The Vaporous Devil

“You’re lying,” Sailor said.

I remembered another conversation I’d had with Malakian, almost a year later.

“So, you’re with this girl?”

“Yeah,” I said, “we’ve been together about a year…maybe a little bit more than that.”

“You’re still enjoying it?”

I nodded.

“Good,” he said.

“…of course you have to take care.  It’s okay to be with one woman for a long time.  It can be beautiful.  When she loves you, cares for you.  When she needs you…takes shelter in you…and you care for her a little, too, protect her a little…  This is the greatest thing in the world.  But take care.  If you reach the moment when you start to feel you hate her, you have break it up.  There is no good that will come of this.”

Strange sensations churned inside me.  Things were toxic.  Toxic and at the same time magical.  What was I to do?  I looked at Malakian.

At that moment, he had no pride in it.  He looked out across Amsterdam, to a restaurant across the street, where a dinner party was just letting out onto into the night.

Malakian was utterly in his senses, enjoying the cold air, enjoying the smoking.  He was well dressed in a wool overcoat, bundled well enough that he was not suffering the weather..so that is was a pleasure for him to breathe in the cold night air, and the hot smoke.  He lit a second cigarette and smoked it as if he had just told me the simplest, most ordinary thing in the world.  In fact, he’d probably already forgotten what he’d said.

Together we knew what a few people knew, that the color of cigarette smoke and the color of one’s breath on air are indeed two different colors…with the vaporous devil appearing in the purest white.

The memory rocketed through me, the conversation, my reflection, hours of anguished deliberation on long walks up Amsterdam, the break-up, the aftermath, the heavy drinking, the clubs, everything leading up to Sailor…in a microsecond it was gone;  Malakian was gone.

I was there, in the apartment, with Sailor.

She said to me, “Love is a lie, Narc, a hypocrisy.  You know it.”

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