Lisa Burns

Wouldn’t have been for the cigarette, we would have been kindred spirits. I stood right, she stayed left, unfailingly. I enjoyed smoking in silence, she used to speak, instead. And she talked, burbled, and I listened to her, witnessing that spectacle. She loved to attack things head on and stand straight at the sight of the world, but I was always a step behind, ready to pick her up when the armour fell apart. And considering the warmth it would have dissolved for certain, melted by fire.

I did not particularly reflect. Nothing of this was premeditated; actually, everything was performed naturally. A string of events that had inevitably led us right there.

There’s nothing more annoying than waking up early in the morning to get beforehand to the only interesting lecture of the day, and discover that your seat has been taken. There are not assigned places, of course. But, after four years, everyone knows where they can seat and where they should not. It’s about custom, respect. This is the kind of things that can enrage her, I know, they don’t. That morning therefore, once crossed the doorway of the classroom, events followed one another like on an inclined plane.

Those two, moreover, launched themselves into irreverent gestures: one of them raised her hand to answer to the professor, the lecturer she would like to have as mentor, and the other took the coffee from her favourite vending machine, taking a break before it and preventing her from drinking hers. It would have been enough to ask him to step aside, but for her the message was clear. They had decided to get back at her because of that time she gave them the wrong schedule. They could have forgiven her. But they didn’t. Out of the classroom, he bumped her with the laptop. Accidentally, said I. Yet she was already firm and devoid of forgiveness. They really didn’t want to understand and I understood her instead. 

We always take a break after the class, some of us to smoke, some others to talk and other people to do both things, which bothers me. If you smoke, you don’t speak. You can’t talk while smoking, otherwise the cigarette finishes while babbling and you don’t respect tobacco, or you end up talking like a miserable addict. We could spend hours discussing about this. That day she did not talk yet: she listened. She finished the cigarette and told me: “this afternoon we have things to do”. Nothing unusual, actually; she always said that words at the end of the lesson. Then she added we should meet out of my place. This was unusual, instead.

By three o’clock, there was no one on the street. I descend and saw her with a can, I got closer and smelled the stink. I understand her, I feel her as though she was part of me, I can’t relieve her suffering without supporting her. I took the car and she led me to a square rarely visited on daytime where there’s a parked vehicle, the car I expected: she opened the glove compartment and took the lighter, and I saw her walk away. Then she stopped to watch, and I stood behind her. 

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