I needed a smoke. A long one.
I felt the pocket of my jeans for the packet I brought along with me as I walked through the hotel door. I figured I wouldn’t find where to buy some here.
I was slightly annoyed at Andrew, and I felt so stupid that I left the room to avoid talking to him this morning. I’d had breakfast in the lounge and was presently strolling about the streets in a pair of joggers and a sweatshirt.
Reaching a lonely path I decided to take out a stick of cigarette before lighting it up with my lighter. I stood still for a minute as I took a long drag before continuing my aimless walk.
Am I doing something wrong? I wondered aimlessly as my minded drifted back to Andrew. I felt my lips tremble and my eyes water at the thought of his refusal last night. Was I doing something wrong?
Maybe it had nothing to do with that. Maybe it’s just me. I must be too persistent - acting too needy.
I coughed, feeling the expected tightening of my chest. I spat the stick of cigarette out my mouth before taking the light out by stomping it. I covered the stick with sand before continuing my stroll. As my coughing got worse I searched for my inhaler and brought it to my mouth for a draw.
I gasped in relief before returning the inhaler to my pocket. I looked up at the morning sky, watching the odd colors of dawn play out. The streets were quiet, and there was nobody to judge me as I continued to smoke and cough for air.
“You’re going to kill yourself.”
I smiled, remembering the words of my rehab counselor. She’d never seen an asthmatic smoker before and was convinced that something was mentally wrong with me to want to bring upon that pain that came with an attack on myself.
She got it all wrong. I didn’t, and don’t like smoking. If anything it’s terrible for me, but the lingering memory of my father it seemed to stimulate made it addictive.
Maybe he found out I’m messed up. I thought, stopping in the middle of my tracks. I shook my head, continuing on my way. I was lost, but I wasn’t bothered considering I could figure out where to take a bus later on.
Maybe it’s the age gap? I thought again, subtracting nineteen from twenty-six. Seven years might pose a serious gap to many people, but Andrew didn’t seem to mind. If that was the case I would have noticed. I didn’t even see the light for the reason. I was practically an adult myself.
I discarded the thought, concluding it didn’t make any sense.
Maybe I was getting frustrated over nothing. It was characteristic of Andrew to be a little shy and take hard decisions on things. I was probably just disorienting him by trying to rush him into his decision-making process.
He’ll come around. I hoped, more like convinced myself. The idea of the Christopher I didn’t know kept threatening things. It was when Ethel had mentioned his name in a bad light in the cabin that I noticed that Andrew sometimes unconsciously muttered the person’s name.
One time he’d helped me through some coursework, and I couldn’t help noticing he’d scribbled the name Christopher at the corner of my note. I stared at it oddly for the whole afternoon, and then I panicked.
I’d asked Andrew for an explanation concerning this Christopher person, but he’d either ignored more or insisted it wasn’t important to know.
I shook my head realizing how stupid I’d been once. For a while, I actually thought Christopher might be the owner of the department store Andrew visited regularly in town. I’m not ashamed to admit that I sighed in relief when I was blessed with the knowledge that the man’s name was actually Bob.
I walked around for a bit before deciding to hail a taxi back to the hotel. I avoided a conversation with Andrew when I got back, and he didn’t seem to mind he ignored me right back. It hurt for no apparent reason.
“Are you coming along?” Andrew had asked as he slung his hand luggage over his shoulder. I gave him a stubborn look before turning away, and I let out a sigh when the sound of the room door clicking shut behind me told me he had left.
I groaned, covering my face with my hands. Why was I making things difficult? I got into a sitting position on the bed, the cream bed sheets forming creases beneath me.
I ran a hand through my hair, sighing as I looked longingly towards the door. I wanted to be around him, and the distance was already affecting me.
I bit my lip before getting down and stripping down from my joggers and sweatshirt to take a quick shower so I could hurry into more decent clothes. If I was fast enough I might just make it to the convention around starting time.
Taking the bus made me get there a little after the program had started. I watched Ethel and Andrew work together from a distance, before deciding I wasn’t exactly needed.
Wondering what to do with the free time I decided to walk about and check other stalls. I was running low on my book stash anyway.
I was standing in the midst of the ocean of people when I felt my wallet shift in my back pocket.
“Ouch!” a small voice hissed, as I gripped the hand behind me with force. I turned to find a girl of about twelve or thirteen struggling under my grip as she scowled intensely at me.
