Johanna This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Melbourne, FL
So I took a long drag on that cigarette, the yellow filter dry against my cracked lips. Directing my gaze in her direction, I noticed the way she had parted her hair in a different manner than she did the previous day. She seemed to carry herself as if everything was temperamental these days, and that was the sole reason I feared the future. She tucked a stray strand of hair behind her left ear and averted her eyes to the coffee in front of her. Her fingers trailed the wicker table, as if she was confused as to where her drink was. She looked up at me, revealing a sudden sense of solemn and fear. It was in that moment when the sudden realization of what was happening would hit me like a freight train, the sudden realization that one day, she would be gone. Like the cigarette in my hand, she would eventually reach her last drag and would no longer smoke. Like the coffee, overpowered with sugar and cream before her, she would eventually hit the bottom until a single drop remained, a taste of the what once filled that glass. Like every living thing on this earth, she would one day disappear. Unsure of where she was going to end up, I knew the sole reason she was put before me, the sole reason I ran into her in the parking lot of that gas station, the sole reason my card was declined and I had to bum a few dollars off of the magnificent girl at the next pump. This chain of events occurred so I knew to make the best of it, the best of us.

It was on that day, at that table in fact, that I made a decision that will still effect me to this day. I made a promise, a silent promise, but a promise nonetheless. She was unable to hear it, but in my mind I made sure to let her know I wasn’t going anywhere. No longer would I allow myself to be upset with her when she smacked her gum as we waited in line, or sang a bit off pitch as she cleaned around the house. I grew to love the way she seemed to always hit the curb backing out of the driveway and complicate her orders at the diner down the street. Her tendency to change a dozen times before we left the house became a ritual that I anxiously awaited, as her ability to ignore me for hours when she’s upset became a beautiful mystery to me. The days she woke up crying about the turmoil within her family became my favorite holiday, yet instead of running out in to the living room and tearing the wrappers of our gifts in to shreds - I craved burrowing away with her under the covers, snuggled deep against her collar, hands laced around her back as if I was a corset of human flesh.


Her eyes seemed to glisten more than ever on that day and a crooked smile was her way of letting me know that things between us were okay - but falling apart at the exact same time. Jamming the cigarette in the ashtray, I observed her crazy, beautiful features. She wasn’t a typical beauty, one that a group of uncouth college boys would whistle at as they walk on by, but a real piece of art. Every one of her features was placed in a way that complimented the next, as if God was an artist and spent his eighth day of creation perfecting the brushstrokes on the woman that was sitting before me.


I wanted to tell her that I would love her forever; even when I was a coffin of bones buried deep beneath the dirt, I would scratch at the thick wood that works as a barrier from my bones and the dirt, and the yards of dirt that separates her and I. I wanted to reach across the table and take her fragile hand in mine, turn it over and kiss each crease on her palm, the delicate lines of stitching that holds my love together. I wanted so badly to breathe her in like secondhand smoke, because I understood that loving her was unavoidable and so strong that one day, it would kill me. I wanted to tell her so many things that day, but I’ve never been much with words once they make their way out of my mouth, so I chose to keep quiet and I continued watching her sip her coffee, looking down at the burnt out cigarette in a sudden sense of penitence.





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