You smoked, and everyone hated that...

You smoked, and everyone hated that. The cigarette would hang loose between your knuckles, tendrils of smoke mimicking the tracery of veins and tendons that stood out along the back of your hand. You could do the most graceful French inhales, and sometimes you'd lean in close and grab me and kiss me, blowing warm smoke into my mouth. The scent would always cling to me—I'd drag it back home with me and start a fight over it.

You were sparrowlike, all taut pale skin and prominent bones. Your hipbones jutted slightly—sharp elbows, sharp knees, a sharp jaw softened by cornsilk hair. When I ran my fingers down your back I could always feel every vertebra in your spine, a steel column anchoring you down. More smoke. More fights. You never belonged here and never would.

Lay back. Relax. Anything—anything you want. I'd close my eyes and forget to breathe because I knew you weren't mine. If anything, I was yours, a toy that trembled and kissed back. This town chained you down harder than it chained me, but even with your soft skin and thin bones you were stronger, and I knew one rainy summer night your cigarette would be snuffed out and you'd break free of whatever kept you here.

And so I'd try to hold you to me, feeling your fragile ribs beneath my palms, and you'd press your hips to mine but lean back to blow a stream of smoke towards the ceiling. Once I'd whispered to you through a vise throat, and I love you had hung shaking on the air. You'd smiled and pulled me down to you and kissed me, both of us sprawled on the bare wood floor with the first hints of sunrise sneaking through the blinds. And you kissed me like the world was ending around us, like there was nowhere else you wanted to be and nothing else you wanted to touch but me—but you didn't say a word.

A hot south wind sprang up and called to you the way I knew—dreaded—it would. And you left one rainy summer night, a pale little wraith against the dark, and you left me with clothes full of the scent of you and hands full of nothing, and only the memory of your smoke in my lungs.

The End

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