Another Glass by Dalton Sikes

Who thought life would be so similar here? I flew halfway around the globe to Spain only to be curled up on the balcony of my Airbnb with a glass of wine and a book. It’s cliche to say Spain is romantic, but I feel my loneliness so intensely here. The couples bristle past in the street, hands interwoven like an unbreakable promise, languages of the world escaping their lips, and footsteps in tune with the thrum of their hearts yearning for their nightly indulgence. Meanwhile, my life has been a royal shit show. No job, no love, no plan, and no satiating my thirst for wine and thrillers.

On this night, the sky is a constellation of teary crystals plucked from my own eyes. I wipe my eyes fervently as I read about Reece’s miscarriage amidst a horrifying narrative about a battle with a sinister stalker who’s determined to make everyone think Reece is losing her mind. It’s too close to home. My mom had many miscarriages. She’d promised me a sister when I was five years old. I remember running to her door each morning asking if the stork had come yet. She’d smile and tell me that good things take time. However, her smile withered over the years. I never stopped wanting a sister of my own. “An only child is a lonely child,” I’d gruff. I wish I hadn’t been so cruel. I didn’t know how empty my world could truly become without her.

Click! Click! Click! My eyes are torn from my now damp page, and I look up to find the source of the noise. My sparkling white wine swirls and hisses in the glass as I turn my body from side to side, scanning for the clicking. In all my time in Spain, I’ve never once seen a native Spaniard use their balconies. Balconies are a mere accessory here that communicate status. This was something strange. I’d been in this place two nights and had yet to see anyone else. So, where was the noise coming from?
Click! Click! Click!

“Shit!” I fall back out of my chair. There’s the silhouette of someone standing one floor up in the building across the way. Their features are indistinguishable. They look tired, hands resting on the railing and head pulled down toward the silent courtyard below. I feel a coldness creep up my back. It’s foreign. It’s like the hands of someone else are wiggling their way up my spine and towards my throat. I need to leave the balcony, but I cannot. I’m locked into a standstill with this figure, the clicking of presumably her nails on the railing a form of Morse code.

The following day passes quickly. It’s a blur of sightseeing, reckless spending, and eating culinary masterpieces. In these old enchanting cities, I walk miles like meters as I’m invigorated by the hundreds of thousands who’ve walked before me. By the end of the day, I’m still energized. Maybe it was the four iced coffees or the Red Bull I’d chugged while getting checked out by some Texan tourist dressed like he’d come from a Blake Shelton concert, but I needed something to do. Wine night.

My balcony here is a wondrous place. It’s got beautiful redwood floors, white lattice railing intertwined with vibrant purple flowers, chaise lounges, and a small metal table with four shabby plastic white chairs. Additionally, there’s a fragrance in the air that’s familiar, but too far from my conscious memory. Whatever it is that draws me here each night, I always get another glass of wine to accompany my reading. I like to feel the sparkling wines crackle on my tongue as I read the words out into the night. The hushed tones of the wind whir back in response. It’s almost like someone is always with me here. My heart tightens within my chest for a moment. I down my glass of wine like a shot and pour another. I let the bubbles come up right to the brink, waiting for them to spill over and then let it all recede. The ebb and tide of a golden ocean. I smile and open my book.

Thud! Shit! What was that? I jump up from the table and run to the edge of the balcony. I sweep the scene looking for the source of the noise. My eyes flick back to the balcony from last night. There is a black mass on the balcony. Something too small to be human, but big enough to warrant concern. It’s no pigeon, cat, or dog. It’s almost like a box. Then, I see it grow. It rises from the ground, back arched like a scared cat, as it assumes a humanoid visage on the opposing balcony. Its arms are limp as it walks to the edge. Shakily, one arm projects out over the railing and it extends its clawed fingers toward the night sky as if it’s trying to grasp something. As its fingers close into a ball, there is weight in my stomach. The weight grows and grows into a bowling ball pulling me toward Earth. I fall to the ground, not in pain, but infected with a strangled agony of self. I maneuver my body to peer through the bars of my balcony. I must see what is going to happen.

“No!” I scream. The figure has thrown itself from the ninth floor. It’s oddly calm, arms and legs sucked backward by the sky commanding it to catch itself. I wince as it hits the ground. I expect a spray of blood, but am only met with a cloud of black smoke. I hoist myself up and peer down where its body should be hoping to get a better look. It’s empty. The courtyard is silent. I feel my stomach. It’s fine, but my skin has gone cold. My cheeks are wet. Am I in shock? I grab my book and wine and head back inside.

How does one recover from something like this? I take a trip to La Sagrada Familia. It’s the largest church in Barcelona and it’s considered to be a global masterpiece. In the walls of this church, the stained-glass windows create a world of colors that unfold under a stony canopy of trees. The beauty alone is stunning, but the stories of spiritual revelation are unmatched. My friend Alesha said that when she came here when she was ten, she felt God give her a hug and melt her worries away. When I was ten, I went to churches in the US and I received many hugs, but nothing could remove my hurt. Standing here, in the swirl of lights, I clasp my hands together and silently pray for God to finally hear me.

“God, I know you’ve seen a lot and heard a lot of cries for help, but I need you to finally come to help me. I came across the globe to come here to one of the most holy places. Inside, I’m—” “

Excuse me, could you take our picture?” a high-pitched voice chirps. I open my eyes and there’s a blonde-haired woman with her family. They are all wearing color-coordinated outfits like they’ve been plucked from some cheesy Christmas card photoshoot. I put on an artificial smile and take her phone, which she’s extended out to me like a rose. I never had what they had growing up. It’s so easy for them all to smile to get the perfect picture on the first try, but the mom makes me take numerous pictures of them doing all sorts of poses. People start to look at us like we’re some sort of spectacle. Animals at a circus. Street performers dancing off-beat to some timeless song. A red-stained child running through the street covered in pieces of her mom’s skull. I’m going to need another glass when I get back to my hotel.

