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Today I Noticed: Day 1

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Oil painting ©Erin Fitzpatrick, 2012 

Day 1

This morning I noticed that the air felt like London on that day in September when I walked out of Heathrow into the beginning of morning rush hour. The new autumn coolness, sun still warm, but farther away, pulled the memory from my freckled skin. More often I remember from the scent, crisp air touched with exhaust, cigarette smoke and espresso. When the formula is right, with perfect ratios and humidity gone from the air, it hits me like time travel. 

I sat at a silver sidewalk cafe table on a busy street by the train station, tired from thirty-six sleepless hours, a fight, a flight and a farewell. Across the street there was a sign that said, toilet, with an arrow pointing to the right. I ordered a coffee and learned that coffee in Europe was different, smaller, stronger, better. It was the first time I realized why a watered down espresso was called an "Americano." The sky was white, the color of the cigarette smoke, but that could have been because it was barely past 6am. It could have been because this was London.

I had recently taken up smoking, partly (mostly) because of a boy, and partly because it was the only acceptable way to take a break at my post-art-school job working as a waitress at the jazz club. Things used to be that way. On Wednesdays, after being egged on by the house warm up band, I would sing a blues standard or an Elvis song. I doubt I was very good, but it helped with my tips.

With the boy it was more complicated than taking a 5 minute break from standing. With the boy it was an excuse to step outside and size each other up out of the view of the bartender. The bartender was the boy's girlfriend. The bartender was needy for the boy long before I met him. She had small accidents to hold his attention, a broken glass and cut hand, a busted pipe in her small apartment above the bar. I doubt he showed up. He wasn't the type to bite. We started with talks of Steinbeck and Graceland and progressed into intentionally accidental meetings. 

Once the boy became my boyfriend, the cigarettes were smoked more often, like clockwork counting down minutes. Sitting on my parent's front step, bare feet on the warm, summer night sidewalk. Sitting and smoking and denying the predictive outcome of my new relationship. Waiting for a phone call. Checking the clock. He said he had cheated on every girl he had ever dated. He said he planned to get married and have children. He said one night he'd take the trash out from his family home and walk away. He'd never come back.

I tried to call the boy from Europe: London, Paris, Madrid and Barcelona. The boy had been accidentally intentionally meeting someone else for the past four months. 

Before London, the three of us had hung out. I stopped by his apartment one day unannounced and was surprised to find her sitting cross-legged on his floor, his coffee table at chin height. She looked comfortable. They were colleagues. They had easy excuses. She looked up at me and asked for a cigarette. I had only one left. I gave it to her.

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