Three Minute Fiction is a contest run on NPR’s All Things Considered. The premise is simple; write a piece of fiction that can be read in under three minutes.
The sharp sound reverberated through the cavernous bathroom. The hard clink of glassware on granite seemed to echo off of the empty stalls, and the ice cubes in the glass rocked back and forth in their whiskey bath. He looked at himself in the mirror, opening and closing one eye to try to eliminate one of the reflections coming back at him, but it wasn’t much use.
“She wasn’t supposed to be here.” He thought, mulling over the chance meeting while he leaned over the urinal with one hand on the wall. He looked up at his watch and noticed that the cuff of his shirt bore the remains of a swedish meatball from earlier in the evening. It didn’t make much difference now, the night was basically over and the facade was already cracked.
He looked up at the ceiling and closed his eyes, trying to forget the conversation. How long had it been since he had last seen her? Three years? Five? He watched the water slip down the porcelain and turned back to the sink. He fumbled through the motions of washing his hands and reached for the scotch glass on the corner of the sink, and met his reflection once again in the mirror.
Whether it was three years or more, it seemed of little importance in this moment. However long it had been, it had taken its toll on him. The corners of his eyes wrinkled when he squinted against the glare of the lights, and the widows peak that marked him as a scion of his Mother’s family was slowly retreating.
When was Alex’s accident? He was seventeen when he missed the stop sign. How old would he have been today? The Glenlivet made it next to impossible to do the math, but he did remember that the card she had sent him after she left bore a holiday stamp. “Joy to the World” it proclaimed, with more than a touch of irony.
He only read the letter once, but that was all that he had needed. He had felt the same way. After they lost Alex, there was not much left to hold them together, and their carefully constructed relationship cam crashing down around them. In that moment of reflection he remembered…of course she was supposed to be here. The Gala was always her favorite social event of the year, and it’s not like they wouldn’t continue to invite her, no matter where she was living now. He had forgotten because the memory of strolling up the steps with her hanging onto his arm as she wobbled in her stilettos was one of the happy ones, and it had been a long time since he let himself feel that.
His still soapy fingers wrapped around the glass and he turned towards the exit, steeling himself to once again confront the stares and the pitying faces that had accompanied him whenever he turned up in society these days. He wondered if they gave her the same looks. Probably not, he thought… and judging by the brief interaction before, she was probably part of the crowd still looking at him.
He walked through the doors, tipped up his glass generously, and in a few seconds he was surveying the room through the bottom of the snifter. The curve of the glass twisted and warped his perspective, making him realize for one moment how misshapen his world had become.