A Very Short Story

About a Young Man Attempting to Pick Up on a Cosmopolitan Woman Under The Dim Light of a Street Corner Outside a Bar, the Results of Which are Left Intentionally Ambiguous

Jeffrey Song

With a motion that was weighted with an inexperience that he was so keenly self aware, he attempted to smoke the cigarette. He moved the mass to his drying lips, with his elbow bent out at an awkward angle, the whole act a show and he but an amateur actor on an ill funded community playhouse stage.

It was in this singular act, in whether he could pass the test, if he could construct a believable counterfeit, that the woman would judge the entirety of his being: whether he is interesting enough, whether he is charming enough, whether he can dance to a beat, whether he good in bed, whether he can hold a stimulating conversation, whether he has a decent job in which he is happy doing the work he does, whether he is a compassionate person that donates to charities without any recognition because that’s not really in keeping with the spirit of charity now is it, whether he is reliable enough to call when she and her friends are too drunk to drive, whether he would lend a good friend a month’s worth of rent money when said person is in a difficult period in his life, whether he could kiss her with tenderness and warmth and youthful excitement, whether the prose in his private notebook was brave and powerful and publication worthy, whether he was unafraid to cry when watching A Walk to Remember with her on a rainy Sunday night, whether he could summon the courage to confront some asshole who yells “Holla” at her when they are walking down Melrose.

The inside of his nostrils, near the top so close to the fragile working gears of his head, which normally was always clicking in sync, felt an unbearable singe. His eyes reflexively squinted and teared, revealing a chink in his elaborately constructed armor.

All was lost. She would see through to his foolishness: the shy, uncultured hick hiding behind the loaned pinstriped blazer, the sixty dollar screen printed t-shirt, the new but precisely distressed pair of boutique jeans.

“If you haven’t smoked before, you shouldn’t start,” she said, plucking the filtered Marlboro from his unsteady hand with the dexterity of a surgeon, her fingers grazing against his knuckles.

She held the burning cigarette delicately between the tips of her fingers like a pair of chopsticks and placed her lips where his had been, the filter damp from his failed attempts. Left behind was a trail of blood red lipstick, and she exhaled, arms perpendicular, a steady stream of thin blue smoke out of the corner of her mouth, like the steam of a kettle’s alarming whistle.

She smiled and revealed to him pearly white fangs.


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