few years. She told me the magic of singlehood is you can wear your pajamas all day Saturday and get drunk before noon. You can meet new people and have one-night stands. Everybody gives this freedom away, and for what? Boring sex and evenings on the couch watching Netflix dramas? Sarah said marriage was an outmoded institution, that it began as a method for men to own women as property. I tried to change the subject. I asked her how she liked her beer, and she said it was fine. I asked her about the new Star Wars movie. She told me she hoped she’d never get married. She said marriage means scrubbing somebody else’s dishes and washing their laundry. It means running the vacuum and disinfecting the toilet bowl. You do all this, you give up your life, you make your home beautiful, just so some man can leave his dirty socks on the floor. Sarah told me she didn’t want to end up like her mother.   Straight Tullamore Dew with Rich I went to the Bulldog Pub with some guys from work. They all left after a drink or two. They had to get home to their wives and children and two-story houses with garages on quiet streets outside the city. Having a real life comes with a lot of baggage, I suppose. After they left, I sat at the bar beside a bearded man of indeterminate age who introduced himself as Rich. The TV over the bar played the movie “Cocoon,” and Rich cracked me up with his impression of Wilford Brimley. He’ll be chasing them dolls till his dick runs off, Rich said, and it was just like having Wilford Brimley there in the room with me. Rich told me he was a salesman. He said becoming a salesman was the worst mistake he’d ever made. Then he gave me a piece of advice. He told me to never get married. He said never getting married was the best mistake he’d ever made, and he said it just like Wilford Brimley. After finishing my drink, I told him it was time for me to go, but Rich kept on talking like he hadn’t heard me. He spoke faster and gesticulated more wildly, which gave me the impression he didn’t want me to leave. Rich complimented me on my sweater. He said he used to have one just like it back when he was my age. “Better days,” he said, lowering his eyes as if to catch his own reflection wavering in his glass. “Better days.”   Tito’s Handmade Vodka from a flask with Ashley My friend threw a party at his apartment in Lawrenceville. Toward the end, I sat on a couch with a girl, and we took turns drinking from my flask. Almost everybody left after it started snowing. Ashley looked out the window and announced that she should go. She’d said so three or four times already, but instead of leaving, we kept passing the flask back and forth. Ashley’s blond hair appeared almost fluorescent in the dim light. I felt lucky: it’s not everyday you meet a glow-in-the-dark woman. Ashley bragged to me that the thing she was proudest of was her ability to be alone. She used to feel self-conscious if she ate by herself at a restaurant, but she taught herself not to give a shit—there’s no shame in sitting alone and scrolling through Twitter. I told her reading a book is even better because it sends a clear do not fuck with me message. My friend who threw the party came over. He wore sunglasses even though the room was dark. He said, “sweet dreams, gremlins,” and went to his bedroom and shut the door, leaving me and Ashley by ourselves. She told me she’d spent the past five years in the same stupid cycle where her only friends were actually friends of her boyfriends, and after the breakups she’s left with no one. She said she understands it’s a problem but doesn’t know how to stop. She said she’d given serious consideration to buying a cat—maybe a pair of cats—but wasn’t sure she was ready to commit so thoroughly to her own singlehood. I told her not to buy a cat. She laughed and asked what I had against cats. I took a drink from the flask, then handed it to her. She held it and stared out the window, where a streetlight illuminated a cascade of falling snow. I suggested that if we didn’t go soon, we could be stuck for a long time. She said she should leave but it was cold out there and she didn’t want to be alone. —
Alex Miller is a writer and graphic designer who lives in Pittsburgh. His fiction has appeared in Fifth Wednesday Journal, Maudlin House and Rabbit Catastrophe Review. His short story collection, “How to Write an Emotionally Resonant Werewolf Novel,” is slated for publication in summer 2019 from Unsolicited Press.
Artwork by: Barima Owusu-Nyantekyi