nervously descending the steps i wonder if anyone is watching me. my steps, a bit intoxicated from the four sam adams consumed a mere thirty minutes before, my head, a bit foggier than usual, mon rythm cardiaque accelerating at the sight of a dark figure waiting in front of the door. my left arm, covered in a tattoo of a map of the arctic circle, extends to meet the handle of the steel door. a rush of wind greets me with hospitality and the dark figure turns to meet my gaze. his hood is pulled up over his head, his eyes, behind those fogged glasses, are indeed, dialated, his throat is parched, and his ears are beet red. he puts his left hand on the face of the door and motions with his right hand for me to exit first. my body obliges, but my eyes remain, intent, on his mysterious visage. his eyes, follow mine, and a smile creeps to the edges of his face. no such thing appears on my face, but my soul is warmed by this small gesture. i begin to walk up the hill to the main road, but my head is still turned back, facing the stranger. after a brief moment, his silhouette disappears into the building and my head is forced to look onward instead of behind.
the streets are cold, iced over, abandonned. the people are sporadically placed, and i, i am just a passerby. my pace is swifter than normal, perhaps it was the decreasing temperature that fired my energy. the street lights glowed with a sallow tint, and the stars were nowhere to be spotted. as i found myself, moving uptown, past the bars, i passed by a group of young men all clad in sable. their heads were homes to an array of thrifted hats- all of which looked miraculously warm. each man had a cigarette in hand, and they were conversing amongst themselves. with my presence however, their colloquies seemed to cease. all eyes were on me, and i tried to speed up my pace. i felt my skin flushing, but oh, not pink, my skin flushes even more paler than what most would think is humanly possible. the last boy i passed blocked my pathway and smiled at me. i averted eye contact the moment this happened. hey sweetie, wanna cig? he prodded. i nodded my head in a manner that was both timid but strong, and his friends pushed him slightly out of the way. one even called after me a half-hearted apology for their ill-mannered drunken friend. my walk continued to consume me. by the time i reached the promenade, the traffic lights were blinking with their carmine color. my hands displayed little to no signs of life, and my hair was brittle and feeble. my eyes glanced around my outdoor environment nervously and spastically. i saw a bench and headed towards it.
the bench laid beneath a tall street light, and it faced the wide and endless atlantic ocean. as i sat on the weathered bench, mon ryhthm cardiaque, stabilized. i fumbled through my pockets in search for a pack of cigarettes. pulling out my roomates camel lights, i light one with a zippo that i acquired from working at an irish pub. the lost and found always presented many treasures for me and my co-workers. the night seemed to be at a stand-still, and the cars on the overpass, that could also be discerned from this consecrated bench, seemed to pass by at a snail’s pace. my thoughts were empty, and my breathing was slow. the world in front of me was simple enough to love, but also, simple enough to detest more than anything else one could imagine detesting. minutes went by, even though they seemed like hours, and eventually, i wandered back into the real world. i hear the shuffling of feet approaching from behind. due to my skittish nature, i turn abruptly to see what challenge faces me tonight. my eyes detect a lone boy, sporting a ripped black t-shirt with Albert Einstein’s image printed on its chest. he has a cigarette to his lips, and his free hand remains in his pocket. he looks incredibly chilled, but no wonder! his shirt barely covers his malnourished torso. i see his eyes glance at me. he stops a bit in his tracks, but continues onward. the moments it takes him to make his way from the pine tree- which happens to be about 25 yards, to where i was sitting, i can’t quite recall, but that’s not the point. as he passes by, an unknown force is ignited within me. i leap up from my bench and call after him.
he looks around him, and then his eyes meet mine. he stops where he is, and i saunter over to him with no idea what to say.
uh sorry. didn’t mean to startle you.
you didn’t startle me. do i, uh, know you from somewhere? he questions.
oh, no. i don’t think so at least. anyway, you looked cold. but i just wanted to tell you that i really appreciate your t-shirt.
he glances down, and a laugh is coughed up out of his mouth into the silent world around us. ha, oh thanks. albert was my father’s mother’s next door neighbor.
neat. i respond, chillingly.
so, whatchya doin’ around here at this time, he questions me.
well, i donno what time it is. but i’m just…sitting.
sitting? i see. its about 1am.
oh. huh, i didn’t know that much time had passed. i commented.
his smile appeared once again. yeah, well, i should get going. nice chatting.
certainly. approaching him i said, do you mind?
mind a chick walkin’ me home?
no, i wouldn’t walk you home, i just don’t feel like walking alone in the barathrum of houses that the promenade has to offer, especially at 1am. i’ll just join you til the main road- as long as that’s where you’re headed.
ah, i got it. sure. i don’t mind.
the both of us, strangers, marched onwards into the night in complete silence. his stride was long and proud, mine, short and mouse-like. his head was facing upward, looking about him, taking in all the sights and sounds, mine, was faced down to the cobblestone, occasionally looking up the be greeted with his visage. he turned to me and said, by the way, i’m nico.
nico? i’m fleur.
do you like fleurs, fleur? he laughed.
