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80-Proof Love by Ron Burch

The lights of Hollywood Blvd sparkle like the cheaply-glamorous jackets of transvestite hookers who stand at their posts.  You and I tumble out of a once-famous Italian restaurant with cracked red leather seats and faded pink wall paper, where the stars once ate and drank fifty years ago, but now only those do who wish to say that they did.  We’re drunk and silly and revel in our astute foolishness.  We dance around dirty sidewalks and yell threats at the sky and swagger down the blvd as if we own love like it’s a brand new car bought off the lot for cash.  Singles look on us and think “fucking lucky” or “get a fucking room.”  We fixate on how well we get along, and that we enjoy each other unlike the dating buffet at which we both have feasted yet walked away from still hungry.

We’re like this every time we drink and meet.  I buy you dinner and drinks and anything, anything, else you want.  You want many things and I provide them.  Tonight’s meeting was an accident.  Both drunk in the same bar, bumping into each other outside the adjoining red-door restrooms.  You give me a hug and I ask which one are you with? And you point out three girls from work, who are boring and going home to watch reality TV, and ask me if I’ll stick around, and, of course, I say I will.  And when you ask me to buy you several bourbons, of course I do.  And when you bare your shoulder and ask me to take you home, of course I definitely will.  I know what’s in store.

Until we get to the main glass doors of your apartment building and I stop.  I don’t know why I stop but then I do.

Except.  Except tonight.  Tonight when I think I will go too far, tonight when the night is over, I won’t be.  I fear that I’m headed in a direction where I can’t turn around.

I can’t admit to you what it is.  We are, unfortunately, not like that.

Stop being a pussy, you say to me.  Come upstairs and fuck me good.

Except.  I should.  And it would be good as it usually is.  And I realize that I am slightly shaking my head.

You invite me up again.  You tell me this time it is different.  That we need to be together tonight.

Except.  You have said that before.  I have said that before.  And in the morning, it was all different and distant, and Yeah, I’ll see you around or sure we should do this again sometime.

I have fallen for it too many times because I have wanted to.

You invite me upstairs a third time.  You are getting annoyed and you hide a yawn behind your hand.  And I say I can’t.  I don’t want love like a hangover, a pain I have to deal with until it eventually fades away.

You call me a fucker and I agree and I say, maybe, and you slam the glass door behind you and I think about heading back to the bar, to say hello to the transvestites who still wait impatiently, but tonight, tonight, we all’ve had enough 80-proof to drink.


Ron Burch's short stories have been published in Mississippi Review, The Saint Ann’s Review, Eleven Eleven, Pank and others.  His first novel, Bliss Inc., was published by BlazeVOX Books; Aqueous Books is publishing his flash-fiction collection, Menagerie, in 2014.  He lives in Los Angeles.  Please visit: