Sleep it off

“I have this thing for guys with circles under their eyes,” Sal smiled at me, creasing the sallow skin around her eyes. Then she took one last drag from her cigarette, stubbed it out in the ashtray. I nodded and propped my head on my hand, staring at the flat silver ring on her ring finger that kept catching the light. She continued, staring past me, “It just makes them look–” she struggled for words.

“Like they’re on meth?” Nance straightened from where she’d been leaning in the doorway and tossed her empty bottle into the recycling bin. It clattered from the top of the pile and rolled onto the floor. She kicked it out of the way and opened the fridge.

Sal pulled another cigarette from the pack of American Spirits on the table and placed it between her lips, eyes crossing as she lit up, trying to talk around it. “Unh-uh, ‘s like–” she tossed the lighter back on the table, took a couple puffs. “It’s like, they’ve been through shit, you know?” Her eyes flicked to me, lips pursed. Her face was obscured by a cloud of smoke, and one arm was crossed under the elbow of the other, cigarette flopping lazily between her index and middle fingers. Her ring glittered.

The refrigerator door slammed, rattling the bottles inside, and I jumped.

“Right. Someone to share your pain,” Nance said, rolling her eyes. She had two beers clutched between the fingers of one hand, and popped their tops off in quick succession before placing one in front of me, squeezing my shoulder. I looked down my nose at the bottle without moving my head –still propped on my hand– eyes nearing the rims of my lids.

Sal narrowed her eyes at Nance. “I don’t get one?” she asked, indicating the beer.

“Cigs or booze, your choice. Otherwise I’m booting your ass to the curb until you can pay rent.”

“Hey, don’t rush me. I’m working on it.” Sal leaned her head back, blew a line of smoke toward the ceiling. “I just haven’t met the right guy yet.”

“One that’ll pay your bills, you mean?”

“Among other things,” she said, leaning forward again. She looked at me, eyes trailing to my hand, curled involuntarily around the beer like a kid with his bottle. Her eyes roved up my arms to the rolled sleeves of my plaid shirt then to the unbuttoned collar.

Nance leaned against me, hip pressed to my shoulder, hand snaking across my back to play with my gauged earlobe.

Sal glanced at Nance, then focused on me. A smile crossed her thin lips, “You look tired,” she said, “Maybe you should get some rest.”