Tina in the Night

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I stepped out into the fresh January night, my breath like a dragon’s, frosting the black air. I heard the click of a lighter, and turned to see her lipping a cigarette behind her straw hair, head tilted to the moon. Her fingers shed ash across a ripped-jean knee.

“Nice out,” she mused, and I nodded. I wondered when the last time we talked had been. I wondered if she remembered my name, remembered that I’d been in her Math class last year. If she didn’t remember us, we certainly remembered her.

“Cam likes nights like these,” she said. She didn’t have to explain; I knew. We all knew Cam, the hippie with hair down his back and loose clothes, Cam who didn’t go to college, Cam who didn’t wear sneakers. I’d seen the two of them embrace countless times on his stoop, melting into each other as one in the flickering pool of yellow light. I nodded, and then to make friendly conversation responded with,

“God, I’m sick of these driver’s ed classes.” Tina nodded distantly, drawing in breath from her cigarette. The night filled with the smell of smoke.

“I just want to get on the road. Get my own car, you know; me and Cam are saving up. I want to get out of here.” I nodded.

“This town can get boring. I mean, what is there to do around here?”

“Oh, I find stuff to do...” Tina trailed cooly, a sly smile spreading across her face. “I want to get out of here. For other reasons.”

I thought of her getting off the school bus long ago, dissapearing down the dusty road, a world behind a screen door that nobody knew but her. I wondered about her mother with straw hair, somehow having trouble picturing Betty Crocker. Cam’s car came down the bend, the jaded volkswagen from too many years back. Tina tossed her cigarette into the bushes, yanked her knotted hair out of its ponytail. She clunked open the door, and the starlight caught a glint of a smile on her face that said one word; home.





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