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Remember a day

X stood at the kerb, staring after the car that was pulling away. Slightly tipsy, slightly dazed, he blinked slowly, holding on to the fast-evaporating feeling of warmth as fiercely as he'd held on to her. 

"You okay?" asked a tenor voice behind him. Turning around, he saw the old man, silver hair askew in the wind, smiling. "Are you alright?" the man asked again. X wasn't sure, so he considered his reply. He'd joined a group of friends for dinner and they'd been drinking into the early hours of Christmas Eve. X thought he'd seen the old man in the restaurant, seated a few tables away, but wasn't sure. He'd been largely distracted and tongue-tied that evening. Every once in a while, he'd dare a glance at her; when she smiled or laughed, his breath would catch and he'd look away and take another sip. There were a lot of sips, that much he knew.

The old man was still there, waiting for an answer. "I guess" is all X could say. It wasn't much of an answer and he could see the man wasn't buying it. "Frustrating, isn't it?" the man asked, with a mischievous gleam in his eye. That expression gave X the shivers. There was something very odd about it, but in his drunken state he couldn't put his finger on what that was. Besides, the guy was right. It was frustrating, he admitted to himself. 

"What do you mean?" X retorted aloud. It came out gruffly, even though he didn't mean it.

"Well, you kind of look like you have girl trouble" the old dude said, with a low chuckle, unconcerned about the seemingly rude tone. 

"Yea, I sort of do", X replied. And was about to continue when he was interrupted.

"Listen, it's simple. Tell yourself that you only die once. Keep repeating it in your head and you'll understand why things become, er, dead simple. Especially the next time you meet her. It'll make it easier for you to ask her out." 

"Wait. What? How did you know...". 

"I told you. It's on your face. Besides, you're not the first guy who ever got cold feet. You won't be the last. But, repeat what I say and the fear goes away once in a while."

X was about to respond when he saw the woman approaching. The old man turned around and smiled. She smiled back and X's breath caught at how it transformed her face. Again, the familiarity of it made him very uneasy. Or was it the whisky?

"Let him figure it out" she said, mock-frowning at the man. Leading him away, X heard her say "I meet you at the New Year's, right?" The old man was shaking his head and gesticulating. X heard the old man say "... an idiot" and called out to them, but they were out of earshot. Or, chose to ignore him. Either way, a passing auto stopped and X got in. 

As the vehicle moved away, he heard the old man's voice.

"Happy birthday, kiddo."

X looked out the auto wildly, now certain there was something dreadfully strange going on. The road was deserted. A shadow moved under an approaching street lamp. As the rickshaw went past it, X saw them both. She was smiling again and X heard the wind whip away her words. "It was a nice hug..."

Song for the moment: Does anybody know what time it is - Chicago 


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