My room is frigid when I open the door. I accidentally left the A/C blasting while I was away. I enjoy this coldness. It’s familiar. I set down my oversized tote, which I’ve been using as a purse and shopping bag, and head to the bathroom. The cold water from the sink is a nice reward for my face. It distracts me from the prickling feeling I’ve had all day to cry until I’m drained of all water. The last raisin in the box that you just can’t seem to get out no matter how many times you hit its container. I go to the wall of the bathroom and let my body slide to the floor. The frosted glass of the bathroom door looks back at me. It reminds me of The Mist by Stephen King.

“Hell no!” I shriek. There’s a shadow. It runs past the door. It looks like a human rapidly running on all fours back and forth. My entire body contracts like it’s trying to implode. Then, I gasp with a horrifying recognition of the severity of my situation. This is a sliding door. There is no lock. Nothing is stopping this entity from opening the door. I jump to my feet like a newborn deer and grab the handle, pulling the door against its frame. From the other side, the figure stops on the ground and slowly rises to its feet, like the silhouette on the opposing balcony last night. The figure raises one hand to the height of its head and then it stops. The figure’s silhouette moves as if it is banging on the door, but nothing happens. No sound. No rattling. Not even the wind. Then, its hand extends one finger agonizingly slowly toward my balcony. The figure vanishes in a plume of smoke.

“Good things take time,” I hear my mom’s voice say in my head. She continues, “Yet bad things often accompany the good. We have to appreciate both and recognize the difference.” I begin sobbing. If I’d listened to her fully as a child, it could have been different. I would’ve seen that I was the bad thing. I get up from the floor, eyes blinded by tear-refracted light, and go to my tote bag. I pull out the bottle of prosecco I picked up on the way home. I open the bottle with finesse and go out to the balcony. Warm wine is better than having to feel any of this right now. I sit at the table and grab the leftover glass from last night. I begin to pour the wine. It’s red. Blood red! I jump backward in my chair and knock into the table, spilling the maroon liquid. My breath quickens. My eyes are drawn back to that haunting balcony.

There is a woman there! Not like before, this one has distinguishable features. She’s got no shoes, a ruby-red dress, long wavy black hair, and black streaks of mascara down her cheeks. Click! Click! Click! Her hands are resting on the railing of her balcony. The familiar noise echoes out like gunshots. Her face is cast in a wondrous pink-gold glow. The sun is setting. I feel the weight in my stomach. My eyes go wide in horror. I know what I must do.

Every second feels like a lifetime, my feet rhythmically pounding across the hardwood floors of my hotel, the concrete sidewalks of Spain, and up the linoleum tiles of her apartment building. My back hurts from my previous night’s sleep. It’s like searing hot hands clawing their way up my spine. The heaviness in my stomach has intensified. It’s now like a bowling ball. God, why did the elevator have to be broken?

“Ninth floor,” I knowingly wheeze from the top of the stairs. There are five doors on this floor. There are nameplates but I don’t know the woman’s name. Frantically, I run to one of the doors and desperately try to open it. It’s locked. I try the second. It’s locked. I try the third. It’s locked. I try the fourth and the door swings wide open. I stare straight across the apartment toward the balcony. The woman has an arm outstretched toward the sky. It looks like she is running her fingers through the air. I cannot see her face, but I do not need it to identify her. I run toward her. The woman hoists up a leg onto the railing. And then, I grab her, pulling her back onto the balcony. She falls back onto the balcony and does not scream. She laughs. It’s one of those broken laughs people do when all has gone wrong and the body cannot calculate a response. I sit by her side and intertwine my fingers with hers, an unbreakable promise.

“I thought someone would come. I just thought that it would be Antony,” the woman mutters, exasperated. I hold her fragile hand with both of mine. The woman smiles. “My name is Ada.”

“That’s a good name,” I smile wryly. Ada Barrett was my mom’s name. I feel a warmth spread across my body. Is this what my friend Alesha felt all those years ago when she went to Sagrada Familia? Is this God finally coming to my side? “My name is Cassandra.”

“I’m glad you came, Cassandra. Can you believe that I was about to kill myself seconds before you stopped me just because of this,” Ada snickers, patting her stomach. I see the shadowy humanoid visage appear on the other side of Ada. It’s sitting, softly running its fingers through her hair. It’s my mom. I look at Ada on the ground, but I speak to them both.

“Your body may not be able to do what other women’s can, but that doesn’t make you any less of a woman. It doesn’t mean that you’re broken. It doesn’t mean that you’re not enough. It doesn’t mean that one day you can’t be a wonderful mother to children, whether they’re biologically yours or someone else’s.” I raise Ada’s hand to my lips, kissing it, and I put it to rest on her stomach. Then, I wipe the wetness from the corners of her eyes.

“Antony left me because of my body! What am I supposed to do? He was the love of my life and now I’m alone in some foreign country by myself?” Ada weeps. Her hands are firmly pressed to her tear ducts as if she can hold back the flood. I know firsthand that it doesn’t work. It never works once you’ve been taken this far by the debilitating weight of guilt.

“You do what all women have to do, Ada. You get up and keep going. Life isn’t a rom-com, or some feel-good shit Hollywood tries to sell us. Life is a horror movie. We each must find our own way to cope and keep fighting to see another day. We must find true friends and loved ones who will brave the darkness of life joined hand in hand with us,” I declare, intertwining my fingers with hers once more. “So, why don’t you come over to my apartment? Screw Antony and his misogynistic bullshit. I was just about to pour myself another glass of wine. I think you could use one too.”

Ada smiles, “I think we’re going to be great friends.”