The brief bout of confusion wears off, but her eyes are still blurry. She remembers being in the middle of something important.
Game cards. She is holding game cards. Red, black, red, black, black. Hearts and diamonds and... and she can't remember what the others are called.
She can't tell if her hand is any good and she has no idea what game they are playing. That is troubling, but she maintains her composure. She has the intense feeling that she should not show weakness.
The air is hot and filled with smoke. The room is dim.
This is important. This moment is a pivot and she can see all the consequences gyrating around it, though the details of this mechanism elude her for now. But she'll remember. People remember important things.
The man grins at her. Smoke escapes his mouth, even though his cigarette is burning itself out in the ashtray, alone and forgotten.
"What do you have left to put down?" he asks.
She looks down at her hands; one has five cards. The other has a train ticket, clutched tightly in her sweaty grip. The train ticket is important. It's all she owns, she thinks, curious at her own thoughts.
"I have the cards," she replies, tucking the ticket away. The numbers on the cards are small, she notices, but she still can't remember the game, or if she has any chance of winning.
"You can still catch your train, if you go now," he says.
He's handsome, she realizes. Young, with a goatee and luscious curled hair. Handsome men always seem more trustworthy, but she's taken aback by his words, because they seem unexpectedly well-meaning.
Was she supposed to catch a train?
She looks at the ticket, but the neat black numbers on the ticket make no sense to her. She feels the confusion coming back, so she looks away from it.
"You'd have to run, of course," he continues, "and probably have to climb it running, but you can make it."
He takes a long puff of his cigarette and exhales slowly, unhurried. His eyes are brown, and sad. He looks very well-meaning. He sounds like he's honestly giving good advice, but...
But he's trying to make her forfeit the game. She doesn't remember the stakes, but she knows he's her opponent.
"No," she replies carefully, hoping desperately that it is the right choice. The temptation to listen to him, to escape the dim room cloying with smoke, was strong.
"Suit yourself," he shrugs, looking genuinely disappointed for a split second. He reaches for a bottle and pours himself a drink. The brown liquid makes no sound. The air is too thick.
"This was supposed to be your last night here," he continues, taking a sip.
"I made my choice," she whispers.
"And what do you have left?"
She looks to her hands. She has a train ticket and five cards.
She puts the ticket away.
"Now you're playing for real stakes." He nods once, respectfully.
She tightens her lips and nods sharply as well, just once.
Now she remembers.