this is a story based off of Otis Redding’s Cigarettes and coffee. I highly recommend listening to it while you read, or at least before you do.
I sit outside the door to the apartment, sore, cold, and tired. I press my head to the door and close my eyes, feeling the flaking paint and wood under my hands as i ask myself why i keep doing this night after night. I finally find the lock and slide in the key, trying to keep it as quiet as possible. The door creaks though i try to open it slowly. A sigh escapes my lips as i slip through the crack i made, and i flick the last of my cigarette out the door. The door creaks shut as i close it, and i still turn the lock slowly to keep silent even though i know it’s too late.
I hear you stirring in the other room, and the same click of that shitty lamp we got at a garage sale with the first of our money when we first moved in together, all those years ago. I had hoped you could sleep longer, but i see your figure in the doorway and before the light of the living room flicks on i’m smiling. And there you are, rubbing your eyes and yawning and looking beautiful.
You haven’t even opened your eyes to see me covered in sweat and looking like shit before you say in your sleepy voice “Hey there handsome.”
My heart skipped a beat, you looked gorgeous despite just getting up. Your makeup was either off or smeared, your eyes just barely open, and your hair a mess- but perfect. You rake your fingers through your hair to erase the damage the pillow did. You had just pulled a jacket of mine over your shoulders, it seems. One side was still bunched up to reveal your stomach, and once you had given up on your hair you fix it, pulling it down cover your stomach, and the too-big pair of boxers you have on. Your socks were the only thing keeping your legs warm, and i can tell by the little goosebumps that they aren’t doing shit.
I gaze at you in a stupor for a while and think to myself that no one could ever look as beautiful as you. You rub your mascara further from your eyes and open them, and I finally see the beautiful brown gems that are your eyes, and you smile at me; that perfect little half-turn of a smile that tells me hello, and goodbye, and that everything is going to be ok. My heart jumps again.
You cross the room to where i am; gem eyes, half smile, and all. You hug me and nuzzle your head into my chest and i know i’m home. I feel your warmth sink into me and my arms wrap tightly around you, and i give you a kiss on the top of your head. I remember what i thought earlier- why i did it. I feel you hug me tight and look into your contented face half asleep on my chest and the question seems so silly. I remember why i do it all, and i would do more. I feel it in my coat pocket, the reason i’ve worked so hard these past three months.
“mmmmm, you smell like man.” you murmur, and i chuckle back. “hey baby.” i finally say, slurring my speech i am so tired. “Im sorry, could you turn off the light? My head is killing me.” i say, eyes firmly closed. “Yeah, baby, of course.” you say. I can hear your bare feet scamper across the floor and the light click off.
“Need some coffee? Im about to make some.” you ask. My body is sore, my eyes half closed, and i need to be ready for work tomorrow, but just enough light comes in from the bedroom where your lamp is still turned on that i can see your smile, and i have to stay up with you. More than anything i just want to be with you and i say “yes.”
I walk to you, and with the slightest whisper, you tell me to follow as you take my hand. I feel the soft skin, and short painted nails of your hand, and i give it a little squeeze, and without a word you squeeze back. And in the brief window of squeezing hands twice we traverse the tiny apartment and are in the kitchen.
You flip on the wall light and a faint glow fills the small space. You pull my shirt and direct me to a chair and sit me down. You climb into my lap and kiss me, and suddenly my night is a distant memory, and all there is in the world is you and me. And i wouldn’t change it for a thing.
Our lips are locked for all of five seconds, one beautiful kiss to help wash away the day. My arms find their way around you again and my head is in your chest, and you hug me close. You chuckle, “it seems we traded places from the living room.” and i laugh a little, and try to rub some warmth into your legs, the little icecicles. “you are so cold, go put on some pants.” i say, trying to heat you up like you did for me earlier. “Coffee’ll warm me up better than pants. I need to put on a pot, anyways. Gimme a sec.” you reply, and climb off.
I watch you as you make coffee and i’m entranced. Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation, but you look captivating. Even doing little things like this just mesmerizes me. This apartment feels like a home when you’re doing things like this in it.
I slip out of my jacket and put my cigarettes, keys, wallet, and lighter on the table. I finally begin to relax my body, and i sink into the chair. I hear the coffee start and you come over to the table and sit across from me, but you’re still close. The table would be too small for anyone else, but we always made it work. It’s the only thing we could find to fit in the kitchen.
