Like me, you smoke; like me, you bite your nails. You favour roll-ups, mostly because they’re cheaper, but also because it’s one of the few times you feel dexterous. Watch me roll like I’m a novice surgeon unsure whether he should be the one wielding the scalpel. But you — look at you go! — one-handed, lick and light. The little orange O bounces, satisfied. Mine’s scrawny like a witch’s finger, but I get it lit.
We smoke in the flat. It was your flat and now it is out flat. We’re not supposed to smoke in the flat, but you say you’ve been doing it for years and all it takes is an open window and a bit of air freshener. I like smoking inside too much to argue, and I love the pull at the strings of my guts, knowing I’m doing wrong, swilling that delicious guilt around my mouth like porter. Dark and deep.
I watch you smoke. You seem to glow and pulse with the cigarette, a lightshow localised on our sofa. You smile around the cigarette.
There are a few small holes in your forehead. They’re from when you scarred from chickenpox as a girl. You told me you were self-conscious about them. I kissed them because I didn’t want you to be, but also because I felt like I needed to love you more, better, more intensely, and I couldn’t think of how else to do it. You tell me you love me with your whole self; my love whispers away like cigarette smoke.
You hold the cigarette away and gnaw a nail. Sometimes you bleed. Up your wrist there’s a tattoo, a silhouette of Ariel from The Little Mermaid. You told me you got it because it made you happy when you were sad, long ago. Sometimes you watch it and it helps the sadness go away again.
You tell me that you used to be very sad.
Later that night, I panic. I wake up, gasping and screaming. You hold my head and stroke my hair. You roll me a cigarette. You know I can’t speak for a while after these happen. You don’t try to make me speak. We sit in the dark and we smoke cigarettes. And even though I cannot speak you know that when I take your hand and tap it three times with my finger it means that I love you.
So I tap your hand in the dark. One. Two. Three.
In the morning we have black coffee and smoke cigarettes. The sun breaks through the clouds, little jutting bars of light. When you have finished your coffee it is time for you to go to work.
Long after you’re gone, I can feel the one two three on my palm.