The room smelled of old plumbing and mold that she tried to ignore as she scanned the giant chalkboard behind the sticky bar. Her friends rattled off their orders with confidence as she squinted in the dim light searching desperately for a familiar name. Her eyes snagged on blueberry, and she ordered that one, the bartender raising his eyebrows just enough to make her question her choice.
She wasn’t sure why they loved this place, this dank space that was starved for natural light. She sipped the heavy dark liquid thinking maybe they liked it for its proximity to home. That was probably enough because they would all be walking at the end of the night.
She gulped her drink this time, wanting the alcohol to overrun her memories of the week – thirteen year olds perched on chairs, wiggling as sun baked the windows. They were wild, launching ice cubes across the room and cackling as the pieces broke, scattering across the floor. At the break she had turned to her partner, her panic rushing out in staccato bursts of doubt. He talked her off the ledge, reassured her it wasn’t always like this, and she believed him because she had to.
The tall glass empty, she snaked down the hall and leaned against the black wall as water rushed from behind the locked door. She wound her legs together, cursing these old places and their damn single seaters. The beer was working, dulling the sharp moments and allowing her to convince herself she’d be fine. After all, she told herself, she would be in a high school anyway.
She rolled her head along the wall, the concrete rough on the contours of her skull. She spotted her partner in the brown light at the end of the hall, his face pushed against another girl’s from the program. His hands engulfed the girl’s black hair, and she smiled to herself. They all had to take comfort in something.