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Cunobaros

Cunobaros

From all to nothing

A C

It's getting dark. I had forgot how long it took for that to happen here in the North, just like I had forgot how swiftly time moves in your company. It's a weird feeling, as if time was passing both quickly and slowly, at the same time. On the other hand, maybe I can blame the wine. I'm not really used to drinking any more, and the first bottle is already emptied, with a second one started. I can't say I feel drunk, but after some bemused consideration I decide it's more likely I'm drunk than that time itself has hiccups.

My train of thought is derailed by you saying something.

"Huh?"

"I asked if I can take one of your cigarettes."

"Oh, sure," I say with a nod to the pack lying beside me on the balcony floor. "Help yourself."

You stretch your leg out and reel the pack in with your toes. I notice you have the tip of your tongue in the corner of your mouth, and smile.

"Thanks." You put a cigarette between your lips and light it, tip your head backwards and blow the smoke out and up. "What were you thinking then, so far away?"

"Just wondering whether I was drunk."

"Of course you're drunk, otherwise there's something wrong with the wine. You might as well make the most of it, now that you're allowed to get drunk. When was the last time?"

"Too long. Years. Can you pass me the cigarettes?"

"Why? You couldn't be bothered to pass them to me."

So you're in a bantering mood? Well, that's quite welcome. I think I need to let go of the sombre facade, and bickering with you, especially when you're in that mood, is a rare pleasure. I get a sudden feeling of deja vu, and remember us sitting like this, drinking, smoking and joking, many years ago. A summer night on a balcony, the night we found out we were friends. And even if the friendship has remained strong all these years, it has become something more. To me, at least. I smile.

"Yeah, but that's because it's my cigarettes, and as you're getting them for free you could make a bit of an effort in return."

"Hey, I'm doing you a favour here. You said yourself you needed some exercise."

"Should I need exercise?" I ask. "When did I say something that stupid?"

"A little while ago, when we were talking about sex, you said that you ought to have sex more often since you needed the exercise."

Ah, right. I did say that. Not remarkable; we often talk about sex. But when I made that comment, I didn't think about having sex in general, but with you, specifically. And as always, you ignored that, just like I know you'll ignore this: "What, here on the balcony?" I take a sip of wine and make a sweeping gesture with the glass.

You snort and roll your eyes. "And who would you have sex with here, do you think?"

"Well," I say and look at your breasts, "I guess I'll have to find someone nearby who looks like a woman. I mean, surely the sex ought to be enough exercise? I shouldn't have to run around and find someone to exercise with."

My reply is automatic. Maybe, I think, you're getting tired of it. You know you attract me. I told you, years ago. And after the initial surprise you've always ignored it. I don't know any more if I want to take you to bed. You once said, I remember, that I didn't want to do, but to have done. Head of the nail.

You snort again. "I shouldn't think so," you say as you toss me the cigarettes.

"Aw, come on! You said you wanted to do me a favour and exercise me." I extract a cigarette and light it. I recall a promise you gave me, without thinking, years ago, a promise I sometimes I sometimes bring up and wave about. "Anyway, you promised I'd get to see you naked sometime, and that ought to be enough to speed up my heart quite a lot."

You give me a look over the rim of your glasses and raise your eyebrows, with your mouth in that sceptical pout of yours, and I do my best impression of a schoolboy caught doing mischief. I stand up to fetch the wine bottle. "But a man can dream, can't he?" I say in my whiniest voice as I fill your glass.

You don't answer, just look straight ahead, out over the lake. I drop the butt of my cigarette in the first, empty wine bottle, and sit down again, careful not to disturb your thoughts with talk.

When you finally speak, you sound more thoughtful than teasing. "But would you?" you ask.

"Would I what?"

You turn to look at me. "If you were allowed to do what you wanted with me, what would you do?"

"Um..." I have trouble reading you now, can't see how serious or silly I should be. Chaotic, confused thoughts prevent me from answering for a long time, but you wait patiently.

"From all to nothing, I reckon," I say. "I honestly don't know, but somewhere in that range."

You have a serious, thoughtful expression, so I light another cigarette and try to consider it calmly. "I mean, it's not just about what I'm allowed to do, is it?"

I give you a pleading look, willing you to read my thoughts, understand what I mean. "Like, if you came with a bowl of candy and said I could eat as much as I like, that's okay, 'cause I don't need to worry about what the candy thinks."

I gesture vaguely with my hands, trying to shape my thoughts. "But even if you gave me permission... if, for some reason, you let me do whatever I wanted, I wouldn't want to do more than you wanted me to do. You know what I mean? Even if I was allowed, it'd be rape if you didn't want me to."

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