September 25, 2008
By Hilarie Kincaid, Indio, CA

She took a drag from her “not-so-last” cigarette, buying time.
I waited impatiently
and watched the smoke curling up
and Up
and Up
to disperse
and merge with the air, giving it a milky pallor.
I cleared my throat.
She looked at me.
There was a dark red lipstick ring around the rim of the filter,
clashing with the faded burnt sienna color.
She closed her eyes.
As if afraid to look in mine,
because then her façade of self-control would shatter.
She tilted her head towards the sky, and began to speak.
Her words stabbed.
Shot to the heart, and clawed their way through, hitting every blood vessel in their path,
although they were weak and senseless, filled with clichés and false truths.
Love hurts.
Love is fake. It doesn’t exist in the real world.
Not worth it.
Hurt me.
Words fell from her lips like rain,
forming ripples in the pool of bitterness on the table in front of her.
She’d had enough.
She took another drag of her cigarette.
The ash dangled off the end, precariously balanced.
It could fall apart at any second without the right management.
We could fall apart at any second with the right management,
the right words,
the right touch.
I was scared.
The majority of her lipstick had rubbed off, collected on the filter.
I breathed the smoke in.
Secondhand kills.
Her voice rose and fell with emotion.
I could smell her anger,
heavy and rich.
I could smell her sadness,
cold and damp.
She had stopped talking.
The flow of speech, nonsensical to my despairing ears, was over.
I sighed in relief.
And then I watched her walk away,
words caught in my throat,
the words that would fix it all,
and she would turn around.
But they choked me,
and I couldn’t say them.
The first tear I’d ever cried in my life fell from my eyes, was cast out.
It joined the pool my silence had made,
on the same table as hers, close but not touching.
Never touching.
My eyes were scattered, looking for more details, more distractions.
The table was dark green.
Strange I should notice that now.
I had sat at this table with her every day for the past ten years.
I’d never noticed its color.
Maybe I should have.

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