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Between the lines

Troy Thiel

Dropping unneeded items,
we crossed the parquet floor;
dark, checkered expanse
once growing material
now over-polished.
I untied, dropped my shoes
we sat down on the ample beige couch.
A three-seater in rigid square design,
remoulded by years of lazy orange afternoons.

A couch is a couch
but this one was covered in corduroy.
Rivulated fabric projected an off-white vibrancy,
dark mocha intermingled with purer, raised white.
I felt comfortable, invited.

He reached over covering himself in brushed wool.
Though at opposing ends of the couch,
we were always touching.
My eyes traced the light from the ebony lamp
up the yellow walls
to where it sprayed across the ceiling.

I reached for my Lucky Strikes,
lifted one from the pack.
The roller rasped over the flint
I saw the metal of a car peeling off on the barrier of a highway.
The flame stretched and I inhaled.
There was a crackling noise as the tip lit
like dry grass along a dimly lit road catching fire.
Tears formed in my eyes and I blurrily watched
tiny grey mist rushing to a space just above me,
then it lazily curled and joined the light on the roof.

I looked down again,
he had lit a cigarette.
He leant forward and lifted the clear crystal ashtray,
Placed it strategically between us.
Clicking noises across the floor
His flatmate’s skittish fox-terrier had joined us.
It slid, hoisting itself onto the couch.
She made herself comfortable on my lap
as the two of us slowly converted the cracking leaves into a uniform pile of ash.

His eyes softened
falling upon the bandaged kitten
that had suddenly appeared between his knees.
It lay on its back pawing at his fingers.
This simple game without rules comforted him.
We shifted and placed more of ourselves against each other causing the pets to relocate.

We sat for a long time like this;
periodically stretching to begin
the smoking process over again
until we had built a small pyre in the ashtray,
leaving fragments of difficult memories to be cleared in the morning.

I stubbed the last of my cigarettes
shifted uneasily on the couch.
The ridges of the corduroy suddenly seemed to press through my skin,
threatening to slice to the bone.
I stood and crossed the floor,
watching my blurry image move
like that of someone seen through a smoky haze.
Our negotiation was over.

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