And I Smile

A faint breeze fluxes eastwards briefly. The majestic sun sets calmly behind the far-flung mountains and daubs the sky with brilliant hues from amber to red, to magenta, through to the deep blue which darkens with each passing minute.

She’s sat placidly beside me, enamoured by the superb sunset before our eyes. She says nothing, though her mouth remains very scarcely agape.

After some two minutes, she reaches into her small shoulder-bag and retrieves a pack of Purple Clovers. Edging the pack towards me, she says, “You want one?” I take one and thank her. She then passes me a lighter after lighting her own cigarette.

“You’re too pretty to be smoking,” I say with a smile
“Bullshit!” she says, then exhales. “What are you going to say next – that I’m too beautiful to be swearing?” she says in jest. I laugh.
“Well.”
“I don’t usually smoke.” she continues. “Never, actually, but I’m on holiday. So why not? Anything’s allowed when you’re on holiday.” she says with a small laugh. Even when she smokes, she looks so pretty and graceful. Her attire is a simple, black sundress and yellow flats. Her dark shoulder-length hair flutters gently to the wind’s motion. 

“So, what time’s your flight tomorrow?”
“I’m leaving at two in the morning,” she says, staring at a fixed point in the distance. “but my flight is at five.”
“You’re off again so soon.”
She looks at me and says, “I know, it sucks. I’ve finished school now, though. I’m going straight into work. I’ll work for one or two years then I’ll move here for good. I’ll come see you before then, of course. But once I’m here, we won’t ever have to be apart from each other again.”

I smile. I ask her what kind of work she’ll be doing. She tells me she’s going to be an assistant Veterinary Technician or something like that. I was too lost in her eyes and in my imagination to catch the details, but she seems excited about it all. A loose silence descends between us. We’re laid beside each other, glaring wordlessly into the now blackened sky. The cool, summer-night air carries the scent of freshly cut grass.

“Have you ever been in love?” she asks suddenly, almost automatically, with her gaze still fixed at the empty sky. I mull over her question and try to answer as transparently as I can.
“I don’t think so. I’m not entirely sure what love is.” I say after pondering. “Looking back, though, all I see is a series of short-lived infatuations and meaningless compromises.” 

She looks at me with an easy expression on her face – an expression which doesn’t say much, and so I decide not to ponder on the topic. I simply let the question float off into the distance and allow the silence to take its rightful place. 

“I better get going,” she says. “I don’t want my dad to worry, and it’s getting a little chilly.”

I walk her all the way to her doorstep.
“Well, here we are.” I say, somewhat sheepishly.
“It’s been wonderful to see you again after all this time,” she says. “I’ll be back as often as I can.”
I smile. I can feel my chest recoil and contort. I can hear all the unvoiced promises trying to disengage from a very specific region of my heart. I want to confess a million and one things to her right now at this very moment, but all my vocal chords decide to utter is, “Best of luck with your job. I’m sure you’ll do great.”
“Thanks.” She brushes a few strands of hair behind her left ear and kisses me on the cheek. “I’ll call you.” she says.

I smile.

That’s all I can think to do. That’s all I ever do. All these desperate, unsaid words remain trapped behind this otiose smile.

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