She shuffled into the kitchen with an unlit cigarette hanging from her mouth and an empty coffee mug in her hand. She rinsed it once with water and filled it with the leftover coffee from yesterday and popped it in the microwave. It was a terrible habit, she knew, but she convinced herself it was because she didn’t want to waste things, and not because she was lazy. With her coffee hot she sat at the table, lit her cigarette and took a good hard drag. The first sip, the first smoke, they were always the best part of the day.
The bedroom door creaked open as she exhaled and she felt her shoulders tighten. His footsteps crept up behind her, uneven and unsteady, full of sleep and stupor.
He whispered a good morning in her ear, or something like it, calling her some random nickname that meant nothing to either one of them. His breath was stale with last nights booze and cigarettes and it made her cringe. She hated that he was still here, why didn’t he just leave?
She got up from the table quickly wanting to be sure he did not think there would be idle breakfast chatter, or breakfast for that matter. She tugged her t-shirt down lower to cover her near bare bottom-there would be none of that either. He followed her to the sink and stood behind her, hands on either side of the counter, his lips brushing the back of her neck and his body pressing into hers. He smelled like sweat, salt, and sex and for a moment she could not breathe. Even now, after everything, he could do that to her.
But it passed quickly and she wiggled free of him and padded back to the bathroom where she could be alone. She splashed water on her face and smudged her eyeliner into place with the pads of her fingers. Pulled her hair up into a messy bun and brushed her teeth. She dressed quickly, it would be time to go to work soon, and this had to end.
It was a dance they had perfected over the years. Their circles always intersected-friends of friends knew one another, and she seemed to never be able to escape him completely. Never really be over him, or free of him. He would see her in the bar and look over with that mischievous smile and charm her all over again. Within minutes she would forget all the fights and drama, all the other women and drugs. It always ended like this- in her apartment and awkward. He always promised new beginnings and changes and fresh starts, and she always smiles, knowing his words are filled with emptiness. Within hours he would be in another bar, with another woman, he would miss another day of work and he would take another hit, another drink, another smoke and he would disappear for days. She would hear the stories from her friends, from his friends and shake her head.
Sadness washed over her as she walked back into the kitchen. His cigarette was in her coffee cup, and he had a beer in his hand already. Had to even himself out before he faced the day. She sighed and felt a tear balancing on her lashes. He noticed and at once wrapped her in his arms, tender as ever, whispering words she had heard over and over before. She didn’t even have to hear them; she knew what he was saying. It was a well-rehearsed scene.
She drove to work and filled her day with patients and phone calls and plans for the weekend. She made plans for a fresh start and a new direction. This time it would work, this time…
Weeks and months pass, and slowly her resolve begins to build. He is fading from her life she can feel it. He is slipping out of her present and into her past-finally. Oh, he still looks at her across a smoky room and she knows all he needs is a nod and he would be by her side, walking her to her car, fumbling for the keys to her apartment and then tangled in her sheets. She knows there will always be that. But she is quick to look away now.
It is morning again. A different year, a different day and a different man. A fresh pot of coffee is brewing and her cigarettes are waiting for her on the table. She sighs as she pulls one out and lights it. She turns to the hallway and looks at the bedroom door, half open and the morning light pouring out. She can see the edge of the bed and her sheets crumpled and messy. She can see a shoe on the floor. She can see his foot peeking out of the covers. He stirs, and for a moment she thinks about climbing back into bed with him. A few more hours wouldn’t hurt, would it? But she knows it would.
The sound of him dressing shakes her out of her trance and she looks up in time to see him coming down the hall. He is dressed, ready to go. No, this one won’t stay. He won’t linger. He is done here for now and he will leave.
He smiles at her, and pulls her to him; his arms are strong and etched with art from wrist to shoulder. She rests on his chest and is filled with his scent-familiar, but not. Smoke, sweat, sex….
At the door there are promises made, phone numbers exchanged, parties mentioned. She will see him again eventually, she always does. He has been good to her, but she knows there are others for him, and she knows he will not stay. She knows as she runs her hands up his body, that he has many. The nights he plays on stage, guitar slung low on his hip, they are all lined up waiting for him. She will not be his one and only, she will not change him. He will be just like the others.
Why is that? She wonders as she lights another smoke. It always ends the same way. She chuckles as she realizes they all start the same way too. In a bar laughing, dancing, drinking all night long. After hours at a diner, at the park, talking until the sun peeks over the horizon. In her bed exploring and touching, sighing and smiling until they drift off to sleep in a tangled mess. And when does it change? When does she become the afterthought? When does he become absent and distant? When does it unravel?
She drops her cigarette in her coffee cup and shakes her head. Time to go. Figure it out another day. She glances in the mirror and touches up last nights make up before she grabs her keys off the couch and heads out the door.