Allison turned and grabbed a silver cartridge of what turned out to be Lucky Strike cigarettes from her purse, along with a white lighter. I’m not the go-to guy for this, but I didn’t think you could smoke in a school classroom, albeit a college lecture hall.
Certain places are out of bounds, and I doubt she could have desired the taste of nicotine so badly that she sat with the stick in her mouth, swirling the tip of the cigarette around the curves of her lips. Cigarettes, I thought, taking another look at Allison – who now had Dr. Lynch’s full attention – were pretty much banned to the outside drawls of this world, definitely not appropriate in a classroom setting. Even if not lit. The nicotine stick was only there, turning and turning in her mouth, to keep Dr. Lynch’s attention on her.
“What are you, stupid?” I told her.
I know. I was being arrogant. Trying to get her to fall for me instead of him. It’s not like it was the first time. Blame it this time on the eternal unrest that boring lectures create deep in my chest. There you are, 10 yards from the professor’s face, where this guy is actually trying to sound important. So close to the fun. I hated class. The thing I regretted most about deciding on graduate school was that I thought I’d have to sit in so many more classrooms. Dave had tried to tell me there was nothing better than doing nothing, and John had agreed, but still, I thought I was better. Life had seemed so promising at least at one point in my life. No reason to give up then.
That isn’t my greatest regret. I regretted tons of other things with equal vigor – probably about 15 things we’ll say. Twenty tops. One especially. One thing I wanted not to feel: love. I loved Allison. I wanted to locate the courage from the little pocket of hope in my heart that would allow me to have everything I really wanted in life. That pocket kept getting smaller. I wanted to be suave and strong and quit being scared and take her by the arm so that she would know it was me who felt her, who she could feel. Not Lynch.
But I could see myself on the floor afterward, strangers looking at me with my face to the ground, kissing the cement and saying, “I’m so glad you feel the same way. We can be in love together now. I’m so happy.”
She didn’t feel.
So I kissed her from 20 stories high.
-Ty Thompson is an MFA graduate student in fiction. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.