Congratulations. You made it, Jake thought to himself with a humble little smile. He stepped out of the subway car and made his way up into the warm July night. The restaurant was only a short walk away. Danielle had offered to pick him up from the airport but he wanted a minute to himself before the celebration.
The city lights cast a faded neon orange hue over the brick and concrete that surrounded him. The air was warm and he felt the heat settling under his sports jacket. It wasn’t an overly fancy party but Jake suited up anyway. He wanted to look his best for the occasion.
As he walked down the sidewalk, he felt his phone buzz. Likely another text from Danielle or someone at the restaurant wondering where he was. Let em wait, he chuckled inside the calm of his mind. It was the first time in a while he could remember his mind being so at peace. There were no rampaging thoughts, no lingering questions, no fog unsettling his step.
It was a calm that wasn’t upset even by reflecting on all the past trials and tribulations he’d gone through. The pains they’d once caused had healed and now all that reminded were scars on the inside of his skull that only his mind could see. Scars that no longer hurt to touch or look at and were hidden away, neat and out of sight.
Well, all save for one.
Jake crossed the street and made for the bright festivities on the other side of the restaurant door. Had he been here before? He couldn’t quite remember but what did it matter? He was a new man tonight. He took a breath, straightened his back and stepped through the double glass doors.
“Jake! There you are! We were just asking about you.” Mrs. Corrigan said as she wrapped her frail arms around him. He delicately returned the embrace. “We were afraid you might not make it.”
“I wouldn’t miss this for anything.” Jake said, his tone warm and his smile relaxed. “You must be so proud of her.”
“Absolutely I am.” Jake said with another smile before excusing himself. He weaved through the restaurant and the mosaic of friends and acquaintances he’d been witness to over the years. Each one greeted him with a surprised smile or a quick hug as he continued forward.
Danielle was maneuvering through the various groups, wine glass in hand and looking as collected as ever.
“Hello Doctor.” Jake said with a gleam in his eye. Danielle’s professional demeanor dropped for a just a second as she returned his bear hug. “Congratulations.”
“Oh don’t be so formal. Let’s have a proper drink! Besides we need to send a photo to Mom.” She said before the professional persona took the reins back. Jake smiled and followed the woman of the hour to bar.
As he walked, he rubbed the scar that ran up his left arm through his jacket. It was long and deep, but not deep enough to end it. It had been a year since he gave it to himself. A year since he last wanted out forever.
Congratulations. You made it a whole year. He thought to himself.