CHORUS : Why are you so in love with
— Sophokles, Elektra
The first time I saw her she was sitting at the bar. A cigarette in her left hand and a glass in her right. A man sat next to her and I couldn’t tell if they were an unhappy couple or two unhappy strangers sitting next to each other. The light from the bar shone onto her blonde hair and turned it into cotton candy. I watched as she plucked a cherry from its stem, and for days I could think of nothing but red.
It took me twenty-eight minutes to build up the courage to talk to her. I watched her light three cigarettes. I watched her talk to the man beside her, saw as she played with the straw in her drink as he talked. As he finally stood up to leave, she pulled out her fourth cigarette. Her lighter flickered and sputtered. Taking the seat beside her, I offered her mine. For the first time, she looked at me. I saw her eyes and her smile grew. I could no longer hear the music in the bar, only feel the bass.
We didn’t fall in love the first night, but I knew I loved her before she had finished smoking the cigarette I lit. Depeche Mode played on the jukebox that sat in the corner of the bar and she hummed to herself. The bartender approached her, “How about another?” She slid her empty glass toward him and winked. I watched as he poured a double shot of Maker’s Mark over a fresh glass of ice. “Rough shift tonight?” He handed her the drink and she took a swig, “You have no fucking idea.”
“You mind if I bum one of those cigarettes from you?” Twenty-eight minutes for eleven words.
Her head tilted. Her smirk seared into my mind.
I puffed on her Marlboro Red and fought the urge to cough. I didn’t smoke cigarettes but I forgot about everything that led up to the night I met her.
“So, you work here?” My voice didn’t sound like my voice.
She tapped on her cigarette and her opal ring changed colors.
“Yeah, but not for long.” We sat in silence. She finished her drink. Smashed her cigarette in the ashtray. I barely took my eyes off her.
As I reached toward her to put my half-smoked cigarette out, she chuckled.
“Do you always do that?”
“Stare at people.”
In that moment, I felt I needed to hit that cigarette again. But then I noticed her small smile and her fingers in her hair.
“I don’t try to. I guess I was trying to figure you out.”
She looked at me for a long time. Lit another cigarette. I almost thought this could be the end of our strange encounter. In the span it took her to respond, I imagined getting on the bus alone, arriving at my studio apartment, only to make cereal and watch cheesy horror movies with my dog. I could feel myself in bed, dreams filled with pomegranates, blood oranges, cherries, her mouth, all things that drip red.
“And, what did you gather?”
I hadn’t noticed I was holding my breath.
Her lipstick painted the butt of her cigarette. She motioned to the bartender for another drink.
“Nothing.” She raised an eyebrow. “Well,” I continued, “I noticed that you’re the kind of person who shows different colors depending on the angle of light. I could assume as much as I want about you, but I’m almost positive you have more depth to you than I can imagine.”
She laughed. Almost too loud. Her head thrown back, the pendant on her choker shaking with her. I laughed with her. I wasn’t sure why she was laughing at me, but confessedly, I didn’t want her to stop.
“So, you want to get out of here?”