Female Friends

I watch Joyce fail to light a cigarette against the wind.

Little sparks erupting then disappearing in an instant like dying fireflies kept in a jar. Her back is hunched over. Through her sheer top I can see every vertebra of her spine and I have the strange desire to lick them all to see if they taste different from one another.

Please don’t look at me like that Joyce says to me. We are standing outside of our dorm. The no smoking sign close to us. Joyce is beautiful in the type of way that ice is beautiful when it melts. She is beautiful like a piece of toast.

Like what? I ask.

Like I’m weak.

She clicks the lighter on again but the fire vanishes before it can even touch the cigarette.

Joyce asks me if she should quit smoking and I tell her no.

Every morning, Joyce sprays Happy by Clinique on the soft parts of her neck — wrists — breasts, but after she smokes Newports, she smells stale and I feel guilty about how it turns me on.

This lighter is fucking dead Joyce says and drops it on the ground. She removes the cigarette from her mouth and places it behind her ear, I’m gonna go to sleep.

I watch her walk away.

I worry that the only thing I will ever be good for in life is watching people walk away.

Joyce lets herself back into our dorm without saying goodbye. She doesn’t have to. She knows that around midnight I will knock on her door and she will open it and we will say no words and we will sleep together and in the morning I will ask her if I can wear her socks and she will say no and I will want to cry.

I pick up the lighter from the ground once Joyce disappears. I click it on and let myself feel the heat of it against my forearm.

Joyce once told me that to be depressed is to be on fire. She also told me that the only thing humans are capable of feeling is loneliness, but Joyce also said that this lighter was fucking dead and as I finally start to smell my skin burn I realize that it is not.

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