I’m still sitting on this wall, the brick chill cutting through my jeans. I take a swig of beer, wipe the condensation from my hand onto the dark denim, watch the smoke from my cigarette curl into the dark woods before disappearing into the sky. I am aware of the club behind me in the same way that I am aware of the seven foot drop under my dangling feet; it’s there but I’m not going to fall.
Footsteps on the patio behind me. It’s probably just another couple come to take advantage of one of the picnic tables. I place my beer down on the wall next to me ignoring them with a forceful drag on the cigarette. I don’t smoke.
She’s suddenly there, on the wall with me, and for a moment I’m afraid she’s upset the beer can, precariously balanced on the old, crumbly bricks. But no, there it is, safe on my other side. We sit in silence for a moment as she contemplates her intertwined fingers and I continue to watch the dark woods in front of me. I finish my cigarette, stub it out, light another. I don’t smoke.
She’s looking at me now. I can feel her eyes on the side of my head.
“I’m sorry about… I’m sorry.” I do not respond. What response is there? I could tell her I’m sorry too, or that I’m not sorry and neither is he, so why should she be? Or that he was… is… a bastard, or that inside I’m crying but I don’t cry so… but she’s speaking again. The cigarette is shaking; highlighted by my apparent verbal incapacity, I can feel her attention focused on it. I don’t smoke.
“I hate men.” This said quietly, but with a strange, lightning vehemence that captures my full attention instantly. I glance at her sideways with a laugh that might have passed for a cough. It could have been a cough. I don’t smoke.
She’s looking at me again, but I’m back in the woods. If I turn my head I will be able to see her eyes and then I will know what she means. But it’s her move in this strange game we’ve been playing, and I remain still. I feel her look away again. Pass. Her disappointment is palpable, and I wonder what she wants from me, why she cares about my reaction, or lack thereof. I wonder how much she knows. I make my own move with a quick flick of the cigarette. I don’t smoke.
“I don’t like men,” she says again, even more quietly, if that’s possible. I grunt noncommittally before inhaling another lungful of smoke. The red embers glow violently in the night before fading to dull gray ash. I don’t smoke.
“No, I mean it. I really don’t like men.” Louder. She gets her desired response. I take the cigarette out of my mouth with the hand previously reserved for beer and look at her. It’s her turn to look at the woods now. When she turns her head, too suddenly for me to pretend not to notice, to look away quickly. Our eyes meet, green on more green. We both know that I know what she means. The next move is mine.
I should say, me neither, and pretend not to know what she means, turn back to the forest and my cigarette. I should say, me neither, and lean in, close my eyes, close the shallow distance between us, close this game. I should leap down seven feet and she should follow, and whatever happened then would be between our self-control and our fate.
But I don’t believe in fate, and I don’t smoke.
I look away from her. “Don’t we all,” I say ruefully as I stub my cigarette out. I swing my legs over the wall, start to leave and turn back. I do not look at her as I collect my beer from its ledge, down it, and crush the can. The metal crumples easily against my hand. I leave her sitting on the wall as I return to the glaring lights and pervasive bass booster, to my drunk and currently–conspicuously-cheating-in-a-corner boyfriend. Without taking my eyes off the unabashed gratification in front of my eyes, I sit down on a stool, take out another cigarette, and ask the bartender for a light. I don’t smoke.