Drunken Reason for Being

    “So, what’s your reason?” She mumbles around a few fries, already choosing another victim on her take-out plate and sliding it through the ketchup. They had just come from a bar a couple blocks down where they spent a few hours drinking and listening to some local bands. Eli’s eyebrows scrunch for a second and looks up at her from under his bangs, mouth full of shitty hamburger and mumbles,

    “My reason for what?” Hands wiped on a napkin, he shoots it into the open trash can and pulls out a pack of Marlboros that he bought on a whim in the convenience store on the way. Today was a day for being spontaneous; he wasn’t doing very well so far. At least he had made it out of the apartment. Opening the pack and fingering one he hadn’t finished, he quickly looks up, “You mind?” and lifts his hand.

    She finishes up her fries, stands up and puts the cellophane wrapping in the same trash can,

    “Only if I can’t bum one.” Her hair is tucked beneath a wool hat, glasses peaking out from the sides as the wind blows a bit cooler. He shrugs, hands one over, and realizes his lighter is shoved in his back pocket, pressed between his butt and the curb. She sits back down though, so he just leans over and fishes it out, coming up with an old receipt, a bus transfer, and two sticky note reminders.

    “You know, your raison d’etre or whatever.” She lifts the smoke up to her lips, but keeps eye contact, and he looks away. Finally cupping his hand around the cigarette sticking out of his mouth, he exhales and watches as the little curls of grey fumes wind around his fingers.

    “That’s a weird question, y’know. Who asks that?” He takes another drag and coughs, lungs hacking and smoke spewing from between his chapped lips.

    “I dunno, I was curious,” she shrugs, looking down at her tight skinny jeans and brushing some ash away, “don’t you ever think about it?” Meeting her eyes for a second, then two, he could tell her pupils were large in the darkness. He imagines her breath would still smell like vodka, and she sways slightly sitting on the curb next to him.

    “No, I haven’t really,” he feels her stare on him so heavily, and he looks away to flick the ashes in an empty coffee cup, “if I’m being honest.”

    She “hmms” quietly out to the empty parking lot. Eli looks in the direction she’s staring blankly, the vacancy sign of a sketchy hotel across the street flickering every third second. It’s a surprisingly soft sound, low pitch and in a way, bitter. She blows cancer through her nose and stands up,

    “Well, you’d better get started on that, then. I gotta go. ” She flicked the butt of her smoke across the cement, eyes smirking, “you’re running out of time.” Off she went, fingers still in the salute she left him with, and he watches her go, eyebrows knitted. In the dark he can see a cat pawing at a cardboard box, almost lost in the darkness, and he throws down the cigarette lodged between his fingers. He hates smoking.


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