What You Get

I didn’t know I’d fallen in love with him, though of course I had, didn’t begin to know it until I sat next to him, smoking a cigarette on the back steps of my apartment on that cloudy day in August just before the rains came. He’d shown up, didn’t knock on my door, just sat there at the foot of my fire escape, knowing I’d walk out the back door sooner or later. Men who didn’t have anywhere to go easily acquired the virtue of patience.

He didn’t say anything as I walked out my kitchen door, cup of coffee and cigarette in hand. He looked sleepless and tired and disheveled and vulnerable and broken. The morning breeze was doing some kind of dance through his Che Guevara hair. He looked like a revolutionary who’d lost the war. There was nothing sadder than the look of defeat in a man’s eyes. Survivors carried their dead around long after the war ended.

I nudged him softly as I sat next to him. He put his trembling hand on my knee—and when the trembling stopped, he pulled it back.

“Been sitting here long?”

“I like to watch sunrises.”

“Nice hobby.”

“I’m out of cigarettes,” he said.

“Coffee?” I asked.

He nodded. “Drink this,” I said, surrendering my cup to him. He slowly took it to his lips and drank.

“Are you cold?”

“Why?”

“You’re trembling.”

“It’s called the shakes, you asshole.”

“Is that a communicable disease?”

There was a hint of a smile on his face.

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