In the Company of Angels.

Originally written in 2009, minor edits tonight to clarify and correct some awful spelling typos. Apparently written in the aftermath of the Mississippi Bridge collapse during rush hour in Minneapolis. Possibly improbable, but I’d say that I had creative license arguing on my behalf at the time.

My head was pounding with the hangover that I’d been carefully cultivating beginning with rampant debauchery from the night before. If I’m being honest, and I am always honest, the debauchery began several days before, but I couldn’t rightly tell you just how many days in a row I’d been at it at the time. I have to say… it wasn’t the best way to begin my day, but it had seemed like a wonderful plan while I was still at the bar. Getting drunk these days always sounded like a wonderful plan. It didn’t include, however, opening one’s eyes, hangover or not, and discovering that the reason the sun wasn’t as bright as you expected was because you were staring down the barrel if a .357 revolver.

“You sonofabitch,” said Sarah in her voice normally reminiscent of black velvet, but grating at the other end of gun sights. “Give me one good reason not to paint that fucking pillow under your head with some grey matter.”

Normally, I’d have a witty response – I’m a witty guy on most days, let me tell you — but prudence and the hangover held me back from a wry response. Instead, I stuck to protocol. “Good morning, Sarah. How have you been?”

Ignoring my attempts at social niceties, Sarah waved the gun in my face. “You know I’m not good with small-talk, Greg. And it makes my finger twitch because I’m apt to make a fist and punch the fucker who uses small talk on me when I’m feeling irritable.”

I shrugged. As lame as it sounded, I said the only thing I could muster. “Sorry.” Damn, my head hurt…

“I thought you were dead in the bridge collapse,” she said in a measured tone, icicles dangling from each word. “I’d forgiven you for your ‘Dear Jane’ letter you left at my front door after I checked your house and saw you hadn’t been home since the collapse.” She waved her gun a bit and I avoided wincing as she did. Mostly. “I don’t do ‘Dear Jane’.”

“Of course not,” I assured her. “Not like you at all.”

I had to admit to myself that was, at least in part, why I’d taken advantage of the bridge falling into the Mississippi. I’d been looking for ways to leave my past behind me and it just so happened that a highway bridge fell in the city around the time I’d normally drive home. Obviously, I’d avoided that fate – but I had relied on unidentified bodies to mask my new identity. I was not disappointed.

“All was forgiven, seeing as you were apparently dead, and then my sister swore that she’d seen you at a bar a few weeks ago. I didn’t believe her; never thought you’d stoop to such levels. But, I checked out her story and, sure enough, there you were last night.” Her hand trembled a bit as she fought back the rising tears and I thought the handgun might go off accidentally. Or maybe even purposely. I was nervous as hell, let me tell you.

With nothing more at my disposal, I repeated my mantra. “Sorry,” I said again, matter-of-factly. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“But you did!” Sarah said in a near-scream. Then, the revolver fell to her side and then the floor. She collapsed on the sheets of my bed, sheets that smelled like stale rum and sweat. And she cried, violently.

“I loved you!” she exclaimed between heaving breathes. “Wasn’t that enough to make you stay?”

I stroked her mouse-brown hair, her tears soaking my t-shirt, and kissed the top of her head. Not knowing what else to say, I chanted reassuringly, “I’m sorry… I’m sorry…”

A cardinal broke into song outside.

It was one of those kinds of mornings.

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