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 A dead mobile phone; that’s all it took for one month of sobriety and five years smoke free living to go down the shitter. Even if he was telling the truth, she’d never forgive him. Gabriel ground out his cigarette and waved the bartender over.

The seat underneath him felt like granite, but it wasn’t so bad. He deserved worse. Missing another counseling appointment with Ali, after he promised he wouldn’t, put him in the dog house. She’d be pissed when he got home. Couldn’t say he blamed her. If the shoe was on the other foot, he’d be pissed too. He glanced down the bar. A couple sat at the far end snuggled up close. Sweet. It brought back memories of better times in his marriage. When he didn’t drink as much and fucked his wife more. Now he avoided her, and it felt like shit. He watched as the bartender made his way down the counter; a white towel hiked over one shoulder. He stopped in front of Gabriel, impatience written all over his face.

“Ready to close your tab?”

Gabriel thought for a minute. The hands on his watch told him it was well past happy hour and their appointment with the counselor, two hours ago. He figured Ali was already back at the apartment by now. The damage done. Might as well get ready. A couple of drinks to smooth out the edges couldn’t hurt any more than what was coming.

“No, I think I’ll have another,” he said.

“You think?” The bartender asked, his impatience turned to annoyance.

“I’ll have another,” Gabriel replied, raising his glass in hand.

The bartender nodded and then turned toward the bottle lined shelves behind him.

Gabriel thought of Ali again, how he’d wanted to be there for her. To try and understand how they’d gotten to the place they were, but earlier, as he made his way down the busy city streets toward the counselor’s office, he felt his heart ready to explode.

Did he really want to know the truth? Reveal the dark places he’d tried so hard to suppress? Those questions and more played over and over in his mind, until he found himself standing in front of the only bar he could tolerate this side of the city.