Are You Still in Pain?
“Are you still in pain?"
The bar's neon sign had been a part of this area of town for as long as anyone could remember. This was a desolate part of the city; only one main road ran through the mountains of ashes covering the grey and bleak wasteland surrounding them, separated from train tracks by a line of telephone wires.
Ever since the industrialists had come to the ancient marshes the town was built on, filling this spot of swampland in with soot, street sweepings, and other garbage until it had become little more than the city dump, the neon sign had burned its question to anyone walking by.
It belonged to Wilson's, a dimly lit bar and popular stopping point for the renegades of the Dock district that had changed ownership from an armoury to a brewery to a flophouse before becoming the cantina it was now. At least, the bar and its sign had been around for as long as she could remember, and she had lived here her entire life. She saw the sign every day, on her way to school in the city, and then coming home from the construction job she worked in the ash fields to help pay the bills.
Every day, it blazed a cool menthol blue existentialist question to her, with only one word - PAIN? - in a separate, warmer orange, as if the bar was offering her a serving of pain just behind its doors. But there was no pain to be had at Wilson's. Just the ever-reliable comfort of liquor. That was where she found herself now, wrapped in its warm embrace of a buzz, the sole occupant of a window table meant for two.
Outside, the sun had long set, and the shadows that had grown as she had left the job site and walked here had taken over the landscape. A half-drunk ginger-beer-and-rum cocktail sat on top of the doodling journal that she carried everywhere with her, the condensation from the ice inside leaking down the sides of the glass and leaving a moisture stain on the composition book's cover.
The bartender had brought her tab over a few minutes ago, but she didn't want to pay it just yet. She wasn't looking forward to the long walk home in the pouring rain. Her sweatshirt had become soaked already, and she could feel how damp her hair was without even touching it. And what was waiting for her at home, anyway? An alcoholic and abusive father. A spineless mother who let him hit her. A baby brother too young to understand any of it, but old enough to already have breathing problems from secondhand smoke.
She looked out the window at the sign again, the constant stream of raindrops trickling down the windowpane slightly blurring the neon colours together. Sometimes she would get an irresistible urge to throw a rock right at the damn thing.
"Are you still in pain?"
You have no fucking idea.