Cigarettes
  Victoria Linhares

You sat there waiting for the 24 bus back to the east end of the city. I watch you smoke a cigarette, keys wallet cell phone in your pocket, the bumps and edges of object to pant leg.

I remember when we sat on the curb of that shady downtown street, pissed off because the liquor store was closed. You gave me a red lighter and said I could keep it. I kept it in my dirty purse for five fucking months. Months later, in a different city, a man came up to me in the street and asked me for a light. He slipped it in his pocket after I gave him one. I almost punched him in the face for trying to take away my only piece of you.

Your girlfriend was there. We sat on a rock in an artificial pond in downtown Toronto. We were drinking beer with a girl who had rolled-up pant legs and a jean jacket that said “MOTHERFUCKER” on the back. You bought her a can of Pabst and I told you I was nauseous. The band was doing soundcheck. I rubbed your back when you told me. You told me that you had not had sex in two months and that your arguments were horrible and I could see that you were crying, and I looked behind you to see if your girlfriend was coming back from the public washroom. Four hours later when the band was throbbing in my head and the crowds were pushing their way through to the front of the stage I put my head on your shoulder and you did the same, with so much guilt it was as if we were fucking. A man followed me in the street while I was walking to the subway station. I gripped my key in my hand. You were back where the crowds were. Later I heard you got into a bar brawl with a man who was harassing another girl that night. I live alone.

There is a six-year-old girl who lives in the apartment below me. She screams when her mother hits her. Like her, I wore the stinging, red pain on my left cheekbone like a warrior’s armour, the prize for loving someone too long and too hard for them to graciously absorb it back.

The first day I begged you to tell me you didn’t love me. You said you didn’t love me. I cried in a friend’s basement while she poured vodka in a teacup and lit joint after joint. I remember the time I was lost at one o’clock in the morning on Bathurst Street and I called you even though you were in New York. You didn’t pick up but I kicked myself when I got home that night for being lost and for calling you. I remember the time you stayed up till four in the morning when I was walking home alone after a show, long after the subways were closed, walking in my bare feet because they ached from my high heels. I asked you to meet me at the bar on College Street but you laughed, said you were in bed with her.

There is a six-year-old girl in the apartment below me who screams and stomps. She takes her anger out on the hardwood floors. I take a drag from a cigarette because it is good for the grief. You are thousands of miles away now in a small European town nobody can pronounce the name of. I’ve heard you have overcome your demons. I’ve heard you have finally learned how to be peaceful. I’ve heard you have not jumped over any cars in a very long time. I’ve heard you stayed with your girlfriend and you live with her in a cheap apartment in the city. You have a twin bed for optimum closeness. Your kitchen resembles one big fireplace. You are allowed to smoke cigarettes in your living room. Your guitar moved in with you.

I live alone in a three-bedroom apartment downtown in a different city. I make scum-rings in my bathtub and hang up rosaries, if not for salvation then at least for some answers. I remember the time you told me you had knocked the screen off a window and tried to jump out of it, but your girlfriend, alone now in your twin bed, called you back to sleep. Her landlord didn’t allow smoking but we smoked anyway, extinguishing the bottoms on the windowsill and throwing the ash down on the construction site below. We sat with bare knees on her floral comforter and talked about Jesus and Bill Callahan. You told me spend a night with an owl and you’ll see more blood than sleep. I now know your making room for me on the bed was not simply out of kindness.

There is a six-year-old girl who screams when her mother hits her. I tell her it’s going to be okay but she doesn’t hear me through the wood of my floors.

Past Issues Contact and Submissions About The Steel Chisel Author Profiles