Finding you sitting on my fire escape was basically the last thing in the world that I wanted. I didn’t want to see anyone again ever, and you were standing between me and my freedom from all of my problems. I had already packed my bags: the bright green duffel thrown over my shoulder, and the much smaller mental one containing the only memories I was willing to take to my new life somewhere else. I was planning to follow 66 west until I hit the ocean. The nice thing about the ocean is that the roar scours all the thoughts from your brain. I wanted to be rolled around in the roar of the ocean until my mind was worn smooth like a river rock.
Instead, I found you on my fire escape, managing to completely block my path with your nonchalant sprawl. You flicked the ash from your cigarette into the unseasonably warm night air, and the tiny flecks of gray fell onto the shiny green of the magnolia leaves like snow. I glared at you, hoping to dissolve you into component atoms with the force of my stare, but I suspect the tear streaks and bright red nose spoiled the effect.
“Where’re ya headed?” you drawled, unconcerned about my haste. You took a sip out of the flask you were holding.
“West.” I wanted to add something impolite, but held my tongue. Why weren’t you moving out of my way?
“West, huh? Awful vague destination.” Another flick of the ash.
“Yeah, well.” I shifted the weight of my bag, and resumed my glare. My best gaze of hatred did not phase you in the least.
I just wanted you to get out of my way so I could get the heck out of dodge, but you seemed uninterested in moving and too interested in talking to me. I talked to you, in the beginning, somewhat begrudgingly. You told me about your time in L.A. and San Francisco, about the shabby little place you lived in Chinatown, and about the donut habit you picked up while you lived there. If it weren’t for Donut King, you said, you’d go through withdrawal. We talked for what seemed like ages.
You asked me to hold your cigarette for you while you went inside for a minute.
You never came back for it. By the time I realized that you were not going to come back, the cigarette had burned itself down to the filter, and my momentum for running was gone. I had missed the moment, and my plans for a new life elsewhere seemed silly and childish in the gray of the dawn.
But maybe it’d make life here worth living, if I knew you. I’ve still got your flask: write me if you want it back.