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Last Call

I should be grateful, he’s a good guy, and the job is fine.

I met her ten years ago.

Last call at the hotel bar in a city I couldn’t pronounce.

Her lips dripped with a crimson so striking you could see it across the room.

She had beauty marks on her right cheek, and a martini clutched, with a single sip left, between two fingers.

I asked if I could sit on the empty stool next to her.

Her eyes rose, slowly, her smirk unnerving as if she’d met me before.

I tried to order something sweet, but, she gave the bartender a look, nodded towards her drink, and he poured two more.

I talked the…entire time, of course.

Didn’t know it then, but I was trapped in a perpetual loop of mistaking change for progress. I had an addiction to disclaimers and an unhealthy usage of platitudes, filling every gap with:

I should be grateful,
he’s a good guy,
and the job is fine

She’d let the silence thicken, swirling her finger around the martini’s rim, taking another sip or a heavy pull from a cigarette.

I scribbled the only words that came from her chrisom red mouth that night on a crumpled bar napkin seconds after she left:

“Oh darling, I can hear the quiet desperation in your gratitude and the dissatisfaction dripping from your disclaimers. You know. I wish someone would’ve me, when I was your age, that my doubt and dissatisfaction weren’t two ugly demons to be done away with…they were guides.”

Still shot by Nneka Julia for the short “Last Call.”

Video above.

I was on a flight back from Knoxville when I wrote “Last Call.” Hoovering over a dense queue of clouds recalling all the times I suppressed and escaped whispers and screams of dissatisfaction throughout my life (my birthday’s around the corner, and ya girl is gettin a lil’ reflective). I, from a very young age, adopted the mindset that doubt and dissatisfaction, anger, and sadness were things to be done away with, not a compass or guide if you listen, observe, examine, sit with, turn over, and upsidedown.

I’m still learning that all thoughts and feelings are simply trying to tell us something, and should be welcomed with the same warm, curious hand we greet joy, romance, and excitement.

These funny feelings can also be trained, as Rilke wrote to Franz Xaver Kappus in “Letters to a Young Poet.” And eventually, with time, patience, and practice, become one of our best workers.

“Your doubt may become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become critical. Ask it, whenever it wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly, demand proofs from it, test it, and you will find it perplexed and embarrassed perhaps, or perhaps rebellious. But don’t give in, insist on arguments and act this way, watchful and consistent, every single time, and the day will arrive when from a destroyer it will become one of your best workers — perhaps the cleverest of all that are building at your life.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke

Happy Monday, friends.

Letters From A Stranger
Letters From A Stranger
Nneka Julia