Breathe Fire

     Everything was happening according to plan. The sun assaulted my eyes as I sat on a rod iron bench outside of a store in the mall, waiting for my friend, Jones. I glanced around multiple times through squinted eyes to gather in the environment I was sharing oxygen with. There was a restaurant adjacent to the bench and the smell of food from the kitchen made my stomach become vocal. Utensils clanked and the dinner crowd kept its chatting like some kind of lullaby. No conversations were entirely decipherable but it was clear they were being had. Cars exiting the mall hummed and honked and kids ran circles around their parents as they stopped to check the proper amounts of receipts and make phone calls.
     People scared me. Not for any particular reason, just because they had eyes and ears and the internet leaves nothing sacred anymore. It’s all “he said this and she said that” and “Look, I swear, I have proof!” People want to be different. It’s a really big problem, actually. Yeah, I mean we’re all different in our own way blah blah this person’s more right brain dominant or this person has metal in their spine, or this person said this in this particular way. But really, we’re all just human beings with a short life-line that leaves us time to prove that we were worth the matter. Were you worth the matter? I think we’re all worth the matter because matter doesn’t really matter. I mean, everyone’s like “This universe is such a wonderful thing, we’ll never completely understand it.” I don’t think that’s true. I mean sure it will take years, but we’ll get there and then what? Once we understand it we’ll control and it will never be beautiful again.
      The sun was coming down, just as I was. I started to notice people staring at me. Geeze, what? A person can’t just sit on a bench not doing anything without people thinking they look suspicious? It’s not like I have a million tattoos and piercings or anything. I’m just a normal twenty-two year old girl. Stop looking at me. Jesus. STOP IT. I pulled out my phone to pretend I was texting someone. I was really just scrolling up and down through my messages. I didn’t really want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to look like I wanted to so people would just leave me alone.
     After about two minutes of that, I put the phone back in my purse and began to stare off again. I continuously played with the ring on my finger. Twisting it back and forth, taking it off and putting it back on. Okay, okay, a cigarette it’s time for a cigarette. I pulled a cigarette out and began to light it but the stupid wind felt like today was a good day to play with fire. And you know what, it would have won, had I not been smoking cigarettes for entirely too long and known which direction to turn, how to hold my hands and exactly when was the right moment that the wind lulled. Yeah, I know, if I put my mind to better things I’d probably be successful, but those better things don’t make my mind ease like nicotine.
     A little kid ran up to me and said, “Look Daddy pretty girls can breathe fire too!” and I laughed and looked at the Dad, tattooed sleeves. He smiled at me and said, “Sorry, I left the leash at home,” and dragged his kid by the arm to the parking lot.
      “Excuse me, Miss?” someone in my peripheral vision asked.
      “Hm?” I turned to him.
      “Do you have an extra smoke?” he asked, and I began reaching in my purse as he added, “I can pay you for it I just haven’t had the chance, I just ran out.”
      “Don’t worry about it,” I said, handing it to him, “Need a light?” I asked, wondering why he was still standing next to me. Most people just bum them and leave because they feel guilty or never would have talked to you in the first place if you didn’t have something that they wanted.
      “No, I’ve got one,” he said, digging around his pockets, hitting his loose change together. He began lighting it, “Care if I sit down?” He asked, indicating toward the empty spot on the bench. I shook my head.
      “So what’s a pretty girl doing smoking cigarettes anyway?” he asked, nudging my arm with his. I mentally rolled my eyes. If he only knew how many people have said that to me.
      “Only ugly people smoke?” I asked.
      “Well, no, it’s just, kind of weird.”
      “I don’t know, geeze, miss twenty questions over here.”
      “I’m just trying to understand why you asked me that question.”
     He laughed a little, still smiling as he inhaled his cigarette.
      “So what are you doing sitting here anyway?”
      “Waiting for someone.”
      “Oh, cool. Like your boyfriend?” he asked.
      “Please leave me alone.”
      “What? Geeze I was just asking, what’s your problem?”
      “Does it look like I’m at a bar right now? I’m not here to pick you up I’m just waiting for my friend.”
      “No, but if the opportunity arises why not?”
      “Because I don’t want the opportunity.”
      “You’re just playing hard to get.”
      “I’m not playing hard to get I am hard to get.”
      “Well look at you, you’re kind of cocky you know that?”
      “I do. Now leave me alone.”
      “Naw, I like a challenge.”
     The sun was starting to go down. Fuck. The plan. The plan. I’ve completely forgotten about the plan.
      “If you don’t leave me alone I’ll call the police,” I said frantically.
     Fuck. I can’t call the police. Jones needs all the time he can get.
      “The police? You wouldn’t.”
      “I would!” I said, hoping he would just believe me.
      “Fine,” he said, inhaling his cigarette, “call them.”
     WHAT?! JESUS. What is WRONG with this guy.
      “Look, just leave me alone I don’t have time for this.”
      “How do you not have time for this? You’re sitting on a bench not doing anything. It looks like you’ve got all of the time in the world. “
      “Yeah, well, I don’t.” I said, shortly. The sun was almost down. It’s time, it’s time.
      “Fine, what is so important?”
      “What time is it?” I asked quickly.
      “I don’t know, a half past seven.”
     I have to cause a scene. Might as well put this guy to use, it wasn’t part of the plan, but whatever.
     I began running around and screaming, “Help! Help! Get this guy away from me!”
      “What are you doing?” he asked, getting angry.
     People from the restaurant began to get quiet. A waiter came out and asked, “Miss are you okay?”
     And they all stared. They all stared.
      “No, help me!” I shouted.
      “But, what’s wrong?”
      “It’s him! Get him away from me!”
     He was still sitting on the bench smoking his cigarette, except now he was smiling. This wasn’t working.
     The alarms began going off in the building and people were running out of the store screaming, “There’s a guy…with a gun! He’s robbing the place! Call the police!”
     Everyone began running and screaming and filming and I just booked it to the parking lot, but he followed me.
      “This is you, isn’t it?” he asked, still jogging behind me.
      “Leave me alone!”
      “Or what? You’ll call the police? I’m sure they’d love to hear your side of the story.”
      “If you’re not going to leave me alone,” I said, stopping to catch my breath, and throwing him my keys, “help me.”
      “The getaway driver?”
      “Are you up for it?”
      “But the license plates—”
      “But people will see us.”
      “Tinted windows.”
      “This isn’t your first time at the rodeo, is it girly?”
      I smiled and said, “This enough of a challenge for you then?”
      “Wait, first, tell me, this guy, ‘Jones’— is he your boyfriend?”
      I laughed and said, “No.”
      “Okay, then, I’m in.”


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