You put your elbows on the table and lean in and youre right next to me, and you ask, “can i steal a cigarette?” “yeah, go ahead. Get one out for me, too, please.” i respond. You fish out two cigarettes from the predominantly empty pack. You put one in my mouth and one in yours, and press them together to light them both at once, cupping your hand over it as though some wind was threatening to blow out the flame. I watch your face and take a deep drag of the cigarette, looking at the yellow and orange dance in your eyes, and then the small bead of red.
The next few minutes waiting for the coffee to brew are a pleasant blur. You take my hand and look into my eyes, and ask me how my day was, what i did, who i worked with, was my manager still being a dick. He was, by the way. He always is. And suddenly, in no time at all we have a full pot of coffee, and you are pouring me a cup.
“How do you want it, baby?” you ask. “i’ll just take it black. No sugar, i still doubt itll keep me awake.” you mix your sugar and cream into yours and stroll back to the table. You stop in front of me and lean in and kiss me. “Will that keep you awake? I want you to stay up a while with me- sorry to impose.” i pull you gently into my lap and put my hand on your cheek and kiss you again. “Well it’s kept me up so far. And i think i can stay up for a girl like you.” i say, and add while i put my jacket over your legs, “Now drink your coffee, you’re freezing.”
We drink coffee in a warm and loving silence, i have one arm around you and i run my thumb back and forth on a little spot on your hip while i smoke my cigarette between sips. You sit there and try to work out your hair and chip the polish off your nails. I remember you have an appointment at the salon tomorrow, but looking at the clock, it reads 2:45. So i guess the appointment is today, and sooner than later. It’s one of your few days off, you deserve to treat yourself. I just wish you could do it more often. Though i don’t think the salon does much, not much to improve on when you’re working with a girl like you.
I break the silence asking for another cup of coffee, and without getting up from my lap you stretch and reach across the counter and strain and stretch for a minute before finally grabbing the pot. I laugh at you, but you just say “but i got it, so i win.” and smile triumphantly. I loved that nothing could bring you down, it added to your charm.
You pour me another cup and keep sipping yours and i ask about your day, and i get a quiet, calm earful about everyone at work. Becky is such a bitch, but you handle her well. Your boss loves you, and she better, you work your ass off. And you talk about a promotion soon like it’s a done deal. I smile and put out my cigarette, and tell you how proud i am. It takes you a little off guard, but i can see the way you smile shyly into your cup of coffee as you finish the last of it. I hope you know how proud i am of you every day.
The cigarettes are put out and the last one of the pack calls us both. I light it and take a drag, and pass it to you. “Will you help me smoke this one last cigarette?” you laugh and take it gingerly from me, and i watch you burn down half of it while i drink my coffee. You look off into another place, thinking hard about something. I want to ask what it is, but i love watching you think. I love watching you do anything.
When you snap back into reality you look a little flustered and you return the last of the cigarette. You even apologize, but giving you a cigarette was the least i could do. I wanted to give you the world. And moments later i was on one knee telling you as much. I told you how you make me feel like everything i do is worthwhile, and when i come home to see you my day couldn’t be any better. I tell you how you are the most beautiful, mesmerizing, vexing, entrancing, wonderful person i’ve ever met, and even just sitting here smoking and drinking coffee made me the happiest, luckiest man on the planet. And i want to share the rest of my life with you. I would do anything to make sure you were happy, and i would spend every day trying my best to make you feel as happy as you make me.
Your hands are covering your face for what seemed like hours, the longest moments of my life were spent right then and there, but then i hear one massive sniff, and see tears rolling down your cheeks, and you tell me of course you would marry me.
I put the ring on your finger, and finally realize that i’m tearing up, too. I hold your hand and stand up with you, and look into your eyes and kiss you.
The next few minutes were long and exciting, you admired the ring for a long time, looking at it, then tearing up, looking at me, and kissing me. I loved seeing you so happy. I wanted you to stay that way. You went over to the phone and called your mother to tell her the news, playing with the cord. On the third try she apparently answered, and there was a torrent of excited talking and tears. I laughed, who knew someone so happy could cry so much?
But then i thought about how i would keep you this happy. If i could be the man you wanted to spend the rest of your life with. If i was good enough. How could i keep a girl like you happy? I looked up at you and you turned and looked at me, still talking. And seeing that smile put all my worries to rest. I would find a way to make you happy. I would be the man you always thought i could be. I would find a way to do it all- for you. Because i love you. More than anything. More than words can say. And i’ll gladly spend the rest of my life making you happy.