non smoking rooms

An alarm started going off in the parking lot just after she walked into my hotel room. It was fairly unobtrusive as far as alarms go, just a quiet, steady chirping sound in the background. I was lying on the bed, reading a mediocre whodunit by some British author. My sister sent it to me in the mail. I didn't look up. She sat down next to me and lit a cigarette.

I said, "You know these rooms are non smoking, right?" She lay down, putting her face next to mine, and said, "Yeah, and?"

I could have said anything just then. I could have said that she wasn't worth the fees they'd charge me for smoking in the room. I could have made a quip about it, something clever about health--the sort of thing smokers hate to hear. Instead I just shrugged and closed the book. The alarm chirped in the distance. I shut my eyes. It only made the smell of smoke stronger.

There was silence for a while, some dirty looks exchanged, some words I've still got my whole life to start regretting, then it was hours later and she was walking back out into the fog that had settled over Seattle since I'd gotten into town, cigarette in her hand, trailing smoke, breath hanging in the air. I watched her from my balcony but ducked out of sight by the time she looked back.

The alarm was still chirping in the distance, and I told myself that's why I couldn't sleep.

No comments: