I met Mary outside a bar in the busiest city on Earth.
She was trying to light a cigarette with matches. But wind from a passing storm reached in and snuffed out each attempt. She tried moving. Then she tried shielding the flame with the sleeves of her massively oversized hoodie and the bulk of her long blonde hair. Eventually, the rain won out, and her pack of matches ran out. She plopped down onto the dirty sidewalk in disappointment with the unlit Marlboro still between her thin lips. I ended the phone call with my sister and wordlessly offered my Zippo.
She nodded graciously, lit the Menthol, and took a deep inhale. Then, after a cough, stuck out her hand.
“I’m Mary. Can I offer you one for the trouble?“
I told her that I didn’t smoke.
“So, you’re standing outside offering drunk girls lighters? That’s creepy, man! There has to be a better story, right?“
I told her it was my dad’s lighter. I told her that he passed away recently. This week, actually. I told her that my sister just called, and I had to leave the bar, because we were in the midst of planning his funeral. The words just sort of tumbled out of me like a virus and this poor girl who probably just wanted to smoke her cigarette in peace listened to it all so patiently and perfectly. I was hooked the moment she even replied.
“Look, I can tell you how sorry I am. I can tell you that your father is in a better place. I can tell you that everything is for the best and that there is any sense in this shit whatsoever. But there just isn’t. Life just sucks sometimes. It’s not fair. And that’s all there is to it. There is only one thing we can do.“
“Yeah, what’s that?” I asked.
“Get fucked up,” she replied.
Her optimism made me smile. My phone buzzed nervously in my pocket. Cindy probably wanted to close the deal on a coffin. The stress of my father’s upcoming burial weighed down on my like an anvil. But the mystery girl piqued my interest. I ignored the call and tilted my head back towards the bar suggestively.
“Not here. I know a better spot.“
Mary smiled naughtily and produced a glitter covered flask of whiskey from beneath her hoodie. I laughed. But before I could offer a comment about the design, she did something that caught me completely off guard. She kissed me.
Then she took off down the street.
There seemed to be three options. I could go back inside, watch the band, and listen to my miserable friends argue about politics. I could call my sister back and plot funeral details. Or I could follow the beautiful mystery girl with a flash of whiskey. I hesitated for a moment, thought about it, and ultimately chose the latter. I sprinted after her.
The rain made it tough to keep up. I shouted for Mary to slow down. I caught her turning a corner. She yelled something back through the storm. It was hard to hear.
The alcohol from earlier started to kick in. I slipped and fell on the second turn. The storm turned into an avalanche of water as I surveyed my wounds like a baby. I ducked under a storefront for cover and awkwardly tried to wipe blood from the scrapes on my hands. I yelled for Mary to come back. I even went back out in the rain, a moment later, and tried to follow her path.
But the city street stayed empty and creepy at three in the morning. No one responded. No one showed up.
She was gone.
I hoped she just got turned around too. I hoped that maybe she got lost, or saw the time, and realized she needed to catch a train. But a voice in the back of my head said she probably thought I ditched her. That made me uncomfortable. We shared such a connection. The hopeless romantic in me felt like I missed the potential love of my life. And so I did something creepy… not something I would normally do.
I posted to Craigslist’s “Missed Connections” section. I made the ad sound as generic as possible. It didn’t even include her name.
Mystery Girl from the Bar by Port Authority
You kissed me and said to meet somewhere else. I lost you. Hoping we can connect again. Tell me your name.
Two days later, I got a response. “Is this Matt?” is all it said. I replied immediately and asked if it was Mary. She said yes. She sounded excited, and most of all, legitimate. She even described my clothing that night.
We talked for hours. Mary seemed even more perfect once we got to know each other online. She came from a single parent household. She lived in the same city. She loved pizza. We communicated through text for a couple weeks, and talked about a lot of small stuff like that. I begged her to meet me in person. I asked to talk on the phone, or video chat, or literally anything else other than text. But Mary always came up with excuses.
That changed the night of my twenty-third birthday. Mary promised to make an appearance. She told me to make sure no one else came by the apartment. She wanted ‘alone’ time, allegedly, and that concept immediately made my adolescent mind wander. So I cleaned up the place in a dazed panic and did my best to make myself look presentable. The last text before our meetup came at 6:30.
“See you soon. There’s something I need to explain.”
I got ready and kept my panicked mind at ease by cleaning the place up. The time crept by. But finally, someone knocked on the front door, at exactly 7:00 sharp. I rushed towards it. But something made me look out the window first. Thank God I did.
Standing at the front door was a disheveled middle aged man. He held a bouquet of roses in one hand. In the other, just outside of the street’s line of sight, he pushed a pistol up against the door.
I called the police.
The man looked around my apartment a little. I watched him from the window. He avoided the neighbors’ suspicious glances. He tried to hide in the shadows. When the cops arrived, he tried to run, but they tackled him before long. I rushed outside to accost the person who claimed to be the love of my life. I shouted in his face while the police begged me to go back inside. He ignored my questions. He scoffed when I asked about Mary.
After a quick pat down, the officer recovered his weapon. Then they pulled a second mysterious object from the man’s coat pocket. It was a pink whiskey flask, covered in glitter.
Three weeks later, my Craigslist connection was indicted for second degree murder.