I Lost My Faith in God When I Was Nine Years Old,
whispers the woman sitting next to me.
I’ve seen her here before–drinking alone,
her skin heavy with loss.
This close, the taste of her regret is pungent,
and is swallowed with each sip of my vodka-tonic.
I think she may have been beautiful once,
before her body was stained by cigarettes and strangers.
Now she wears her sad stories like stones.
We begin to talk, our loneliness pulling us together.
Our glasses are filled again and again.
The liquid makes our tongues hot and fast.
Soon she is my best friend,
I’ve known her for years.
I was there when her first husband shattered
I was there when her child died
still warm inside her womb.
She begins to cry and I hold her
as the bar swirls around us.
It doesn’t matter that people are staring,
or that the bartender has long ago cut us off.
She is my best friend and I will hold her
until her sobs give way to breath.
I will hold her even though I do not know her name.
It is 11:00 am and we are drunk
with champagne, sequins, and taffeta.
Sundays are busy in this small shop
and the air holds its emotions like a cup.
Around us women are standing on small stages,
displayed and admired
in white dresses that hold their futures.
They wear them like hope,
white silk falling to the floor.
Bridesmaids sit obediently,
breathing in boredom
and reluctantly await their turn
to be stuffed into dresses of lesser value.
For us she has chosen maroon satin
and claims we will be able to wear them again.
I stare at its puffy bottom and doubt
I will be able to wear it to a bar.
Once on, the dress rejects my body
as if it knows I do not belong.
This dress understands my contempt
for marriage and carpools,
and is stuck here, like me
among sequins, taffeta,
and the horrible smell of longing.