Outside, we talk

She and I walk outside, past the bouncer. Night has long since fallen. Once the door closes, I can no longer hear the beat of the music inside; all I can hear is the whoosh of traffic on the highway.

She pauses at the stairs, balanced on her 8″ heels. Her chestnut hair, long and wavy, frames her dark eyes. She’s dressed for work, in a black bikini top, lacy black and white panties, with a filmy black wrap tied in front covering her.

She holds out her hand. I don’t get it at first and she looks at me, expectantly, amused. I hold her hand and steady her as she steps down and gingerly, with small steps, walks to the wooden picnic table that is there for smokers. I realize that it must be difficult to walk in those shoes on such uneven asphalt.

She sits on the table, facing me. Lighter in her right hand, she ignites her cigarette and puffs.

I stand there, facing her, in my jacket, t-shirt, slacks. My fedora, short-brimmed and sweat stained, shields my eyes a little. My hands are fists in my jacket pocket. I shiver. I’m cold.

She’s not looking at me. She’s staring past me at something else.

“I’ve got a… weird birthday coming up,” she says into the night air.

“You’re going to be 29?” I ask, deadpan. I do deadpan well. I remember learning, many years ago, about the concept of vanity from my mom and my sisters and so many other women.

Her eyes flick towards me and a smile infinitesimally crinkles the corners of her lips. “I love you.” She has matched my deadpan.

My eyes smile. The moment lingers.

I push my fists deeper into my pockets and silently wish it were true.