Jamison doesn’t know much, but he knows that’s pathetic. He says as much to his friends, offhandedly, trying to make it seem like he’s joking. He feels lamer for trying to brush it off as if it’s nothing more than a comedic act, but he feels nervous to say the least. Around Ana, he knows the way he feels about himself must be true.

“Are you sure you want someone like me sticking around?” He hears himself asking out loud, a tint of playfulness evident in his voice as the woman turns on a heel to look back towards him. He can tell she’s confused but he doesn’t bother to repeat himself. Instead, he sticks a cigarette in between his lips and a small, curl of smoke flickers from his mouth in a flash. Jamison cups his hand around it, only slightly so that his palm doesn’t touch the fire. “As dumb as your question is, the answer is yes.” Ana replies, her voice dull as she watches him pull the cigarette from his mouth. Ana’s eyes are like iron as she huffs in mild annoyance, “Why? Don’t you want to stick with me?”

“I never said that,” he replies as lightly as he can, hating the way that it makes it appear as if it were implied. When Ana grumbles, Jamison eyes her for only a moment, his eyes as cool as glass before he closes them and blows a puff of smoke from his mouth. It comes out like a cloud and Ana watches it in odd fascination. It drifts upwardly, curls, and dances in the air before vanishing as if it were never even there. If Ana had blinked, she would have missed it. Opening his eyes, Jamison looks as though he wants to say something and while Ana isn’t sure what, the dark look swimming in his eyes and the way his jaw seems locked gives Jamison away. Hesitantly, Ana agrees. “No, you didn’t.”

The two of them sit there for some time, silence like smog in the air. Ana playing idly with the sleeve of the leather jacket that Jamison has so suavely offered her to keep from the cool, October breeze; Jamison smoking and watching the smoke dance with a distant type of interest, as though he’s thinking but isn’t quite sure how to collect his thoughts properly. Then, Ana speaks again — her voice low and hesitant. “Do you need to say it for me to know?”

Jamison nearly coughs on his next drag. It takes him awhile but he finally regains his composure, replying when he’s sure he won’t interrupt himself by trying to clear out his throat again and again. “Depends. How well do you know me?” It’s a game they’ve started playing lately, tossing questions back and forth so that they can avoid answering it. It used to be dumb stuff at first, like questions about their favorite color and favorite animal. Meaningless stuff that Jamison has surprisingly remembered about her. Anyone else and it would’ve slipped his mind no more than an hour later. Back then, the goal of the game was to avoid answering. “Dude, that’s a red flag if she isn’t answering any of your questions,” he’s gotten from friends when finally opening to them about her, but he pays them no mind. Any solid advice anyone gives him usually goes on deafened ears. He assumes that avoiding answering is still the goal. For some reason now though, it makes his stomach churn.

Jamison takes a long drag from his cigarette and is deliberately slow as he lets it out, an even stream of smoke bellowing from his mouth. Ana can tell that he’s thinking, the way he carefully rolls the cigarette between his fingers. He expects her to say, “well enough,” voice curt and clipped as though she doesn’t really care one way or another.