A short story from the archives. We once shot it as a video and I can only picture those two actors in my mind as I reread it now.
The voice stings me, penetrates my spine, but I simply continue tapping the carton in my hand, let a single cigarette drop out. I light it carefully, deliberately. The smoke trails from my mouth as I finally reply.
I can feel her straddle the barstool beside me even as I avoid turning my head.
"Since when do you smoke?"
I take a long drag, then finger my drink. "A while." The ice swirls slowly, melting amidst the warm scotch.
"I get it," she says. "It's a Bogart thing, right?"
I finally summon the strength to look her in the eye. Blue steel, solid, penetrating, taking me in, thin lips upturned slightly in that way she does so well.
"You look better with short hair," I mutter as I return my gaze to the watered down drink in front of me.
"Thanks." She snatches the fedora from my head. "You look better with long hair. And without the hat." She drops it onto the bar.
What was she doing here? Didn't those angry promises mean anything to her? I tried not to think, tried not to remember.
"I see your nose has healed," she says. "It's almost back to its normal size."
I finally flinch, my nose tweaking in remembered pain. It all starts flooding back. The words. The broken paintings. Her arm pulling back and my precious cordless phone flying toward me.
I force myself to take another sip of scotch, another drag from the cigarette during the long, cold silence. I will not look at her. I refuse to react. Not this time.
I feel the hand on my jaw, try to resist as she turns my face to hers. I meet her steel gaze.
Her mouth opens, ready to spit words at me, tear it all open, finally and definitively. The last word. A few months late, but what the hell. It was just something she needed to do, I guess. To finally close the book on her nightmare life with me.
But I beat her to it: "I have always loved you."
I pull my head away, down the remaining scotch and toss a few bills onto the bar before I make my way toward the front door. I hit the street running, realizing already that tomorrow, first thing, I'd have to buy a new hat.