“Do you love me?” Nick slurred, his voice low, solemn. His plan couldn’t wait any longer. Every second he spent in that bar, doing nothing but talking, was a needle under his fingernail. No one else around him saw the world was ending, not even Magdalene, sitting next to him at their favourite bar, sipping from her large glass of sangria. 

“I do love you,” Magdalene said, but he smelled doubt in her breath. He couldn’t tell if her smile was sweet or indifferent, if her passion was still alive under the tepid ashes of her calm, soft voice. 

“Do you remember our plans to run away together?”

She remembered those plans like she remembered most of his other drunken rambles, but sometimes he was sincere underneath his chaos. Her large brown eyes dug into his, prying his heart open to fix the damage. “Nick, what is this about?”

He leaned closer to her, merging with the shadows on their corner table, away from other couples and groups of friends and tourists seeking respite from the cold and the boredom on that Wednesday night.

“It won’t happen, at least not as we planned. I know what’s coming: ruin, for all of us, and I can’t stop it. Everything is unravelling and I’ll be trapped in this life, away from you and all that matters to me. But there’s a way out for us—come home with me. Let’s get drunk and make love like we used to and then let’s leave this world together. I am ready to die with you.”

Magdalene froze for a moment, holding her glass close to her chest, uncertain of his resolve. She had seen his somber moods before: they always started with a nightmare that polluted his days, poisoned his food and clouded his mind. Soon, the nightmares rained fire on his world, obliterating whatever sanity he had left.

“You—you can’t be serious,” she stammered. “What about your wife?”

“She’ll feel relieved to be rid of me,” he sighed.

Magdalene shook her head and leaned even closer to hold his hands. In the past, a little firmness always worked when the dark clouds took in and he stopped making sense. What he needed was a tether to reality to make him feel the weight of his words. “Death fixes nothing, Nick, and I didn’t come here to die. Let me take you home. Sleep it off and we’ll talk again tomorrow, yes? We can have dinner, talk some more.” 

Defeated, disoriented with anguish, Nick let out a painful smile. She was still holding his hands, but she felt too far away for her warmth to soothe him.

“I promise to go straight to bed if you promise not to tell anyone. But I’d rather walk, Magdalene. The fresh air will clear my head.” Unsure, she opened her mouth to insist, but he cut her off, still smiling. “I swear I won’t go and drown myself in the sea, or something.”

“We’ll talk tomorrow, then.” Her smile was genuine this time, he thought, with a pang of sadness, but when they hugged he realised he’d never see her again. Black clouds returned to his mind as soon as she disappeared out the door and his resolve appeared to him again, clear as day. He took his phone out of his pocket to make a call.

“Alice, if you love me, don’t say a word. I know what’s coming: ruin, for all of us. I can’t stop it. We won’t be together as we planned unless you come see me now. I’ll be at our table in our bar. See you soon.”

Originally published at

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