Empty Glass

Contributor: Anant Hariharan

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The only noise that filtered through the gently shimmering mist of snowflakes was the throbbing beat of dark, pristinely laced shoes against the sidewalk. 
You can do this, Will-
The teenager twisted his head towards the nearest house; the blaze of luminescence emanating from the dwelling surpassed the pitiful glow of all the streetlights that adorned the narrow road. It was flanked by an array of vehicles that included a five-wheeled motorbike acrimoniously letting out slow, grating rumbles, as well as an exhibition of sports cars and a single mini blissfully parked several meters away from the rest of its loud-mouthed relatives.
-Just go over there and say hi.
Will took two quivering steps; past two boys slumped against a patch of broken shrubbery like beaten scarecrows, their sweaty arms fastened tightly around each other’s necks. 
Up the six creaky steps and the moth-eaten wooden railing; onto the panels that wove bent lines of darkness through the oak flooring. 
Three knocks on the hard door; two confident, the last one uncertain. Feeling the pulse of the music that wove through the house depart his body as he withdrew his palm from the doorknob, Will stood apprehensively, his arms pressed to his sides. 
The wall of wood swung open to reveal a sweaty-faced, handsome teenager sporting a leather jacket and a mildly annoyed expression.
“Hi, Benjamin!” Will burst out, a little over-enthusiastically.
A strand of hair plastered to the boy’s forehead broke free of its restraints and sprung into the dry night air. He looked Will up and down, his eyes hovering over the other boy’s raised shoulders and faintly quivering legs. 
He shook his head from side to side with just the barest hint of condescension. 
“Sorry, kid. The party’s winding down already-” He began, a burst of electronic music and an accompanying chorus of yells drowning out the rest of his sentence. 
“I mean, um-” He rubbed the back of his head embarrassedly. 
“Look, there’re plenty of good places to be tonight, y’know?” He said, smiling sheepishly at Will and taking a slight step backwards.
“Wait, Benjamin. I’m Will, remember? We were friends in grade nine!” Will burst out desperately, flicking away the hood that obscured his weedy brown hair.
“-and grade eight and seven, and, um, six and five...” He added awkwardly, his hands flopping uselessly at his sides.
Benjamin raised his eyebrows. 
“Of course. You’re...Will?” He asked, not troubling to keep the surprise out of his voice. 
“Yeah. Maybe we could talk or something... in there?” Will asked, jerking his head towards the doorway blocked by the other boy’s large frame. 
Benjamin looked at Will confusedly, as if unsure of what to do. Then he smiled.
“It’s been, I don’t know, nearly a year since-” He began, as a girl emerged from inside the house into the constricted space. Leaning against Benjamin, she draped her arms across the boy’s shoulders and flipped a long curtain of smooth golden hair back down her neck.
“Hey, Ben.” She purred into his ear.
“What’s going on?” She paused, looking at Will.
“And who’s this midget?” She added.
“Um, I’m Will. Hi.” He said confidently, thrusting his hand forwards and gallantly ignoring the jibe.
The girl shrugged her shoulders and turned away, drawing both boys’ glances until she had faded into the murky fumes of club music that seemed to tantalizingly swirl a few meters past the doorway.
Benjamin blinked twice. 
“Yeah, well, Will. It was cool to see you again, yeah? I’ll keep an eye out for you, then.” Benjamin said, turning around with an unconcerned expression on his face.
“Uh-hey, wai-!”
The door slammed shut with a menacing growl of wood. 

Will raised the glass to his lips and drank deeply; the liquid seared his throat, making him cough a little. As vile as it was, Will couldn’t quite shake off the feeling that the world seemed to make more sense when seen through the warped exterior of the glass.
“Tough break, huh?” Came a sympathetic voice to his right. Will ceased staring through his glass. 
A short, middle-aged man behind the counter was looking at him. Single-handedly cleaning a glass with a ragged cloth, he held Will’s gaze. 
“...Yeah.” Will said morosely, holding the now empty glass upside-down by its handle. 
“Wanna talk about it, kid?” 
“No. It’s just-”
The barman gently put his glass down, turning both his eyes on the boy.
“I guess I didn’t realize how much people change.” Will blurted out, his voice so squeaky one might think the man had just scrubbed it clean.
“One day they’re your friend, and when you come back after a year- they’re, bigger, and d-d-.” The words seemed to drain out of his mouth.
“Different?” The man supplied, looking at Will knowingly. 
“Yeh.” Will put in. 
The barman let out a short sigh. 
“Don’t worry about it, kid. If it’s any consolation, things’ll get better. They always do.”
Will glared hazily at the barman through a fog of frustration.
“What do you know?”
The barman let out a grating, harsh laugh. 
“What do I know, he asks.” He muttered in a dark undertone. 
“Hey!” The man let out a hoarse yell.
In an instant, silence rippled through the space as heads twisted towards the source of the noise.
“How many of you guys’ve been right where the kid is now?” The barman asked, pointing at Will. 

Around the boy, a host of hands burst into the air; hands clutching beer mugs, hands stained with grime, and hands balled into fists so tight that thin bones seemed ready to burst out of their skin. Wads of crinkled playing cards and empty cigarette lighters clattered to the floor as nearly everyone in the bar thrust their palms into the heady air.

Will was transfixed by the worn figures now looking expressionlessly back at him; their tired hands seemed to beckon him over to them.

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I'm an avid sixteen-year old writer who writes novels, short stories, and poetry. I'm currently attempting to enjoy my final years of high school.
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