I took another long drag of my cigarrette, before offering it to my company. He smiled that smile he uses when he has put up the mask again, wary of what to say or do. A little hesitant, he slowly reached out to take the smoke in his right hand. Keeping his eyes on mine, and all the while maintaining that curious smile, he inhaled deeply on the end of the stick that would slowly suck the life out of both of us. He handed it back to me, before exhaling softly so that the smoke poured over my face.
Repressing a cough, I smiled in an attempt to errect my own mask, although from his widening smile I gathered that this had been unsuccessful. I held his gaze for a moment longer as the smoke drifted between us, before looking away at the blazing sky and breaking the silence.
"So you're still a smoker after all then, hm?" I said this with a little mocking, but he did deserve it. I chanced a glance back at that mask that annoyed me so much.
"Only under your suggestive influence" This too was said with the same mocking that I had touched lightly, although his was far more practiced. Such is what comes from years of experience. We were each prompting the other to quit, but somehow it was a kind of vice that tied us together.
This time I grinned, losing my pretense completely. Surprisingly, this touched him as I saw his mask slip a little through the exposure of several teeth. My smile had always had some kind of effect on him.
"Ah well, what can I say? A fag every now and then helps to ease the stress; for both of us", I added with a hint of justification in my voice, which was not missed by him.
"But you want to quit. You've been telling me for months how you can't stand the thought of living life with all that tar in your heart." It seemed he was trying to remind me of the feeling I had been trying to supress for the last few months. I did not particularly want to quit. I loved my vice. I just loved life more.
"Besides, if your heart is full of tar, how will you find room in it for me?" This last statement was the first that had come from behind the mask in months. Not since he had told me, a little aggressively and with a twinge of guilt, how I was too young for him and how I would be better off finding someone who was free of ties and damage.
It had been difficult to remain friendly after this particular conversation, as I was still trying in vain to convince him otherwise. For months he had maintained this stance, sometimes even being a little cruel in order to drive me away. I always came back. Like the cigarrettes, I always came back.
To see his mask finally slide to his feet now was almost impossible to believe, and the smile that took its place was even more difficult to believe. I wasn't entirely sure how to respond, and so ended up standing there mute for a good fifteen seconds or so. It was he who broke the ice, shuffling awkwardly now that he had derobed his heart.
"I still maintain what I said. You shouldn't be with me. I'm too old, too damaged, and there are so many more younger, whole men out there." He paused, a little exasperated, and then added, "Why me?"
I smiled, feeling the evening sun setting into the lines of my mouth. "I suppose," I began, savouring this final confrontation which was, for once, on my territory. "All those things are irrelevant to me. Do I really need a reason for seeing more in you than you do yourself?"
He still looked uncomfortable, and his face was now being infiltrated by that familiar guilt. Perhaps this time he was lost for words, a first for him. He looked at me and smiled, guilt lining the edges of his lips. "Are you going to finish that?" He gestured towards the cigarrette smoking lazily, forgotten between my fingers. I took another long drag before handing the last breath to him. He inhaled deeply, this time closing his eyes and leaning back into the golden glow of the sun. I watched him serenely, smiling at his now vulnerable face.
"So," he opened his eyes to look at me curiously; "Should I open another pack?"