i see you’ve taken high school french. congratulations.
what, you’re fluent in it?
yeah. my parents were both french….used to speak to me in french all the time. i think in french actually. dream in french. find my way in french.
that’s….definitely interesting. nico inferred. so uh, you say were?
well, if you don’t mind me asking…
oh, i’m sorry.
its fine. i got this a lot. the last thing i needed to hear was sorry. so besides french, you speak anything else?
well, english. german. i took latin. i know some basic spanish, and maybe some greek here and there. what about you fraulien fleur?
french, english, greek. some latin on the side. i responded. the buildings on both sides of us seemed ominous and superior. they were of great heights, weights, and merits. we, we were just ants in their pathways. so, why were you on the promenade this evening, herr nico?
same reason as you. i just don’t sit a la banc madameoiselle fleur.
si n’est pas a la banc, où?
i sit on the grass… makes me feel more connected to mother earth. plus it keeps me grounded. at the same level as everything else in nature.
ah, je vois.
you have a very pretty accent fleur. nico jested.
danke. i smiled.
all foreign languages- aren’t ya?
i suppose. can i borrow your lighter?
don’t use a lighter.
then how do you- i began to question until nico reached into his back pocket and revealed a matchbook. shaking his head in amusement.
matches are also an implement of flame.
who uses matches anymore? i tsked.
he shrugs, and i roll my eyes. he strikes a flimsy match, offers it to me, and i light the tip of my friend. as i inhale, the smoke dances sweetly inside of my mouth. calmness overcomes my entire body. my thoughts are shutdown, and i am in a serene world.
ou…you should quit.
fuck off. you smoke too.
true. but you’ve smoked maybe four cigarettes since i’ve met you- which was about….20 minutes ago.
i drink even more. i added.
do you? that’s a nasty habit. nico laughed. his hands went searching through his pockets, and after a good moment, they resurfaced with a silver flask apparent. wanna sip?
haha nah. its gin.
gin? what an odd drink for a flask. i comment as i reach for this nifty little container filled with delicious goodness. my lips meet the rounded neck of the flask and are immediately engulfed with fragrant and tasty (or so i think) liquid. the clear liquid races down my throat, and my eyes start to become bleary.
like it? its imported from holland.
ah? holland…odd place for gin to be made.
you’re just full of critique- aren’t ya? nico observed.
gotta be picky if you’re gonna get what you want. anyway. we’ve been walkin’ a while. where do you live nico?
oh, a ways a way. on the east side. you?
same. i hate the trek.
yeah. you know…you’re staggering as you walk miss fleur.
i n-noticed. wanna share a cab? the ice is starting to frighten me. i add for dramatic purposes only.
sure. there’s a taxi stand about a block away.
i know… this is my city too. he laughs at this comment and responds with a i suppose so.
i begin to pick up my stride, running in a sense, and then nico himself begins running alongside me. smiles erupt on both of our faces, im racing to keep up. i let out a shriek of happiness and nico’s laugh resounds against the walls of the surrounding buildings. our legs move us right past the taxi stand and we continue running throughout the city. we run until we can’t anymore. at this point, i’m within three blocks of my own home. i’m bent over, gasping for air, like a fish gasping for water. nico has his hands at the back of his head, and his breathing is heavy. he turns towards me and tells me he thinks im fun. i smile at this and i respond in the same manner. he asks me how much longer i have to go and i tell him not much. his head nods weakly, as if he were upset.
we continue trudging through the city, and we turn down my street. i point to my building and he asks if i like living there. i tell him the truth- that i don’t. and he grimaces. we sit outside my front door and share one last cigarette. he gets up after my last exhale. his smile is omnipresent. thank you fleur. his voice exerts. i nod my head. and i get up. i turn and unlock my door, i walk up four flights of stairs covered in linolium, and i unlock my other door. as i sink into my ‘safe haven’ i’m elated. i approach my futon and i sprawl out on it. the doldrums and nothings of my clocks and of other machinery lull me to sleep.
when i awake the next morning i can’t remember if anything that happened the night before was real or if i had just imagined it. i clamored about my apartment, attempting to brew myself a pot of coffee, attempting to find the last of my herb supply, attempting to find any means of relaxation. no cigarettes left. no coffee beans. no weed. what to do. leave, go into the world and find one of the three items on my search-list. my clothes aren’t changed, my doctor martens aren’t tied. i leave my lonesome apartment and once again, make my way down the set of stairs. this time, i am no longer wondering if anyone is observing me. as i reach the steel door that leads to the outside world, i am confronted with a dark figure waiting. mon ryhthm cardiaque did not speed up- it remained steady. i pushed my way through the door, and the dark figure turns. my eyes discern a boy with a look of disbelief about his face. fleur? he questions.
i…just wanted to return your cigarettes.
thank you, nico. i responded. this encounter reassured both of us that last night truly happened, and that it wasn’t just our brains that concocted up the notion of being with one another. taking the cigarettes from nico’s rough and weathered hands, we sat in front of the streel door and shared a smoke while being connected to nico’s beloved mother earth.