“It’s only a drug, it’s only a drug, it’s only a drug,” I told myself, while sneaking a peak down at the dancing penguin on my Burger King cup.

TRUE noticed the momentary drop of my gaze. Hyper-observant, just as I’d created her to be.

“Don’t worry,” TRUE purred in a low, satiny voice. She flicked the side of the cup with her finger. “His feet aren’t moving—not yet anyway.” I heard a slight lisp that made me wonder whether she was wearing fronts.

“I must be tripping out,” I said.

“No, not really,” she said, “Well, maybe just a little.”

She offered me a cigarette.

“It’s American,” she said.

“No thanks,” I said.

“That’s right,” she said, her amazingly real, crookedly cute, freckled face breaking in to a wide grin. “You quit.”

I watched as she slapped open a black Zippo lighter with a white Death’s-head on it and lit her Camel. The leather on her jacket made a scrunching sound as she brought the flame to her face. I could see her pupils and me within them, and behind that the double yellow lines continued disappearing into the blackness of the highway, while at the same time the highway kept disappearing into the screen which disappeared into the gaping blackness of the back of the room, where there could be anything…including nothing…the sensation of an enormous, rotating pit was palpable.

“You quit but you kept me going with this nasty habit,” she said, blowing smoke out her nose. “Why is that? Another passive-aggressive half-assed attempt to kill my ass?”

“No,” I said. “That wasn’t it—smoking is such an obvious sign of vulnerability. I find it so interesting that the notion of ‘toughness’ is wrapped up in the imagery of addiction.”

I didn’t know what I was talking about until it came out of my mouth, making it impossible to say anything other than the truth.

“I see,” she said, “So you wanted me to wear my neediness on my sleeve?”

“Yeah. No. I don’t know. Hey, listen. This is a really landmark conversation that I’m having here and I’m sorry to say I’m not really able to talk so well. I mean, I CREATED you—do you know that?”

“Sure,” she said, exhaling smoke through her nose.

“Well no wonder I’m speechless.”

“That’s fine, this time you’re going to do the listening.”

“What? Are you trying to say I never let you talk? That’s one of the main reasons for your existence. So you can say things using words the way I want you to.”

“No, Smarty. I didn’t say anything about you letting me talk. I said that you were going to do some listening. You’ve been so wrapped up in your silly little life that you’ve forgotten how to listen and pay attention to what’s going on around you. Seems the only way to get through to you is with a little bit of DRAMA.”

She turned her back to me, presenting me with the awe-inspiring view of her falcon’s regal back. As though feeling my admiration, he again spread his wings in a brief display of his beauty.

“Smoke and mirrors,” she sang, as she rummaged around for something in the darkness.

“…special effects. A little fear. A little sex…”

She stepped back and flashed a remote in the direction of the screen. All at once the highway footage changed to the brilliant blast of a perfect blue sky.

I yelled and covered my eyes.

“It’s a good thing you always give me a pair of shades to rock, morning, noon or nite,” TRUE said, as she slipped on a pair of black Persol wraparounds.

“Look!” she said, the blue washing over her face and lighting up her sunglasses.

the time is nigh

blue of noon

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