Never Too Late

by Saniya Doshi
Art by Amanda Dai
Issue: Kalopsia (Spring 2017)

I don’t get drunk; not usually. I can’t stand being unable to hold back my limbs, my thoughts, my words.

But tonight, I’m completely wasted. I want to lose control. The world blurs out of focus as I sway dangerously and clutch at the counter for support. My face feels weirdly stretched out. It kind of hurts. Still, I can’t wipe the ridiculous, booze-induced smile off my face.

If only Eva could see me now.

I doubt she’d ever been inside a bar, let alone been drunk. She was sweet and mild and just so good.

Too good for me, apparently.

The lights, a soft bluish-green, suddenly seem way too bright. The intensity burns my eyes. As I go to blink, it strikes me that the lights are the same color as Eva’s irises. And then I open my eyes and suddenly everything reminds me of her, from the bartender’s brown not-quite-straight not-quite-wavy hair, so much like hers, to the dark wooden floor that reminds me of her bedroom’s.

My stomach does a weird sort of flip as I push myself off the counter and stumble towards the doorway.

The night air is unusually chilly for September, but it feels nice. The fire in my cheeks begins to slowly subside as the cold nips at my skin. It’s late and I have to work tomorrow. I should go home. I begin to stagger down the sidewalk; I think my apartment is this way. The world tilts around me as my foot catches on the edge of the sidewalk and I careen into the wall.

I shake it off. Gotta keep going. I suck on my now-numb fingers and lurch forward.

Wait. I turn in a circle, then whip my head left and right. I don’t recognize this street. At least, I don’t think I do. Everything looks unfamiliar under the coat of darkness.

“You lost?” asks a voice. I turn. Leaning against the wall is a man in a black hoodie with the hood pulled up over his eyes. A cigarette is tucked precariously between his spidery fingers. He looks up, his hood falling back a little.

I squint at his face through the shadows. It’s oddly familiar, olive-toned and sharply angular. Slight wrinkles on his forehead and around his stormy gray eyes show he’s not quite young, maybe late thirties or early forties. I know him, I know him. I know I do. It’s on the tip of my tongue…

“Are you lost?” he repeats.

I nod.

He takes a long, slow drag from his cigarette, then pauses to flick smouldering orange embers onto the sidewalk. “What do you need?” he finally asks.

What do I need? A lot of things. I need to go home. I need to be warm before my toes fall off. I need another drink. “I-I don’t know.”

He twirls the cigarette between his fingers. His eyes, big and colorless and sorrowful, finally meet mine. And then the image clicks into place. Oh my… “God.”

He doesn’t respond, just takes another drag from his cigarette.

The spontaneous flood of emotions is almost too much to handle. Fear, anger, and disappointment swirl into a revolting cocktail of emotions in the pit of my stomach. Flashbacks of prayers uttered late at night, growing further and further apart until they vanished completely, rush through my mind. My knees suddenly go weak. “Wh-where’ve you been?” is all I can manage to stammer. 
 He drops his cigarette and crushes it with a heavy, black-booted heel. “Right here,” he says coolly.

I press my lips together, a spark lighting in my chest. “Are you kidding? You were never there for me. You never helped me. I wasted so…much…time waiting for you.” I swallow. “All I needed was a sign to know that you were there. That someone was listening to me!” My voice is husky and moisture drips down my face. Am I crying? “You must have some damn nerve to ignore me like that.”

“What did you want from me?” he asks. It’s not defensive. He could’ve been asking what I had for dinner last night.

“I just wanted—want to be happy. But you couldn’t even give me that!” I choke out. I’m full-on sobbing now; tears, snot, and saliva drip messily down my face.

“Tell me,” he says, curiosity sparking in his eyes, “what made you lose your faith?”

I lick my lips and swallow. “Three years ago, when I first met Eva, my girl—I mean, ex-girlfriend now. She, um….isn’t religious. She hates the idea of it…believing in something you can’t know exists.”

God arches an eyebrow. “So you changed your beliefs for this girl?”

His accusatory tone causes the rage in my chest to flare up. “No! She just…guided me. Eva’s love is real. You aren’t. I need her. I don’t need you!”

He sighs. “Love isn’t supposed to be some desperate need. It’s supposed to be a…shared strength, if you will. Not something you’d die for, but something that makes you live.” He sighs again and shoves his hands deep into his pockets. “Have you ever considered that Eva isn’t right for you?”

I shake my head. “No. No. I love her. She loves me.”

His rueful expression says everything his voice doesn’t.

I swallow, then gag as vomit suddenly rises in my throat. Turning, I throw up onto the street, watching the foul yellow mess fall with my tears. It burns horribly as it comes up, but I don’t even care anymore.

Wiping my mouth, I turn back around. “Why now?” I snap. “Why are you trying to help me now? It’s too late.”

His eyes seem to glow, like two moons embedded in his face. “It’s not too late. It’s never too late.”

I stare at him. The wind roars in my ears. The ground tilts, slowly and then faster, faster, faster, and as the world is slipping away, for a brief moment, I think I’m going to die.

And then I finally lose my grip on consciousness and sink into the void.

When I wake up, it takes me a second to realize I’m in a hospital.

The stark whites of the room and the sunlight, streaming in through the window, make my head throb painfully. I’m hungover as hell. I close my eyes until I hear a familiar voice say my name.

“Eva,” I breathe, not looking at her. She takes my hand.

“I was so scared,” she says, her voice trembling. “You blacked out in some alley. The doctor said a man saw you and brought you in. You’re lucky he did.” She sighs. “I was just on my shift, and then I heard one of the other doctors say your name, and I was so afraid, and then…” She trails off. “You’re just lucky he found you.”

Last night’s events come rushing back. Going to the bar. Getting drunk. Trying to walk home. Meeting God.

I don’t know if that was real or just some wacky, alcohol-induced hallucination. Regardless, I start thinking—Eva and I may have the same favorite TV show and appreciate the same music and even like the same ice cream flavors, but for the first time, I ask myself if this means that we’re soulmates.

A gentle sniffle breaks my train of thought. “Eva,” I whisper, finally looking at her. Her eyes are wide and brimming with tears. I trace the little lines of her face—near her eyes from smiling too much, and just underneath them from sleepless nights. Her hair is slightly curly; she must have just washed it. Yes, I can smell her lavender-lemon scented shampoo. She’s familiar and warm and lovely as always.

I watch her chin tremble as a tear finally escapes. “I’m so sorry,” she cries. “I shouldn’t have left you like that. And…I still love you. It was a mistake to break up with you. I just…I…” She’s crying so hard she can barely speak.

I run the pad of my thumb over her tears, then kiss her eyelids one at a time. She’s always been my dream girl, and when she was mine, I thought I would never let her go. But if last night made me realize anything—whether it was just a figment of my imagination or really God himself—is that Eva and I are like stars; one in the same but still so, so far apart.

“I’m sorry, Eva,” I say. “I don’t think we should be together anymore. I just…I need time to focus on myself and my beliefs right now. I know that sounds like a garbage excuse, but I’m sorry.”

Her eyes widen, but the softness of her expression tells me she’s not mad. “I understand,” she sniffles. “I love you.”

I don’t say it back, just squeeze her hand one last time before she leaves. Then I look out the window at the bright sunlight, thinking that God was right—it’s never too late.