The first rule: if you’re a nice kid you don’t go into the bad part of town. Here, the brick of the building sides have faded, the window screens have holes, like mouths gasping for air. Here, little boys can disappear just around the corner from their house, gunfire sounds like clockwork every night.
A teenage boy in nice clothes sat on the curb of Elm, in front of the old textile factory. A few minutes later, a long-haired girl came from around the corner, bundled up in a huge sweatshirt, jumpy, already.
He stands, “Want a cigarette?”
She flinches away. “I can’t believe you just asked me that.”
“Right,” says the boy, and produces a lighter from the back pocket of his True Religion jeans, holding the flame to the cigarette in his mouth.
“Don’t blow smoke in my face, I hate that,” says the girl and then adds, “Please.”
“When have I ever blown smoke in your face?”
The girl is silent.
The boy exhales smoke in her direction. “How’s your mom?”
The boy smiles. “That’s too bad.”
“Only for you.”
The boy takes a long drag on his cigarette. “Look I can’t help what happened. If anything-“ He stops.
“What? If anything it’s my fault, right?”
“No, that’s not what I was going to say.”
“Then what were you going to say?”
“Look, I didn’t come out here to fight,” he checks his watch. “I have to be home in less than an hour.”
There is a long pause. The boy stamps out his cigarette and then lights another.
“I don’t want to go. I love you, that’s why I’m here..”
“Don’t give me that-“ starts the girl but then she looks at him, her eyes sparkling with tears.
“You love me too, don’t start.”
“I love you,” says the girl, “So much.”
“And I haven’t ever blown smoke in your face.”
The girl hesitates. “You’re right. You haven’t.”
The boy blows smoke in her face. “Good.”
They are quiet again.
“Is your car in the shop?” asks the girl, finally.
“No, I got it out. Cost a shitload though. I don’t have any other money.”
“What does that mean? What can we do now, then?”
The boy shakes his head.
“Oh fuck it.” The girl turns away angrily.. “Give me a cigarette.”
He hands one to her, and lights it for her. She leans into him for a second.
“I’m just saying I have no money for it right now.”
“So what will we do?” the girl asks again.
“I don’t know..”
“Can you ask your father?”
“He’s already mad about the car, I don’t want to make him more angry.”
“This is more important than a car.”
The boy doesn’t answer. He stands. “I have to leave.”
“Aren’t you going to give me a ride?”
He looks away, and then throws the cigarette from his mouth as far as it will go. “Alright.”
His car is very old, it was his grandfather’s before it was his. The girl dangles her cigarette out the window.
“I’m cold,” she says as he starts the engine.
The boy thrusts the car into gear. “Sorry I don’t have a nicer car, then. Sorry I’m not as rich as some of the other boys you could have dated.”
“I’m just saying.”
“I thought you didn’t want to fight.”
The girl flicks her cigarette ash out the window. “Let’s go get drunk,” she says, when she turns back, her eyes shining again..
“Are you sure?”
The girl smiles. “Of course.”