“Let go!” She demanded, in now hushed tones. She seemed to realize that we were in the midst of a crowd. I didn’t budge, just kept my grip on her hand.
She continued hissing strings of complaints as I pulled her to a secluded area. I immediately let her go but gripped her hand again when she attempted to run.
“Calm down,” I said as I tried to reason with her, holding on to the shoulders of her struggling frame.
“No, you’re gonna try and touch me,” she said, struggling. “You want to punish me for trying to take your money,” she muttered, looking up at me with spiteful eyes.
I corked my brows, wondering how I’d turned into the villain here. If I remember correctly I was the one getting robbed.
“No...” I trailed, giving her an honest look. She gave me a confused frown. Her brown dirty hair was pulled up into a not so professionally executed bun. Her dirty chipped fingernails were digging into the skin of my hands as she struggled.
“What do you want then?” she asked, giving me a curious look over.
“Are you hungry? Lost?” I asked, ignoring her question. Her scowl deepened before t softened and she admitted she was hungry but not lost.
“Okay, should I get you something to eat then?” I asked, gradually loosening my grip on her.
I’ve known street children from when I was a lot younger. I’d played with some and my father had neither approved nor disapproved. Besides, I’d met them on visits to my father’s mechanic. If there are a few things I remember about street kids; it’s that they’re rough and terribly hard to deal with.
They’d steal from the six-year-old me and come to play with me afterward. My mother wasn’t exactly happy about me when my father and I returned home and I was covered in bruises, scratches, and holding the occasionally destroyed toy. I’d stopped seeing them immediately when my father died, there was really no reason for me to be around that area anymore.
“What do I have to do for it?” she asked, pulling up a loose sleeve. I’d completely let her go now.
“Nothing, what do you want to eat?” I asked, looking out back into the crowd. I wasn’t quite sure why I was trying to feed someone that tried to steal from me.
I looked back towards her to find her giving me a curious stare.
“You want to get in my panties, don’t you?” she said, sizing me up. I frowned, shaking my head.
“I don’t believe you. Poison and the rest of the gang always act real nice when they want to get in my panties,” she said, tapping the front of her dirty yellow gown. “They give me things sometimes and I can’t say no when they eventually ask.” She finished, clicking her tongue.
“Well, I’m not poison or the others,” I said, taking a note of the street name.
She gave me a thoughtful look before pointing towards a stand.
“I want that stuff, I can’t steal hot food,” she said, eyeing the kebab stand intently.
“Stay here,” I said, leaving her behind to get the Kebab. It took a while but I was back to find her sitting patiently by the wall.
“I thought you were playing around when you offered,” she said, giving me a toothy grin showing off a missing tooth right in front. I frowned, noticing it looked rather knocked off than fallen.
I handed her the Kebab before sliding down to sit next to her. She nibbled noisily beside me, eyeing me curiously as she ate.
“I tried to steal your money, why did you get me this?” she asked waving her now empty stick. I shrugged, looking back into the crowd. I wondered what exactly I was doing seating on the floor next to an un-kept street kid.
“You’re nice,” she stated with a smile as she started drawing on the floor with her stick.
“You’re not going to take me to the police, are ya?” she asked looking over at me with a new panicked expression.
“I’ve been to the orphanage, it’s a lot worse. I don’t like it there,” she said, drawing a series of stick figures on the floor.
“Don’t worry,” I said, getting up. “I don’t exactly feel like a responsible citizen right now,” I finished, dusting the back of my jean trousers. If the locals weren’t bothered by street kids running up about town, then that’s their problem. If I remember clearly the process was called sacking. Kids from poor homes spent so much time out on the streets doing odd jobs, begging and stealing that they just eventually stopped going home.
I smiled, remembering my mother’s threat to forcefully sack me out of the house. I was seven, and I wasn’t doing so well with her second boyfriend after my father’s death. It wasn’t until later that she attracted some emotionally delusional rich guy that offered marriage. I hadn’t liked him much either. He was too timid and he had given my mother a reason to move out of the trailer park we used to reside in.
I waved the girl off and received a wave in return as I left her for the crowd. I decided to go back to Andrew but I could still feel the uneasiness between us even after I took my seat that was far back inside the stand.
I sighed, plugging my earpiece to my phone. I was emotionally drained about thinking about Andrew and I that I decided to let the topic rest for a while.