if you can't smoke you got to
Sing and we ain't got
nothing to sing;
- e.e. cummings
“Oh, would you put that out?”
Michiru wasn’t quite sure when Haruka had started smoking, but the Marlboro wrappers (imported cars, imported cigarettes; when would come the imported women?) popped up in the garbage can a few weeks after she’d caught a whiff of tar on a dirty dress shirt, and after that, Haruka'd stopped hiding it altogether. Now, she leaned against the rail around their apartment balcony, wearing an oversized shirt that showed just the tiniest hint of underwear beneath, all long, bronze legs and bent, bronze arms. The slight curl of smoke from her cigarette wafted on air as she flicked her ashes, catching on a breeze and flitting into the distance.
“No,” she replied, all casual coolness, before taking another drag.
The breeze was cool and crisp as it caught the hem of Michiru’s skirt and attempted to lift it, and she pressed her hands against the chiffon to hold it in place. It ruffled Haruka’s college textbook, open on the wrought-iron patio table she’d bought for the balcony, and the paper wrinkled in protest. Still, the sun was warm and bright, the sky relatively cloud-free, heralds of another placid spring day in Tokyo.
Smoke rushed out of Haruka’s nostrils, two long streams, a sound reminiscent of a sigh. She didn’t say anything, though, just kept staring out across the sea of buildings and vehicles.
Michiru stepped onto the cool concrete. “Put it out,” she repeated, but her voice lacked the exasperation it'd had before. In the corners of Haruka’s eyes, she could see something distant and quiet, something unfamiliar. She reached for Haruka’s elbow, to touch it, but something inside her seized up and she couldn’t, her fingers still inches away.
Even right there, Haruka lingered a thousand years out of reach.
“No,” she repeated, quietly, and touched the filter to her lips. She flicked her gaze to Michiru, let their eyes meet and linger.
She moved the cigarette away and flicked the ashes into the space between the balcony and the rest of the world.
“Haruka – ”
“Not this one,” Haruka replied, and the dust danced on air, “but you never know about the next.”