Inspiration

The lighter flares in the dark. The girl hunches round her cigarette to shield it from the hot, dirty wind. She inhales, and blows the smoke out through her nose in a way that makes him think of of a sullen dragon. She turns to the boy, takes him by the hand. Her skin is smooth as porcelein-cold.

She leads him down neon-lit streets and dirty sidewalks spotted with blackened gum and cigarette butts. Her heels click faintly. This is the only sound.

She takes him to the docks. The air reeks of salt and fish and smoke. The street lights glimmer on the water. She walks out to the end of the pier, and leans forward so that her jet hair curtains her face.

Here it is, she says, Here is your poetry. This is what you've been searching for.

She takes a long drag on her cigarette, exhales in a smoky cloud around her face. He comes up next to her, follows her gaze into the dark, dark water.

She kisses him on the cheek. A soft, cool, smoky touch that lingers on his flesh.

* * *

The girl lights a cigarette in her lap. The smoke mingles with her red hair, and to the boy it gives the appearance that her head is on fire.

They are sitting at opposite ends of an intensely white kitchen table. She is older. He is not.

She turns her face to the sun, whose light is shining directly through the window. She lets the impossible brightness fill her eyes. She wants to be blinded with it.

He says her name.

She turns back, and stubs out her cigarette without having touched it to her lips. She squints at him, waiting.

But the sun lights up exactly half of her face. He can't seem to keep from dwelling on this.

He opens his mouth. He wants to tell her he misses her, he wants to say everything that has been boiling and tumbling inside him these past few months. But he doesn't know how. He can't find his words. He looks away.

She hangs her head. Then she stands up, and walks to the window. The flame of the lighter is invisible against the sun, as she lights another cigarette.

Look, she says thickly, The sun rises in spite of everything. There's your poetry. You've found it, it's right there...

He traces pictures in the ash from her cigarettes, and says nothing.

* * *

A bottle of pills sits open on the bed-side table. The girl sticks a cigarette in her mouth, forgetting to light it. Her eyes are wide. Her hair is an unnamable color between blonde and brown.

She is scared now. Slowly she sinks to the floor.

The boy is sleeping on the bed next to her. His breathing is soft and even. She focuses on this as her heart slows.

When he wakes, he is numbed. He thinks to call 911, but she has hidden the phone. Later he will find it nestled among his books of poetry - those books that always seemed so necessary, though they hurt him.

* * *

The boy is a man, now.

He writes. His words come clear and sharp as stomach pangs, if only he ignores such pains and doesn't eat.

His poems are endless. She is a bird with flaming wings, a wave capped with salt and foam. She is the color of the sky just before dawn.

His boyfriends leave him quickly, his body is getting weaker, and he can't pay his bills.

But he can write.