Pleiades at 1:15am
Madeline Rose Williams
These days I don’t smoke, not really. I buy a pack occasionally, smoke six in a single drunk night, keep the pack hidden, guilty thing, in my bag. A few days later I’ll have one, start it, stop, start, but mostly I step outside and light it and watch the ash gather, seeing how long it gets before it falls off.
These moments are secret. It’s no secret that I smoke, sometimes, all my friends know, but these strange in-between ones, those quiet ones abandoned halfway through (and I know that I really shouldn’t but I do), they make me queasy but god I feel calm.
I stand outside my apartment at 1:15am, by myself, constellations wheeling above me. I used to know more of them, I had flash cards and astrology picture books, but now I can only pick out a few. Cassiopeia: W-shaped, bright. Orion: belt and sword and shoulders. The Pleiades, the Seven Sisters: kite-like and lacy, the last star so far away it’s invisible.
My roommate’s asleep. Her disapproval is like my father’s--she doesn’t say anything, but I know she hates when I leave a pack out in plain view. My boyfriend is out, dancing, drunk probably. He doesn’t drink much anymore but he likes those nights full of the crush of people and loud music and close, close bodies. I try not to think about that too much.
(Here, he’s got his hands around her waist. Here, she’s touching his face. There, there, they’re--)
So I stand outside my apartment, pack in my pocket, book of matches because I can never find a lighter (I’m not a real smoker), a single lit cigarette. No one is out. I can hear a yowling animal somewhere, crying, a cat probably.
The trees are dripping a little, it rained earlier. Long enough ago that it’s only every now and then a drop finds my face, and I can see the stars.
My mouth tastes funny.
These moments alone are so strange, so rare, they make me nervous. I know I need them, I can feel my body tightening up from all the talking and eye contact and every new threat, every new person, but it’s such a shock that I feel shy.
I check Twitter.
I wonder what it would be like to come outside for five minutes without a cigarette, stand in the grass by the side of this quiet street, in the dark, alone. What would I do with my hands? Put them in my pockets, I suppose, but it’s just not enough. I need something to do. And what if someone saw me, just standing in the dark, unaccompanied by the quick explanatory orange glow, the whiff of burning paper and tar? They’d think I was a serial killer.
And me--would I even notice the Pleiades, in close, careful formation? The last shiver of rain making its way into the ground?
Would I ever look around without the warning bell--this is temporary, this is all temporary--ringing through my skull?
About the Author: Madeline Rose Williams works, reads, and writes in Seattle. She has been published in Driftwood Press and The Project Room's Off Paper. She can be found on Twitter.