by: Allie Burke ((Header art is by the talented Italian Surrealist, Xetobyte.))
The mélange of life, and the curious moments that take hold…
I walk in the door and he’s sitting in a recliner like any man would do, even though we both know he is not any man, and couldn’t be even if he tried. He is good at everything except being like everyone else. He looks at me with eyes razed from vodka and coffee, waiting for me to speak.
My congested voice surfaces and suddenly he’s the two-year-old that only those closest to him know. “Awww,” he coons with his stupid mouth. “You no feel good?”
I let my purse glide down my arm and it falls to the floor. “Shut up,” I curse shortly at him.
He dances over to me like a princess in a pink tutu and not at all like a thirty-year-old man with a beard, and the whole world disappears. I’m in his arms and he smells like tea tree and cigarettes and like the color blue. He could not possibly grasp all of my thick hair in his two callused hands, but he tries. I have easily lost nine minutes and thirty-six wordless seconds of my life that ends with the burial of my face in his warm neck. I let go, consistently reminding myself that this is how he treats everyone and that I am not special. He makes everyone feel special, and that is kind of the point.
“You have to watch this,” he says, handing me the iced coffee he got for me and pointing at the ridiculous television. An element of his manliness again, as if I needed a reminder.
“Two-hundred-and-fifty-k, tho?” I ask from the couch next to his chair. “It should be cheaper, right?”
He stares me down, appalled not by my use of tho — for he can discern the difference between though and tho and since he is well aware that my vocabulary is far superior to his — but by my accusation.
“Look at that view. Cheaper? Seriously? This is the place you write fucking romance novels, woman! I need a cigarette.”
We go outside and he hands me a tiny bottle of liquid and I smile, dripping it on the cotton attached to the top of my mechanical vaporizer. The cloud I release from my lips tastes like mango cream.
“No fucking way. You found it?”
“Nah. Frank made it for you.”
“I love him.”
He lights both the gas lamp and the bonfire between us even though we both know very well that he isn’t cold.
I set down my mod and have one of his cigarettes. It tastes like decomposing death and doesn’t smell nearly as good as it does when it is in his hair.
“How was the meeting?” he asks me.
The night is chilly and the stars are invisible. He gives me time to look for them anyway.
“It went really well,” my hushed voice says finally, as if there were anyone within miles of this place that could ever hear me. I meet his eyes. “So they have a standard suicide hotline, right, except they put these teenagers through this extensive program so that they can take the calls. They’re teaching them empathy, call control, everything dude, everything that we had to wait until we were twenty-five to learn. They are…they’re…”
“They’re molding good humans.”
My face does that thing where it falls in love with his eyes and he knows it because his is doing the same thing.
“Yeah,” I nod.
“I’ve missed you,” he whispers.
I laugh. “I saw you two weeks ago. You’re a crazy person. And I know a lot of crazy people, so you know it takes a lot for me to say that.”
“You think you know a lot of crazy people.”
“Live my life for five minutes.”
“OMG you’re right. You’re like the queen of the crazy people. You’re their leader!”
I laugh so hard that it causes a coughing fit and I call him an asshole. He stares at me with that evangelical gaze like he did at that one coffee shop that one time when we forgot everyone there was there and that guy who was talking to him asked him if he was listening and he said no and kept staring at me. That was the same night he had me feel his heart in the middle of the street, I think.
My life was so strange before he existed in it.
We put our cigarettes out and I vape to create the illusion that I don’t smell like an ashtray. He leads me back inside to the couch and he’s asleep in four seconds and all I can think as I watch the sun rise through the window over his shoulder is there is no way I can sleep right now, or ever, and then I’m waking up in his bed. The sun is a faraway thing hid behind a world of black curtains and I graze my fingertips over my throat as if I can stop the burning from the outside in.
“It’s the cigarette,” his whisper tickles my ear.
“I haven’t smoked since I was in Seattle. I still have a half a pack in my desk drawer.”
“Yeah. I really don’t know why I haven’t thrown them away.”
“It’s a psychological thing. Having them, even if you’re not going to smoke them.”
“It’s a metaphor.”
A moment passes before he says, “The Fault in Our Stars,” and my heart bursts into flames in my chest because it’s a well known fact that I will fall in love with any man who quotes TFIOS to me and his memory sucks and he probably doesn’t remember that drunken night two years ago when I told him about the smoking metaphor from the novel, so it totally counts.
We sleep, and the goodbye comes. The number of times we’ve said goodbye is way more than I can count, but I still don’t believe that he will come back.
I text Will, and he says he’s at the place with my coffee. Iced. My favorite.
I love words.
Those are some beautiful words.
And even more beautifully strung together.
Thank you so much, Cynthia. I enjoyed writing this piece very much.
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