Cigarette Burns

Round holes in the body of a coat
ash streaks on the curb
an ashtray made in pottery class
grayed with cigarette burns
and on the outside the wind wears away
the thousand moments spent talking
about jobs and bosses and doctors
whiling away the moments in a curling thought.

I sat on the couch
of my girlfriends cousins house
where I was staying to remain near her
love with no plans.
There was another man staying there
his childhood friend
we were drinking brandy
he was tweaked on meth
discussing my intentions with them and her
them and me
while his gestures became
ever more exxagerated
and extreme.

There is a code among friends
and a code among thieves
I’m sure there are millions of unwritten rules
wallking around waiting to be broken
a thin red beam of light at your feet
to mark where
you’ve crossed over the line with people
don’t sit without your back to the wall
don’t sit with a stranger
between you and the door.

He talked and I listened
with my eyes on his I listened
all the while knowing the rules of engagement
that I was trying to remain here
at least for awhile
and he gestured with his cigarette
trying to bring out some kind of reaction
but when that failed
he put out his cigarette on the base of my neck.

For perhaps three seconds he held it there
and I kept staring at his face into his eyes
for once in life I didn’t flinch
I noticed the pain would pass
I was the curb the ashtray
made in pottery class.
Then they jumped on him and pulled him off
that three seconds being the initiation fee
codes among friends and thieves
have outside prices but inside fees.

Cigarette Burns

bill bell

Everett, United States

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