Smoke Story

Author | Rebecca 

Again I see you, upstairs at the bookshop, your hard-eyed stare latched in my direction. / But surely in the abstract, for six years are in the way. / We wedge ourselves into conversation, talking away the hours / As though we’ve walked off the world / And the years seem both a lot but also not. / I tell you no (still no), you convince me yes; our smiles match up. / We fall through books, you scribble stories about twins and sleepwalkers, and we watch Talkies from the Forties / over sushi and ginger-flavoured tea. / We slip swiftly into comfort, reading side-by-side like a married couple, winter drizzle on the skylight roof, hours unreal and stretched (as Paris goes on outside). / You chomp on your newly-acquired British slang and laugh at the several sides of a fifty-pence piece, while I attempt to gargle the sounds of Hebrew. / You tell me about Tel Aviv, the cosmopolitan cafés and the market hawkers, the sticky dates and the Bible written in sweat, while outside Paris goes colder. / I return from teaching to find you smoking while studying, preparing for the place where your best will never be good enough, the detritus of a literary day in evidence on the coffee table (Roth atop Woolf, Eliot splayed upon Saïd, Coetzee in the fruit-bowl). / I look from your big heavy desert boots up to your soft wide smile, your dark curls / against the unlikely pink of the marshmallow bed in the house which is not ours. / There is sex on the sofa, in the shower, blood in the bath, the red on the white. / And there is always more reading and talking, making the most of you before you’re just someone I used to know. / Stroking my hair in the just-morning, in semi-sleep, you tell me you always rest easier when I’m next to you / before you go to dream among the spires. / On the morning you leave we’re suddenly shy, folding meaning into long hugs / to stand in for the things we want to say. / And you tell me you’ll miss me while you’re away (knowing six years will always be in the way) and that you’ll see me soon.

About the Author | Rebecca graduated from Oxford University with a degree in French literature and now lives in Paris and teaches English at the Sorbonne. Her creative work has previously been published by Oxford University’s The Isis, The Silver Birch Press, and The Remembered Arts Journal. She has also written critical articles for The Oxonian Review and The Oxford Theatre Review among others. She co-hosts a creative writing workshop at the Shakespeare & Company bookshop in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Members read and critique one another’s work while the bells of Notre Dame chime in the background.

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