Our laughter sounds hollow against the stormy night outside.
Our glasses clink as we sip booze to dull some inner pain we have no other way to cure.
Each drink seems to fill up the emptiness nights like this inspire.
If we have enough money to buy enough drinks, we might even make our way to closing and get home to sleep before the ache get acute again.
After years of nights like this, weíre sick of each otherís voice, that last comfort old friends exude when all other options fail.
Loneliness is the wolf circling outside our small circle, searching for someone to feed on, and we toss our empty laughter at it like table scraps, hoping it is enough to keep it from feeding on us.
We feel its gnawing most acutely during those hours when we are away from each other, between waking and sleep, waking and work, waiting and the walk to our cars.
We try never to think one of us might break the circle and leave a gap through which the wolf might lunge.
We look at each other as if calculating which of us will go first, the order more drinks to forget we even thought about it.
Every once in a while, one of us gets the idea of escape in our head, complains about how this ainít living and how we all ought to get real lives.
The rest of us mock him, waving him away as if his leaving doesnít matter, even as we cringe at the howl of the wolf.
And, of course, no one leaves.
We sit and drink unto the appointed hour, when we must leave for home and sleep so we can wake for work in the morning, waiting out our work day so we can all come back here, to keep each otherís company as darkness comes.