She doesn’t seem to understand that when she lights the cigarette she is also setting a flame to their future. She is quietly sitting in her car, one leg dangling out, brushing the faded concrete. Beside her is him, who is tired and exhausted from his shift and simply wants to go home. Behind him is a car seat, one that is adorned in pink and black zebra stripes. The baby that is nestled inside is a spitting image of her mother, the same golden skin and snappy attitude. She also looks like him, which brings a bit of joy to his exhaust ridden frame. We have our groceries, he wants to argue. Can’t we leave?
He says nothing. He knows how much she loves to sit in the parking lot of grocery stores just before they close, under the shifting cascade of colors and the painting of the sky. She is art, suckered into the kaleidoscope of the clouds, she is the artist, drawing inspiration from the ranges and hues. A paintbrush is the only thing she holds other than that cigarette. He does not argue with her. Internally, he has been trying to stop smoking. He is slowly veering away. The idea of it is not as appealing as it was when he was a teenager. He has grown tired of each breath being numbered, stained by nicotine. Wasted. But she is unwavering in her death note. Even after hearing the side effects and the diseases that come with it. Even after knowing it could potentially harm their pride and joy, their binding factor; their favorite thing.
Regardless, she will light it and let the curls of smoky gray drift into the sky. Her dark eyes flit towards the sky, then across the roadmap of the dashboard of their year old Kia. He bought it for her. Hoping it would buy her loyalty into putting the cigarettes down.
Their eyes meet.
Hers a dark, dark brown, filled with the cosmos and everything beautiful, he always thought. He used to think they looked like a star glittering in distant space. So far that no one could taint her. So far that no one could help her.
His gaze is a dark blue, deep as the oceans, she always thought. He has so many depths, so many thoughts and ideas. He is so intriguing.
Wordlessly, she offers the cigarette. It is glowing with temptations. It strangely reminds him of Eve offering Adam the apple, already marred with her bites and still glittering with unknown knowledge. He does not want to be Adam. Ignorant. Naïve. He does not want to give in.
Four seconds drag between them, silence as loud as horse hooves.
He plucks the apple from her slender fingers. He takes a bite, it’s juice savory in his mouth. It is simply a shame how much he adores it, the taste, the feel, the way he melts into mush. And reality slaps him in the face as he sees her smiling slightly at him. He is Adam. He is giving in. She is Eve. With a sigh, he drags the death stick from his lips with a scowl like he’s tasted the devil.
He tosses the cigarette out of the window.
Carelessly, she thinks.
Necessary, he thinks.
The baby shifts. Resumes her sleep.
He does not want to argue, he wants to go home, to sleep, to curl up with the tiny being that is his daughter as she sleeps away four more hours. He wants to play with the baby in the middle of the night when she wakes up crying, babbling nonsense. He just wants rest.
They are a bundle of confusion before the world slams to a halt. He is shocked but not surprised. She is somewhat both, somewhat neither. She doesn’t know what to feel anymore. Maybe it is his fault. Maybe it is hers.
The silence is broken. Her face is a mixture of surprise and acceptance that morphs into anger. Why couldn’t he just give it back to her? Why would he waste such a good cigarette? Those cost money, by the way. These statements are said in an accusing tone, one that is stripped and ragged from stress and pain and sadness. She does not like that he is growing away from her. She does not like that he is going to leave her one day, on to better things. She does not like the thought that he is going to marry someone who doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, doesn’t indulge in these fantasies that the world will work itself out.
She does not like it one bit.
The baby whimpers in her dreams, then clenches her fists.
Cute, he thinks.
She pays no mind.
She has spent the last few days, weeks, years crying in the shower and trying to rid herself of these thoughts, praying they were not true.
They are true. Painfully so.
When he looks at her, he still sees her beauty, her intelligence, her humor. He sees her the same way he did when they first met, smiling with mischief and a good natured honesty about her. He sees her eyes, the glittering star in the pit of darkness. Too far to taint. Too far to save.
When she looks at him, she sees him the same way she did when they first met. Handsome, funny, charming. She sees him with his crooked grin and witty one-liners. She sees his eyes, dark, dark blue. A deep ocean, she thinks. She didn’t know what he was thinking. She never knew. But this realization, the thought that he was not meant to be hers forever… that had been there in his gaze the whole time. It was in his eyes when he hugged her, in his kisses when he pecked her forehead before leaving for work. In his scent when he brushed past her. He is so intriguing. He is meant for more.
It is hard to accept.
He looks away as she softly sniffles, choking back the sobs he knew were coming. He watched her thoughts, knew her inside and out. Knew that this was never meant for him. He loved her more than words, more that the sentences and letters and poems and hearts that he would send her in messages. Loved her more than the strokes of paint that God would paint across the sky in the evening, more than the idea of love itself. He had loved her for the past five years. But their love was being tested.
The love that led them along too fast like seconds ticking away on a clock, pulling them into each other’s hearts.
The love that produced their precious little girl, so oblivious and innocent. She would not know of any of this. It would all be a faint memory someday, and it pained her to think that her daughter might not remember her as the love of her life did.
The love that once shone in his gaze when he spoke about her began to flicker like a dying lightbulb. He was beginning to feel different. He felt that there was more to accomplish.
Thirty seconds of silence stretch across the car.
Their eyes meet.
Hers, dark brown. A distant star in them that is dying. Too far to taint. Too far to save.
His, deep blue. An ocean with secrets. Too many to figure out. Only one that surfaced.
Her next cigarette is smoked by her and her only. It is placed between her soft lips, then dragged away. Smoke filters from her lips like poison. Her apartment is empty. She pretends that she likes the silence, the space that has no distinct smell nor hope in it. He is not in it. Her daughter is not in it. They were her hope. Each thought of him breaks her. Looking out at the evening sky makes her sad. Every cloud is for their child, the moon is a reminder of their smiles. The star in her eyes is gone. It is clouded by smoke, by disdain and heartbreak. Too far to see.
Too far to taint.
Too far to save.